Traffic backups, uneven road surfaces, scarce parking, noise, and a detour that will last well into May. That’s what the town is forecasting for spring on Water Street as the seemingly never-ending project to replace a major sewer line along the popular route enters its next phase.

The Department of Public Works said in a press release Thursday that it “seeks to notify residents and visitors of the updated detour pattern” that it expects to put in place starting April 8. For about six weeks, Water Street will be closed between Brewster Street and 79 Water St., at the Pilgrim Memorial State Park restrooms. Businesses in the area will remain open, but likely will face more challenges in attracting customers. (See the map below for an outline of the temporary traffic patterns.)

“Please expect to be inconvenienced by traffic delays, detours, uneven/settling trenches, parking restrictions, and elevated noise levels,” the DPW said.

“The town and the contractor will make every effort possible to minimize disturbances to residents, businesses, pedestrians, and motorists in the Water Street area throughout the duration of this project,” it added.

This town-supplied map shows the closed portion of Water Street – expected to take effect on April 8 – in red, as well as the resulting detour patterns.

Almost from its start in December 2022, the sewer project has been plagued by problems and delays. It entails installing a quarter-mile section of 30-inch pipe under Water Street to replace a line beneath the harbor.

In March of last year, however, problems with groundwater flooding, shifting earth, and damage to the street, sidewalks, and five buildings on Water and Chilton streets resulted in work being halted while engineers tried to figure out what went wrong. The project briefly resumed before the town ordered another halt at the end of June 2023, in an attempt to boost waterfront business during the crucial tourist season that was already underway. Under the original plan, that’s when the work was supposed to have been completed.

Northern Construction, based in Palmer, won the job in with a low bid of $4.5 million. But various problems doubled that figure to $9 million, and the project stagnated as the contractor and the town became embroiled in a dispute over who was responsible for the cost overrun.

In February, the two parties settled, with the town agreeing to pay an additional $2 million, bringing its cost to $6.5 million. The agreement requires that the work be finished by June 30 – more than a year and a half after it started.

But another money issue remains unresolved. The town in February received a demand letter from a lawyer hired by two waterfront restaurants, Mamma Mia’s and Ziggy’s. They are seeking more than $5 million, citing property damage and lost business. At least five buildings adjacent the work site have suffered structural damage. One, home to Gourmet Exotic Jerky, was had to be razed. There’s been no word on whether the businesses and the town will be able to agree on a resolution, or if the matter might end up in court.

Meantime, if you’ve got questions or concerns about the newest detour, or the project in general, the DPW is directing them to Doug Pinard, the town’s wastewater manager.  Pinard can be reached at 508-830-4159, extension 14213, between 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Mark Pothier can be reached at

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