To the editor:
Thank you for your coverage of the Brimbal Avenue interchange project in Beverly. This is an important issue, not just for the immediate neighborhood or the city of Beverly, but for the entire region. Unfortunately, I think that a relatively small group of people is attempting to elevate a minor and temporary inconvenience into a permanent and irresolvable regional problem.
The Jacobs Engineering traffic study uses both a figure of an increase of 300 vehicles per peak hour and one of an increase of 30 vehicles per peak hour. The figure of 300 vehicles per peak hour includes all additional traffic that will be generated by this project, whether or not those vehicles will impact the residential portions of Brimbal Avenue and the adjacent neighborhoods. The relevant figure is the number of cars that will impact these residential areas. That figure is 30 vehicles per peak hour. And everyone seems to agree that after the completion of Phase II of the project, traffic on Brimbal Avenue will be reduced to below current levels.
This brings us to problem of additional lights and the addition of two roundabouts on Brimbal Avenue.
Residents have expressed the fear that these features will prove an inconvenience. They are probably right, but we must ask the question: What does this inconvenience buy? The answer is increased road safety. Lights and roundabouts are both traffic-calming mechanisms, meaning that traffic along Brimbal Avenue will be slowed and safer. Children will have lights with which they can cross a street that we all know now is not terribly safe to cross. Improved safety is what is bought for the “inconvenience” of traffic-calming measures.
Economic development is not a minor issue. The opponents of this project point out that no commercial development has lowered residential taxes, and surrounding communities (such as Hamilton, Wenham and Manchester-by-the-Sea) get along just fine without commercial development. Both points are extremely misleading. People understand that their own household expenses rise every year. Municipal expenses rise every year, as well. The city has the following choices: cut services, raise residential and commercial real estate taxes, or encourage new commercial development.