George McCabe Answers Our City-Wide Master Plan Question
Is The Legacy Master Plan Still Relevant?
The City of Salem City Wide Master Plan was written in 1979 under Mayor Jean Levesque. It was last updated in 1996 under Mayor Neil Harrington. Does this master Plan, as written and updated remain relevant to the needs of the city in the east 21st Century?
I believe the Master Plan remains relevant but should be updated. While some major items in it have been completed, others have not.
One critical area that must be revisited is transportation and traffic management. Many of our roads have been reconstructed, but traffic has become even more congested. There are more and more cars on the road every day. Clearly, it’s time for us to take a serious look at all forms of alternative transportation. And we must implement the ones that will work best.
We also need to look at our transportation needs on a regional basis. Salem is home to many regional employers and attractions. That is a major part of our traffic issues. We should consider joining a regional bus transportation system that could provide more frequent service to popular North Shore locations. Successful regional bus systems exist now in the Merrimack Valley and Cape Ann. Those are both models we should be exploring. I’m a strong supporter of the South Salem train stop that will take hundreds of cars a day off our roads.
Housing is another area of the master plan that must be updated. Salem’s housing stock, and its needs, are far different than in 1996. The master plan must ensure there is a greater choice of housing options, especially for our aging population and that new projects are done the right way, and in the appropriate locations.
Downtown development has been successful. Salem is now a year-round destination for our historic and cultural attractions. We have a steady stream of visitors, including people visiting Boston where Salem has become a popular day trip. This is good for our small downtown business community.
The challenge we now face is managing our success. That’s not a bad problem to have. But we must also protect our historic neighborhoods and be cautious about how we make our development decisions going forward.