Friday, January 18, 2008

Impassable sidewalks at St. Peter St., Gazette weighs in

[View of Howard St. from St. Peter. during a snowstorm in 2005.]

The Gazette's Robert Moran chimes in on impassable sidewalks, and brings up the same points that I've been making for some time. He talks about my "favorite" neighborhood, St. Peter, Bridge & Howard, seen in the photo:

Absentee owners are among the worst. The old jail and Howard Street Cemetery are particularly galling. Running an entire block from Howard to St. Peter and a half block up St. Peter, they sit between home and the Salem Depot for scores of commuters.

Yet, the sidewalks are never cleared. Access to the busy crosswalk at St Peter and Bridge is impossible. For fans who like their sports extreme and potentially bloody, the two-hour, Bridge Street dodge ball game is a twice-a-day spectacle following a snowstorm.

I have as close an insider perspective as one can have. I live at the corner and have watched the bypass road being built and I've seen the blueprints. The stretch of Bridge St. between Howard and St. Peter is going to change. In the photo you might be able to see the hints of a road near the townhouses at the left top of the frame.

This is part of the new alignment for Bridge St. From Howard St., the road will take a northward jog to meet the new road, which will itself curve back south at St. Peter. The existing road will be turned into a pedestrian island. A photo is on my Flickr page; the intersection is at the lower right.

As Mr. Moran knows, there has never been a paved sidewalk on the jail's side of Bridge St. ever since it closed. The pedestrian signal there, now all by itself, forlorn, was originally placed to service pedestrian traffic to long-gone Parker Brothers. Heavy trucks now use the circular "driveway" in front of the jail for parking and turnaround, so this hasn't been good for pedestrians in the summer, either.

I have to share a little responsibility for this situation at St. Peter. Last summer, I was watching the construction and was totally convinced that Bridge St. would be realigned that fall. Then there would be the possibility that the closed part of Bridge St. would be a temporary sidewalk.

I and my fellow Commissioner, Charlie Reardon (who lives on Howard St himself), had planned to meet with Sue Cranney to discuss that section of Bridge St., but winter almost literally overtook us before we were able to arrange that. Worse yet, the realignment did not happen last fall; Bridge St., would keep its present alignment for another year. (The road is nearly complete and reconstruction at the St. Peter intersection will be the final major part of the project in 2008.)

We hear a lot about impassable sidewalks at the Salem Commission on Disabilities; I take every report personally. I'm sorry we couldn't get this resolved at St. Peter, but I plan on watching the construction closely and I will ask Ms. Cranney to keep a temporary pathway for pedestrians and wheelchair users when construction starts up again in the spring.

Of course, I'm aware that the bypass road and the intersection at St. Peter may well be the worst intersection for pedestrians in all of Salem when it is completed, but we have no choice now but to fish the pearls out of...manure, so to speak.

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