Monday, April 13, 2009

Pedestrians and the new Senior Center

As reported a while ago by both the Salem News and the Gazette, the City Council has approved the Boston & Bridge St. location for the new senior center.

It’s a familiar place:  I lived in this neighborhood, on nearby Varney St, for 9 years from 1973 to 1982, and spent most of that time walking, to the old Crosby’s on Essex St., to downtown Salem, downtown Peabody or to the North Shore Shopping Center via the old Michaud bus (now the 465). 

I knew this neighborhood well.  Except for the empty lot of the former Sylvania, and the Walgreens that replaced Ideal Finishing, the intersection in the photo hasn’t changed a bit.

And that’s the real problem in the neighborhood.

Bridge St., and the one-way Proctor St. directly opposite it, effectively splits Boston St. in two.  There are no pedestrian signals, and only faded crosswalks between the side of Boston St. east of Bridge, and the west end of Boston St. past Dunkin Donuts.

There are only two places in the area to cross Boston St. itself:  Pope St., which you can just see in the photo above at the triple-decker (the old Witches’ Brew), and at Proctor & Grove St.:

Except for having modern (1990’s) pedestrian signals, this too is as it was when I lived here.

There is bus service still:

And a bus stop at the future senior center:

Some seniors think there’s nothing there for them in this neighborhood and it’s dangerous, so why should the center be here?

But, the AOH is here, familiar to many seniors:

And the Moose on Grove St., deep in the heart of Blubber Hollow:

I do know why Boston St. has been the way it is for years:

The Bypass Road.

The road was originally going to proceed parallel to Bridge St. past the B&M yard (now Salem Depot) and go down Harmony Grove Road.

My dear friend Leo Jodoin put his hopes on that, as did many in the neighborhood, including the Gallows Hill Neighborhood Association.

As long as the bypass road was to go down that way, the thinking went at the time, all the traffic will go off Boston St. (as it has gone off Bridge St. with the new road.)  As if by magic, pedestrian traffic never has to be considered!  (Back in the day, the state highway department never thought of pedestrians, either.)

Except for new pedestrian signals at Grove & Pope Sts., the signals at Boston and Bridge St. are virtually unchanged from the late-seventies, the last time signals were put in at that intersection.

If the bypass road is going in, why bother improving the intersection?

But of course it didn’t go in.  Leo intones on his show at every opportunity, “It’s NOT a bypass road!”

But that won’t change things.

He can say that on his show ad infinitum.  It’s his show.

I can’t.  Salem can’t.  Pining over the bypass road will not help the pedestrians on Boston St.  When the senior center comes in, this area will have to change.  It would have had to change anyway;  Sylvania is gone and Flynntan has long been a ruin. 

This is the last major intersection in Salem that’s unimproved.  That there haven’t been plans to redesign it is nothing short of negligence.

I wish Leo would want it changed;  it’s his neighborhood.  But there’s still hope.

A few months ago, I talked with Jerry Ryan about the pedestrian problems on Highland Ave.  He was very willing and able to get involved with the redesign that MassHighway is doing on that street.

Jerry, I know you lost the debate on the senior center.  I know I disagreed with you on that.  And I know I’m not your constituent.  But I know you read my blog.

I will ask you to please do what you can to see that Boston St. is improved for traffic and pedestrian access.  When the senior center and associated development comes in, there will be more pedestrian traffic. 

Help us get talking pedestrian signals like there are on North St.

Last of all, don’t take Boston St. for granted.  Toward the end of my stay in that neighborhood, I saw it go downhill when the factories closed and Flynntan burned.  Over the years we’ve taken that for granted.  The neighborhood looks terrible, but that’s the way it always looks, the way it always is, so don’t change it, goes the feeling.

Don’t do that.

Boston St. needs rebuilding.  It needs restitching at Boston and Bridge.  Your neighborhood, the city and I are counting on it.

Update:  The Salem News praises Bridge St. redevelopment but doesn’t mention Boston St.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, this intersection is downright dangerous to cross on foot, in any direction. I've done it, but I've had to wait and wait and wait, then when there's a break in cars, cross my fingers and sprint. Can't imagine an older person, or someone with physical challenges, or kids in tow, crossing it.

Maybe Walgreens can have a little booth in the new senior center, and send prescriptions and small merchandise from the main store under the street via pneumatic tube. Anyways, looking forward to the Sylvania site being developed (smartly I hope).