After six months of detours, dusty sidewalks and bottlenecked local traffic, the first block of Annapolis's West Street reopened recently with dozens of cars rolling over its newly bricked surface.
The city's downtown West Street improvement project had kept the first block of the street closed to traffic since April while construction crews repaved it and the sidewalks around Church Circle.
The entire $27 million West Street improvement project -- which covers a total of about six blocks between Westgate and Church circles and includes sewer and water line replacements and a parking garage -- has been in the works for five years and is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer said she hopes the street's brick pavement, Phase 3 of the project, will emphasize West Street's historical significance.
"We're taking it back to the way it used to be," Moyer said. "The brick tells you you're in the core of the city, the heart of the historic district."
So far the project has cost the city about $19.1 million. But Moyer anticipates the improvements will bring about $250 million in new business and investment to Annapolis.
The plan seems to be working.
Last week, underground utilities were installed for Park Place, a $150 million multiuse development project on Westgate Circle. The shopping and office complex will include a performing arts center, a 1,600-space parking garage, retail and office space, a hotel and condominiums.
The West Street project began in 1999 with the construction of Westgate Circle, a traffic circle at the intersection of Taylor Avenue and West Street.
The city is in the final stages of constructing the Knighton Parking Garage, an $8 million, four-story garage in the 100 block of West Street. It will have a brick facade, interior lighting and a sidewalk on Colonial Street for pedestrians entering and exiting. It's slated to open at the end of November.
The city also plans to replace park benches along the first block of West Street and to fix the streetlights by the end of this year.
But most of West Street's improvements were finished by the time the first block reopened earlier this month.
Last year, the city completed Phase 2 of the improvement project at a cost of $4.4 million. Work crews rebricked the sidewalks, buried utility lines, removed telephone poles, planted trees and replaced sewer and water lines between Colonial and Calvert streets.
Two years ago, they did the same work between Colonial Street and Westgate Circle for $5.3 million.
The old sewer lines had been in place since 1886.