The City of Beverly is anticipating a decision regarding its $5 million grant request for MassWorks Infrastructure funding this week. This funding would be used to construct Phase 1 of the Route 128/Exit 19 Interchange Improvement project. If that decision is favorable, I will be pleased to see the matter of rezoning the state-owned parcel, which is a critical component of this project, be placed in front of all Beverly’s voters in a special election. I welcome giving the voters from across the entire city the opportunity to endorse or turn down the Exit 19 Interchange upgrade and the $5 million in grant funds to fund its construction.
The MassWorks Infrastructure program is intended to spur economic growth and encourage the creation of additional housing while, in our case, also improving major transportation issues related to safety, congestion and time wasted in long lines of traffic.
This roadway improvement project is key to Beverly’s economic future. Its implementation will not only fund major improvements to our roads and sidewalks, but it will also provide the means to allow the city to upgrade badly needed infrastructure, including public safety and public service facilities. It will also allow us to further improve the quality of public education, the best gift we can give our children.
Many complaints have been received in my office about the pressure tactics employed by individuals gathering signatures to call for a special election and their presentation of misleading information, such as telling people to sign regardless of whether they are for or against the project. Despite these methods, I look forward to a vote from all of Beverly’s registered voters.
I recall a similar question arising some years ago related to the rezoning of the parcel, from industrial to commercial, on which the Elliott Street Stop & Shop is now located. In that case, the requisite number of signatures was gathered, and the issue was put before the people. Beverly’s citizens voted resoundingly in favor of the rezoning, with supporters of rezoning carrying a strong majority in every ward and, indeed, every precinct.
Then, as now, the other grocery stores all worked hard to defeat the rezoning. In the current case, Henry’s, Stop & Shop and Shaw’s have all facilitated efforts to destroy the project, fearing, no doubt, the loss of business due to competition. But competition is the hallmark of America, and one has to wonder why such competition would not be a very good thing for the 40,000 citizens in Beverly.
The Exit 19 improvement project has the unanimous support of Beverly’s Planning Board, a strong majority of Beverly’s city councilors, its state senator and representative. Its design has undergone the lengthy scrutiny and input of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, and the list goes on.
In opposition to this project, we have a core group of people who are either misinformed about the details of the project and/or the painstaking design process that has been undertaken or who, in their hearts, simply fear change. Having listened to their concerns, I feel confident that the changes being proposed are not only for the good of the entire city but that they will also benefit the residents of the area most directly impacted.
I believe that we ought not allow the fate of the many to be decided by a few, and I look forward to hearing the voice of the whole city. We have followed proper process to get to this point. In the interest of transparency, let’s keep going. Let the people be heard.
William F. Scanlon Jr. is mayor of the city of Beverly.