SALEM $1.4 million East State Street project progresses as city buys rights of way

If all goes well, the project could be completed by next summer.
SALEM -- Preparatory work is nearly complete for a major street improvement project in the city's east side commercial district, a city official says.
Groundbreaking for the nearly $1.4 million undertaking could begin before year's end and the project may be finished by next summer, Service Director Joe Julian said Tuesday.
The city is expected to conclude rights-of-way purchases by the end of the month.
Once that's done, the project can go out for bid, Julian said.
The city had hoped ground would be broken in the spring or early summer.
But Julian explained that preparatory work, including rights-of-way purchasing and routine environmental reviews, took longer than expected.
What's planned: Construction plans call for widening a nearly quarter-mile section of East State Street just west of its intersection with Cunningham Road.
The widening will transform that section of East State Street from a two-lane to a four-lane road, counting turning lanes that will be installed.
Making the road wider is intended to smooth traffic flow in the busy commercial district, which features two shopping plazas, a car dealership and other businesses. A Wal-Mart is proposed just east of Cunningham Road, which will further add to the traffic load.
Also planned is lowering Millville Hill, over which East State Street passes just before it intersects Cunningham Road.
Lowering the hill by about a dozen feet is expected to improve the visibility of motorists pulling into and out of businesses in the area.
Traffic will be maintained during construction, though it may be squeezed into one lane at times.
Funding: About $765,000 in state and federal funds, and nearly $600,000 in city money will pay for the project. The city is taking its share from its capital improvements fund.
Developers of the 183,000-square-foot Wal-Mart being proposed have been waiting for the city to start on the East State Street improvement project before starting on the retail enterprise.
The city's project will include installing new sewer and water lines into which Wal-Mart will connect.
An official overseeing the Wal-Mart construction has said it makes no sense to build the store until those key utilities are in place.

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