ESSEX — The town’s efforts to potentially reconstruct and elevate a portion of Apple Street have moved a step forward with the filing of a 25-page “Notice of Intent” by a consultant.
The Feb. 15 filing for the $4.5 million Apple Street Improvements and Bridge Construction project was prepared by the Burlington, Vermont, consulting firm DuBois & King.
The firm writes in the filing that Essex is divided north to south by the coastal causeway on Main Street (Route 133) — a scenario that causes transportation woes when the Essex River floods.
“During coastal storm events, the causeway typically floods, making Route 133 impassable, requiring all traffic to be detoured,” the report reads. “If a particular coastal surge event is large enough, the only other roadway in Essex linking both halves of the community (Apple Street) also floods.”
The plan to solve the problem, according to consulting engineers and town officials, is to raise a portion of the Apple Street roadbed.
The report indicates engineering complexities surrounding the Route 133 causeway would not allow it to be easily elevated out of the coastal surge area, it is feasible to raise a short portion of Apple Street.
According to the Notice of Intent, most of Apple Street is well above the coastal surge elevation. However, the report says that during the coastal storms of early 2008, it was evident that the two low areas at the Southern Avenue end of Apple Street were vulnerable to tide surge flooding, spitting the community in half, from north to south.
“The only other alternative travel path involves a long detour out to Route 128, with access to the other half of Essex requiring circuitous travel through other towns and increasing travel times substantially,” the report reads.
“Since the current low spots at the southern end of Apple Street cause a serious transportation cutoff risk, roadbed elevation adjustments in this area would alleviate this vulnerability for several decades.”
According to Town Administrator Brendhan Zubricki, the town is in the midst of the final design and permitting process for the project.
According to Zubricki, town officials to use the federal and state grants to finance 100% of the construction costs, should the $4.5 million project move forward.
“The Notice of Intent process represents just one of several permitting efforts that must be completed before any future work would be allowed,” he said.
Zubricki said the project is necessary since the town has consulted climate change experts who are predicting that a low-lying short section of Apple Street will flood more often in the future when the Main Street Causeway also floods.
A March 29, 2021, study and report titled “Feasibility Study: Elevation of Apple Street for Alternate Transportation Route, Essex, MA” evaluated alternatives to raise Apple Street above the 13.7-foot measured flood elevation to provide “significant added resiliency for the future sea level rise and potential for adaptive management.”
This report was conducted by The Engineering Corp. (TEC), with offices located in Lawrence, Worcester and Hampton, New Hampshire.
In the report, engineers reported the flood in January 2018 that reached an elevation of 13.7 feet was “an anomaly of a storm.”
“However, given the potential for future sea level rise, storms of this magnitude will likely become a more common occurrence,” the report reads.
Another critical problem is that when both roads are flooded, all motor vehicles, including Essex public safety and Public Works vehicles, are forced to take a long route via Route 128 through Manchester, Beverly, Wenham and Hamilton to get to the other side of Essex.
“In an emergency situation, when seconds could count, this problem could have serious consequences,” said Zubricki.
Stephen Hagan can be reached at 978-675-2708 or at email@example.com.
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