, Salem, MA


October 4, 2013

Column: Countering the arguments for Brimbal Avenue project


Argument 3: Phase One represents important “traffic improvements.”

Counter 3: Phase One is completely out of scale for the area and a severe overreaction to a bad left-hand turn. In reality, it is a design focused on how to address the traffic problems that both Phase One and Phase Two developments are going to create. People need to understand just how bad driving through that cluster of signals and roundabouts will be on a daily basis. Think of Route 1A and Elliot Street. Can people think of a single example where this level of intervention has been implemented (so many signals in such a small — and residential — area) and it has in reality improved traffic?

Argument 4: Phase One will improve safety.

Counter 4: Whose safety are they talking about? Drivers? A limited number of signals with left-hand turns could address driver safety. What about residents and pedestrians? How many people feel safe walking along Enon Street on Route 1A? I certainly do not, and that is what Brimbal Avenue will become. Turning Brimbal Avenue into a busier road with more cars, four lanes in areas, roundabouts that pedestrians are supposed to cross, and so many signals that impatient drivers will zip past crosswalks will make the road significantly LESS safe for residents and pedestrians.

Argument 5: There is no way to do Phase Two without Phase One.

Counter 5: This cannot be true. Let’s brainstorm, use collective and collaborative thinking and come up with ways that Phase Two can proceed without the need for Phase One. For example, Phase Two could be only accessible from the highway and simply not connect to Brimbal Avenue.

Argument 6: If we do not do the rezoning and land swap, we lose $5 million from the state.

Counter 6: Just because we can get state money, doesn’t mean we should use it do a bad project. This project is obviously bad for residents of the area. However, it will also negatively affect anyone in Beverly who uses Brimbal Avenue to connect between North Beverly (or our northern neighbors) and downtown, Cove or Centerville. It will also cause spillover traffic in other parts of the city as people adjust their daily driving routes to avoid the new nightmare that Brimbal Avenue will become. Having state money available is not a sufficient reason to pursue a project.

For these reasons, and many more, I encourage city leaders to put this on pause. We need to step back and think more critically about the project and its implications. I truly believe that if we take the time to think carefully, collectively and creatively, we can come up with better solutions for everyone.

Jennifer Morris, a research scientist for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a Beverly resident.

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