November 18, 2002

 

 

Historic wayes under construction

By Kate Spinner
Staff Writer

NEWBURYPORT - Construction on two historic pathways leading from Merrimac Street to the boardwalk has begun.

The new walkways will bring back to life two historic routes that early city residents used to access the waterfront as far back as the 1700s.

Custom House Way and (Somerby's Landing) are located at the east and west ends of the Central Waterfront and will now formally connect the downtown to the new east and west extensions of the boardwalk.

As an expansion of the boardwalk project the ways will be developed in brick and cobblestone.

Custom House Way will travel between the Custom House Maritime Museum and the building that houses Newburyport Lighting Company on Water Street. The other historic "waye" will begin at the bottom of Green Street and passes straight through the West waterfront parking lot.

"I think it 's going to be beautiful," said Geordie Vining, senior project manager in the Office of Planning and Development. "I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised how fast this comes together and what a difference it's going to make to the whole area."

According to documents compiled in the late 1970's by the Friends of the Newburyport Waterfront, Riverside Park way, also known as Somerby's Landing, was dedicated to the city as a public "waye" in 1751. In later years, other ways were dedicated or simply established by regular use.

The ways became controversial in the 1970s when the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority (NRA) had an interest in selling waterfront property for development. A land use dispute between the NRA and the Friends of the Waterfront ultimately led to a settlement in March 1980 that preserved five ways.

Work began on re-establishing the two ways last Wednesday, as electrical workers dug a large trench to lay conduit and foundations for lights that will eventually illuminate the path at night.

Beginning this week, demarcation of the actual paths will start with the setting of granite curbstone.

As work is finished setting the boundaries of the paths, the interior will be filled with brick and landscaping and lighting, similar to what is in the downtown, will be installed.

Traffic flow in and out of the two parking lots will not be interrupted during the construction period, although traffic will be rerouted as the project moves along.

Both paths include a cut for traffic to pass through near the boardwalk. (Somerby's Landing) will have an additional cut nearer Merrimac Street sidewalk to provide a circular flow of traffic through the lot.

Boston Towing and Transportation, the same company that was contracted for the boardwalk renovation, has been hired b the city to perform work on the historic ways. The city simply placed a change order in the contract for the boardwalk construction to include the addition of the pathways.

The contract extension will cost the city an additional $380,000. About $200,000 was left over form a contingency for the boardwalk and the City Council recently approved a bond authorization for the remaining costs. A number of local businesses also contributed money to the project.

Vining said he is anticipating the conclusion of the project in early January.

"The whole thing is supposed to be done in two months," he said "...If it takes an extra week it's not going to hurt any of us."

 
 
 
(This article replicated online with permission of the Newburyport Daily News, an Eagle Tribune Newspaper.)
 
 
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