Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Courthouse Traffic Impasse

Bypass Road Diary 7-12-2007 011, originally uploaded by dmoisan.

[Originally published in the Salem Gazette]
To the Editor:

I’ve been following the controversy over the traffic plans for the courthouse project and am feeling more and more frustrated. Community activists on Federal St., as well as the current and past occupants of City Hall, have chosen to forget how this impasse came about in the first place. The courthouse traffic plan is linked with the North St. reconstruction project, the Boston St./west Bridge St. reconstruction, but most importantly, the Salem Bypass Road currently under construction.

The route of the Bypass Road from the bridge through to St. Peter St., wasn’t the first routing proposed, nor was it even the best. Better routes for that roadway would have been through to Harmony Grove Ave., Flint St., or even Washington St. as the Salem Partnership once proposed. The Salem Partnership proposal even featured a new Salem Depot with street level bus bays.

That was not to be. The current routing was a default choice, because none wanted the roadway anywhere near their “historic” neighborhoods. With the exception of Leonard O’Leary and Mike Sosnowski, everyone in City Hall from current and past generations, from the Mayor’s office to the council chambers, has chosen to pretend that the bypass road will magically solve Salem traffic.

And why not? It isn’t anywhere near Washington Square, Chestnut St. or Federal St!

One woman at the most recent traffic hearing was complaining about a computer model of the proposed approach to North St. “It looks like New Jersey!” I live at the foot of the Bypass Road. I’ve seen the road and looked at the blueprints in Sue Cranney’s office (Ms. Cranney is project manager for the road.) I’ve walked on the road! If you put “Salem Bypass Road” in your internet search engine, you will likely find my pictures.

THAT is New Jersey!

I use public transit almost every day, since my disabilities leave me unable to drive. Instead of walking a short distance to a new train station, I walk through a five-lane highway, down decrepit stairs to a decrepit train station to get a bus. Why don’t we have a new train station? It would destroy the “character” of Salem. The Salem I know has had a rich past history of train travel, and currently has the busiest station on the Rockport/Newburyport Line. Apparently, this isn’t important to the activists in the historic districts.

Consider that residents at the Jefferson complex on Howard St. are surrounded on three sides by the Bypass Road; in this supposed “transit-centered” development, the Moon is closer than the train station if you’re on foot! There wasn’t much outrage when that “luxury” housing was approved!

And we still pretend the road will do any good. We pretend that we can change traffic in “good” neighborhoods and it won’t affect traffic anywhere else.

The MBTA is now planning a new depot and garage for Beverly. They may feel Salem isn’t worth having a new train station. Perhaps they know more about the traffic situation than we’re willing to admit. As for the courthouse, John Keenan shouldn’t worry: He’ll still get the law library named after Sam Zoll.

It’ll just be in Beverly.