, Salem, MA

Local News

January 13, 2014

Project's traffic impact disputed

Estimates vary from 30 to 300 more cars a day on Brimbal Avenue

BEVERLY — Minor and modest? Or nightmarish?

Those descriptions represent two wildly divergent views of how the additional traffic created by a new shopping plaza on Brimbal Avenue would impact the area.

And they are among the many pieces of information that voters will have to digest as they prepare to vote in the Feb. 8 special election on whether to uphold a decision by the City Council to rezone 3.6 acres of land on Brimbal Avenue.

The rezoning would allow a developer to apply for a special permit from the Planning Board to build a shopping plaza and would also trigger a $5.2 million interchange project.

Proponents of the rezoning, including former Mayor Bill Scanlon and Planning Board Chairman Richard Dinkin, have described the expected increase in traffic as “modest” and “relatively minor” and say it would be moderated by improved traffic flow resulting from the interchange project.

The North Beverly Neighborhood Association says a new shopping center, combined with traffic measures such as lights and roundabouts, “will surely create a traffic nightmare.”

Both sides have cited the same source to support their argument. Neighbors point to a traffic study by Jacobs Engineering that says a shopping center would generate an extra 305 automobile trips during a typical afternoon hour. Brimbal Avenue currently averages 1,319 vehicles per peak afternoon hour, based on a 2012 study, according to Jacobs Engineering.

But in a presentation at a public hearing in September, traffic engineer Rod Emery of Jacobs Engineering said only 30 of the 305 new vehicles would use Brimbal Avenue to get to the shopping center.

Emery said the 30-vehicle number is based on an estimate by traffic engineers that only about 9 percent of vehicles will use Brimbal Avenue to get to the plaza. The majority, 65 percent, would come from Route 128, he said.

In an interview this week, Emery said those estimates are based on population and trip data from the U.S. Census.

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