SALEM, Va. – Construction has started on a section of a busy road in Salem. It’s a project that aims to ease congestion and bring many other improvements to the area.
Work should be done by the summer of 2020 on the stretch of East Main Street, which is near downtown and includes the area between Thompson Memorial Drive and Brand Avenue -- which runs from the courthouse past Berglund Mazda.
The goals are to lighten traffic, give easier access to businesses, make space for bikers and walkers and make the area look more attractive. There will be new turn lanes and connections to the Greenway, bringing it closer to downtown.
City leaders have been discussing these improvements for years and they said they tie in with the city’s downtown improvement goals.
“This is an extension of downtown, and East Main Street is one of the areas of the city that has the most potential from an economic development standpoint,” Salem City Planner Ben Tripp said.
The construction has started right by the Salem Museum, where executive director Fran Ferguson watches the congestion in the afternoons at the intersection with Lynchburg Turnpike.
“It can get backed up, 15 to 20 cars backing up. There’s going to be a light there, which is going to be so nice,” Ferguson said.
She has noticed a drop in the number of people coming in since construction started, but she’s thankful for the improvements. She said the museum should catch the eyes of more drivers when the project is done.
“It’s going to be beautiful. It’s going to be really nice,” Ferguson said.
Workers will flag drivers at times, slowing traffic, but their goal is to always have one lane open, according to a VDOT spokesman, who said the cost for the contract work stands at $8.4 million,
and there will be additional costs.
Long-term plans are in the works for these improvements to extend east on East Main Street to Kessler Mill Road.