, Salem, MA

May 9, 2014

Our view: Courtesy and care needed on road projects

The Salem News

---- — With road construction and maintenance season in full swing, the inevitable conflicts between work crews, commuters and nearby residents have returned. A little courtesy among all parties would do much to reduce these tensions.

But from our sister paper The Daily News of Newburyport comes a story of inconsiderate behavior the likes of which we have rarely encountered. It involves the effort to build the new Interstate 95 bridge over the Merrimack River, an important project that unfortunately has produced some unexpected consequences.

The project has generated complaints from neighbors about the near-constant noise and disruption. But on the Amesbury side of the river, it’s a more personal matter. It got so bad, the state shut down the entire work site in order to deal with an inexcusable insult directed at the Taylor family on Main Street.

The Taylor family has a condo that is about 10 feet from the highway right-of-way, and what had for years been a thick stand of trees is now a highway under construction. A massive girder looms directly next to their home. Vehicles, machinery, dirt — they are all virtually in their living room. The work, which starts at 7 a.m. and continues into the night, has made their home life miserable. Indeed, when a Daily News reporter stopped by during a relative lull to interview the family, he was surprised to see that the glass doors inside the fireplace were shaking. That was nothing compared to other problems the family says it has witnessed.

The family’s complaints, reported in The Daily News, resulted in retribution by a worker or workers on the site. In response to a comment by Mr. Taylor calling the situation akin to living in Fallujah, someone scrawled “Welcome to Fallujah, Baby!” on a girder next to their home. Another worker was fired when he lost control of a massive beam that was being maneuvered into place; the beam almost struck their home.

State Rep. Michael Costello, state Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives, and Amesbury Mayor Ken Gray have been attentive to their problems. Costello and O’Connor Ives have called upon the state to take the Taylors’ home by eminent domain, something the Taylors want to see happen as its value and their quality of life have plummeted. Many months ago, the Taylors and others had asked the state to take their properties, but they were denied. Perhaps now things will change. We feel the Taylors’ wishes should be met.

Some may argue caveat emptor — let the buyer beware. When buying a home near a highway, one can expect highway-related problems. But we suspect that no one could have anticipated the size and scope of the project that is underway now. The bridge over the Merrimack River is being completely demolished and replaced. Hundreds of trees that buffered noise and light are gone. The highway is being widened, and the location of the roadway is being altered to meet the location of the new bridges. The net effect is the road is being moved far closer to homes than it had ever been.

It’s become increasingly clear that no one understood how much this project would impact people who live near the I-95 corridor. As these individual cases of hardship emerge, we think the state should do its utmost to sympathize and solve the problems, whether that means putting people up in temporary homes, repairing damage or taking properties that have lost substantial value.