, Newburyport, MA


February 17, 2012

Traffic and the changes it brings

Consideration of a possible restructuring of properties adjacent to the western end of Low Street and Route 113 is of a complexity unrelated to most of the city's projects of the distant past.

The exception would be the construction of the traffic circle at outer State Street and the creation of the highway beneath High Street to the river crossing to Salisbury in the mid-1930s.

Change, it would appear, is in the offing, and its constructive relevance to the area's footprint is speculative. Such changes usually are. What's in play is how to accommodate something that was inconceivable when the streets involved were created.

Let's begin at the beginning when, in that less complicated time, the three roadways running parallel to the Merrimack River first covered the city's stretch from "Downalong'' to "Upalong.''

Water and Merrimac streets, northeast to northwest, rim the river, and Low Street on the other side of the High Street ridge runs parallel to both. High Street led to what became West Newbury, a once lightly traveled road. Those connected at right angles to them formed the city's blocks from one end to the other.

That's how it was before the shopping center became a major destination and the superhighway added to traffic challenges.

We don't usually think about the complexities of long-term growth of our old cities and towns. It wasn't until I began to ponder the likely outcomes of what appears in play that led me to reconsider the earlier time and how much easier it was then to manage change.

It was of a design fitting realities, and so must those of today.

Low Street was used mainly to access farmland between Common Pasture Road (now Graf Road) and the other cow and wagon paths that became Hale Street and Crow Lane.

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