To the editor:
Count me as one (one among many, I’m sure) who was startled last fall when what I had long thought of as “the flyover project” became solely focused, for now at least, on the Brimbal/Sohier/Route 128 intersection. But count me as one (among many more) who has come to realize that not many things turn out exactly as you would like them or even when you want them; the phrase “all rising to (a) great place is by a winding stair” comes to mind. But growth and progress are usually achieved through recognizing realities, then adaptation, flexibility and persistence.
Count me most of all in support of the Phase I project, as a realistic and positive next step for all of Beverly — including Brimbal Avenue and other North Beverly residents.
Would I have preferred what is defined as Phase II, rather than Phase I? Sure, as that would relieve a lot of the pressure on Brimbal Avenue and open up much more space for commercial and industrial growth. But after nearly a decade of trying — hard — the mayor and planners accepted that there was no state transportation funding for new construction and that there was no way state economic development funding would address the $20 million new flyover interchange before the smaller Brimbal reconstruction proved viable.
“What’s the real problem with Brimbal Avenue? Why don’t we fix it by requiring the music theater to post traffic details before concerts like they do afterward? That seems to work.” Because traffic to and from the theater is only part of the problem. I’ve never personally seen traffic backed up onto Route 128, but we all know that it is often very difficult to turn onto Brimbal from the connector and from the southbound off-ramp, even at midafternoon. Sooner or later, this developer, or someone else, is going to put commercial development onto the Brimbal/Sohier parcel, and if it isn’t part of a swap, it’s going to mean many more left turns off of and back onto Brimbal Avenue and/or the connector, making those roads far worse than they are now.
Why don’t we just step back and work out a better plan for the Brimbal/Sohier/128 layout? Here’s why:
The traffic engineers, in conjunction with the state and the city have been working on this for years, especially during the last two years when they received an additional $500,000 from the state for design purposes; they are unlikely to unearth any major new concepts at this stage.
City Councilor Don Martin’s Brimbal Avenue Citizen Advisory Committee and others will be able to monitor the state and city’s tweaks to the design, as well as the developer’s specific plans when he presents them to the Planning Board and Conservation Committee. This won’t permit drastic changes, but it will allow citizen input for thoughtful improvement suggestions.
Roundabouts DO work, far better than stoplights when there is sufficient room, as there is in the Phase I design. They slow, but do not stop traffic. Unlike traffic lights they do not give preference to one flow of traffic over another, and they do not make drivers sit, stopped and idling, when there is no traffic coming from another direction. The developer alone will not use roundabouts because those would require property he doesn’t own.
Saying “no” is not going to solve anything; standing still — trying to reject reality — would just make matters worse.
“Is Phase II assured after Phase I?” No one can say for sure, but a successful Phase I will surely give confidence to the state, to potential development partners and to the city, and we certainly need to improve both current and future traffic flows on Brimbal Avenue and the Sohier connector. And Phase II is where the significant tax revenues finally arise. That’s critical to funding the many improvements and maintenance projects we need throughout the city.
It’s easy to say no — either “Not in my backyard” or “Not my problem.”.But traffic improvements, smart and thoughtful development, and growing tax revenues are our problem. It’s very important that we don’t just let this project survive through the prudent requirements of the charter; we need to let each other — and the state, and developers — know that we have thought about this as a city issue and that we do support well-designed development. Make the effort to go to polls on Saturday, Feb. 8, and vote “Yes” to support the City Council’s vote. Count me in, and get yourself in the count, as well.