To the editor:
Having followed the debate surrounding the Brimbal Avenue Phase One project by attending the public hearing at Beverly High School on Thursday, April 19, and through numerous articles in the papers before and since, I cannot help but come to the conclusion that undertaking the Phase One project by itself will only lead to more traffic and a further decrease in the quality of life for the residents in that area of North Beverly. The area already shoulders quite a fair share of the burden for Beverly in terms of commercial real estate tax revenue generation and traffic, given the development of Route 1A over the last 20 years from the Henry’s Market intersection all the way to Dawson’s Hardware, plus the businesses along Brimbal Avenue and Dunham and Tozier roads. There are also two elementary schools as well as the city’s largest single employer, Beverly Hospital, all accessed off Brimbal Avenue.
During the public hearing a resident commented on the traffic backup on Brimbal Avenue caused by the railroad crossing at the North Beverly Depot (“Dodge Crossing”), especially during the morning and evening commute hours. The response from Rod Emory, the engineer from Jacobs Engineering hired by the city, was that area was not part of the traffic study or plan. Mr. Emory did a fine job explaining the project under tense circumstances, but that answer demonstrates to me a lack of understanding of the total picture of the traffic problems in the area and all the steps needed to solve them. It makes the plan flawed. It was good news, however, to hear from City Planning Director Tina Cassidy that Public Works Director Mike Collins has been working with the MBTA to solve that problem by upgrading antiquated equipment used to control the timing of the crossing gates. But how long has this discussion been going on and when will it be fixed?
Likewise during the meeting we were told that Phase Two cannot occur without the completion of Phase One. I have read and heard information telling me on one hand it is a funding issue, in that we need the taxes generated by Phase One to undertake Phase Two, and on the other hand it is an engineering consideration of needing to tie in all the traffic improvements together. But Mr. Emory stated Phase Two was originally the only project on the drawing board when he first came to work on this for the city of Beverly. I believe if funding were available Phase Two could stand on its own. It is the phase of the project that gives some traffic relief to the Brimbal Avenue-Sohier Road-Dunham Road area, and opens up larger parcels of land for development and greater future tax revenues than Phase One. However, Richard Sullivan, the state Energy and Environmental Affairs secretary, has stated that Phase Two “will not occur in the foreseeable future.”
If Phase One is undertaken, we cannot afford to wait for Phase Two like we waited more than 10 years for the new high school, or for the time it took to build the new Beverly-Salem Bridge . . . 40 years or more, depending on who you ask. To do Phase One without a plan and timeline in place to fix the North Beverly MBTA Rail crossing situation, either before or concurrently with the Phase One work, and along with a firm commitment from the state to embark on Phase Two within a very short, reasonable time frame after the completion of Phase One, seems like a plan that falls short. It leaves the residents of that area with no solution to an already difficult traffic situation by adding a plaza that may make matters worse for some time. It seems quite an unfair burden for one section of Beverly.
The city needs to work with the state agencies involved to develop a single, comprehensive plan and commitment to the total funding required for all three projects to be addressed within reasonable time frames of each other if it wants it to succeed. That would be effective and sensible local and state government in action. Anything else is a partial or “piecemeal” plan. We all want to see development that will bring Beverly the additional tax revenues to help finance a new middle school, a police station, and much needed street paving. So if you are going to do the project, do it right, do the “complete project.” It seems most sensible and fair.