In 2005, after decades of contentious discussion, the state started building a bypass road through Salem. This road begins at the Salem-Beverly (Veteran's Memorial) Bridge at Route 1A and continues alongside the railroad southwest, ending at the intersection of Bridge St. (Rt. 107) and St. Peter St., at the old Salem Jail.
The Bypass Road was conceived in the late 70's and was originally routed from Peabody Square through Boston & Bridge St, Salem, through to the Salem-Beverly bridge on a separate roadway. The city of Peabody balked, and the concept was cut back to terminate at Bridge and Flint Sts.
Mass Highway cleared the land between North and Flint Sts, approximately 3/4 of a mile, in preparation.
In the meantime, the MBTA moved Salem's commuter rail station to Bridge and Washington Sts. in 1985 following a fire that destroyed the railroad drawbridge between Salem and Beverly. This complicated the proposed routing, and killed the Flint St. highway terminus for good. (The cleared area between North St. and Flint is now Leslie's Retreat Park, a dog-walker's park.)
In the 90's, the Salem Partnership put forth a proposal and concept drawing (which is strongly burned into my memory since I live downtown, ironically at St. Peter St.) locating the end of the bypass road at Washington St. and building a new garage and street-level busway at the train station.
It seemed like the best idea, but often in Massachusetts, the best ideas go nowhere. For whatever reason this idea--and the MBTA garage at Salem Depot to this day--was DOA.
Former mayor Stan Usovicz--and the downtown business community--lobbied hard for the St. Peter St. terminus. That's how it would be and since late 2005, when construction started, that's what we have.
For $16 million, we are getting just over a 1 mile road, or as one friend calls it, a "second Bridge St." We're getting the road we always wanted; Salem has always been bitter about its congested downtown, seeing the traffic flow, office and shopping areas, go to Peabody, Beverly and Rt. 128 where cars more easily exist. But is it both too much and too little?
Would it be as if the Big Dig terminated at Dock Square?
With an underfunded state transportation budget following the Big Dig debacle, global warming and the scary prospect of Peak Oil, this may well be Salem's Last Road.
Massachusetts Highway Department project page for the Bypass Road
Flickr Set: "Salem's Last Road"