Monday, August 25, 2008

Past and Future of Traffic in Salem

The bypass road is open.  The complaints about traffic aren’t about to stop.  Now, the next round of screaming continues as the east ramp from North to Bridge Sts. is permanently closed to accommodate the courthouse project.

After following the bypass road project, the courthouse project and reading (and blogging) Jim McAllister’s article in the News several weeks ago, I ask: 

Why are we defending a highway ramp?  Why do we cry over “that poor slip ramp”, star of Harry Potter and the Magical Slip Ramp, that so many on Federal St. mourned?

Nathaniel Hawthorne didn’t drive on the ramp!  (He did use the old Salem Depot!)

I’ll say it again:  Hawthorne didn’t drive on the ramp.  OK, Federal St.?  OK?!

If we had truly valued history 50 years ago, we would have never built the overpass in the first place!  Yes, the railroad tunnel was desperately needed, but the road, not so much.

As McAllister points out, we lost so much of our history when we built that overpass:  Salem Arena, Leslie’s Retreat Bridge, Salem Depot.  Where’s the screaming?  Couldn’t be that the Federal St. gang wasn’t around then.  Nah.

The bypass road should have been canceled, too, when it was clear that it would be severely truncated from what was planned originally.  MassHighway took half of the proposed alignment in Salem and turned it into what is now a dog park.

The generation that built that overpass and demolished Salem Depot have a lot to answer for.  They remind me of the panelists on a local political show I used to crew for.

This show featured (and still features) current and former politicians in Salem who manage the political narrative for Salem, just as the late Tim Russert managed our country’s narrative for the elites he worked for.

One panelist, a former city councilor, was always complaining about Salem “these days”.  He complained about the loss of the old downtown and the loss of the front “castle” half of the armory after it was burned in an arson fire in 1982 and the city and the state dithered about its ultimate disposition, ultimately losing it a few years ago.

He was not a regular citizen, complaining about things he or she could not change.  He was a politician as inside as one can get, back in the days of smoke-filled rooms.

He was in office when the armory burned and afterwards.  He was around when our downtown decayed.  And he was most certainly in politics when decisions were being made about the train tunnel, the depot and the overpass after WWII.

There are still those like him around.  Saying how great it was in the good old days, complaining all the while about things and people of today.  They could have spoken out (if for no one else but for future residents of Federal St.) but didn’t.

I say to them:  Look in the mirror before complaining about those “kids of today”.  You made the decisions 50 years ago and we are poorer for it today. 

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