Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Salem’s Last Road: Its Progress, Twenty Weeks Later

The Salem News recently ran an article on the bypass road, “Life After The Bypass Road, Jury’s Still Out”.  Rather than summarize that article, which doesn’t have any insights I didn’t know already, this post and the next few, have  my observations on the road so far and its impact on Salem over twenty weeks after it opened.

There are two problems with the bypass road that I and the Commission on Disabilities are working on.  The first problem involves the bike path.

Last June, MassHighway notified the Commission about a problem with the bike path.   The entrance to Lemon St. at the path was too steep for wheelchairs and fixing this would have been all but impossible.  The Commission (Jack, Charlie and myself) met with MassHighway and agreed to kick the problem over to the MAAB (Massachusetts Architectural Access Board).

Only problem was, MAAB requested that they stop construction on the bikepath while they reviewed MassHighway’s variance request.  This was in late July.

The road and bikepath opened and everyone was happy. 

Except the MAAB.  As Jack related to me, to the MAAB, MassHighway was behaving like a homeowner who did an addition to his house without pulling a permit.   And then going to the building inspector to say, “CAN HAS OCCUPANCY PERMIT PLEEZ?  KTHX BYE!”

The MAAB wasn’t going to let that go with a handshake and a smile;  they requested MassHighway go to Boston in person to request their variance.  (Normally, this isn’t necessary if the petitioner has collected all the information for the MAAB to make a determination.)

So, two state agencies fight it out.  Great.  This doesn’t seem like a big deal but it is disappointing.  The Commission really doesn’t live to fight;  we like when projects go smoothly without drama.  If  MassHighway had only asked our advice earlier, say in April when we could see the site, this would not have happened.

As a result, the Commission has urged the city to not accept or take control of the bikepath until the MAAB has had its hearing with MassHighway and the issue is settled.  That ripples into the next problem, the audible pedestrian signals, and my next post.

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