SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

January 24, 2014

Column: Reflecting on the Brimbal Avenue development plans

(Continued)

Admittedly, the city and ECDC viewed this program as a strategy that should have garnered significant public support. However, as public expression became exclusively preoccupied with anticipated traffic congestion and now the necessity of a city-wide vote to overturn a council and Planning Board determination, opposition could well derail the support of state funding sources to underwrite the first phase of Brimbal/Sohier improvements.

It would be my hope that the project not be delayed. It would be my hope that our neighbors might view the possible development of a relatively small shopping facility at Route 128 as a possible asset to the economy of this region and the fiscal health of this city generating $20 million in new valuation and 250 full-time jobs and 150 part-time jobs. Beverly’s current retail demand for food goods and services is very significantly satisfied by non-Beverly based businesses, with neighboring Market Basket stores representing the primary beneficiary. The introduction of a new store of the stature of Whole Foods simply restores that current imbalance. Whole Foods is an excellent food store and its owners/investors do not deserve any measure of demonization for their advocacy.

To the heart of the matter, however, there can be no argument that traffic on virtually all of Beverly’s roadways has reached unacceptable levels. While this highway improvement plan addresses the issues of congestion and safety in the immediate area providing for the necessary capacity to support anticipated growth over the next 15 to 20 years, the plan does not remediate the problems at Dodge Street and Route 1A or at Essex and Colon streets. Whether this project is advanced or not, Brimbal Avenue/Sohier Road will soon reach the traffic levels similar to those levels along the length of Route 1A from Wenham to Salem. Any new development project, regardless of its location, will generate traffic. It seems clear that the city cannot survive a much curtailed economic and community development strategy if such curtailment is predicated in each instance upon a perceived adverse traffic impact, any more than its economic viability can survive traffic congestion which chokes off access and egress to its business centers — be they contemplated on the waterfront, Main Street, or Route 128.

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