SALEM — Today's notable birthdays include actor Patrick Swayze, NFL tight end Jeremy Shockey, comedian Denis Leary — and the Salem bypass road.
Yes, it was a year ago today that a group of city and state dignitaries officially cut the ribbon on the road that connects the Salem-Beverly bridge to downtown Salem.
It took decades to complete, cost $15 million and is a fraction of the size once imagined. Originally, it was meant to take drivers from Route 128 all the way to downtown Salem. Still, today it's a 1-mile straight shot in and out of the downtown.
That "straight shot" element of the new road had initially sparked police concerns over speeding and reckless driving.
Police, however, reported about six crashes on the bypass road over the last year.
"There was certainly an initial adjustment period, and I think there was some extremely poor driving on the road at first, some seriously elevated speeds," said Salem police Capt. Brian Gilligan. "But I think there's been a substantial amount of enforcement on the road. ... Hopefully the enforcement we're doing is contributing to the road being safer."
There are still lingering issues over noise, particularly the influx of cars in a neighborhood still getting used to the idea of a major roadway cutting through.
But for drivers looking for an easier way in and out of the downtown, the bypass road seems to have delivered.
"I think overall the bypass road has been a great success in terms of diluting the traffic on Bridge Street," said state Rep. John Keenan. "There are still issues with noise and motorcycles — I can hear them from my backyard as well. But overall, I think it's been a big success."
At Coffee Time Bake Shop, owner Rob Liani wasn't about to whip up a birthday cake to commemorate the bypass road's big milestone. It's been a mixed bag for his and other Bridge Street businesses, he said.