Merchants of Six Towns Learn That Diverted Traffic Takes Business Away
WALPOLE, July 17 — There was a time, not so long ago, when the main highway through this section to Boston and Providence was a winding, dusty, country road. For the amount and type of traffic, it served its purpose well, and everybody was quite contented. But times have changed. Transportation has been completely revolutionzed, and dissention is prevalent on all sides.
Almost entirely completed between Boston and Providence is a new superhighway which is causing most of the present ills. The new route is open from Norwood to North Attleboro, and thus diverts most of the through traffic from the centers of Norwood, Walpole, Norfolk, Wrentham, Plainville and North Attleboro. Dedham will also be added to this list when the Boston end of the highway is completed. This diversion, together with the State’s taking Route 1 signs from their original positions and placing them along the new super-highway, is what has upset a goodly portion of the citizenship of the above mentioned towns.
Out of the tangle between the State and this section of Norfolk County has sprung the Route 1 Transportation Association. Many meetings of the association have already been held, and this evening the largest gathering ever to assemble in this section of Norfolk County was present in Memorial Hall to hear the report on the data collected by association representatives on real estate valuations, taxes collected and total business done In 1930-31-32 and depreciation’s this year to date. The association is composed of members of the Boards of Selectmen, Chambers of Commerce, Retail Merchants’ Associations, district representatives and interested citizens of the various towns.
Not unlike all stories, there are two sides to this one. The sole purpose of the Route 1 Association at present is to bring about a return of traffic through the centers, the towns, thus aiding business in general, real estate valuations, etc. Before the opening of the major portion of the super-highway, traffic congestion was increasing in the town centers, especially on Friday and Saturday evenings, the most opportune hours for the retailers. Customers were unable to gain parking places close to the stores where they wished to make purchases, and local and transient traffic was tied up considerably.
The merchants then had a longing eye for the approaching super-highway. According to their own estimates, through traffic was worthless and the sooner it was diverted the better for all concerned. But then came the dawn—and the super-highway.
At that point cams the realization that Route 1 and through traffic was worth considerable in the long run. To put It in the terms of the Route 1 Association, it has “greatly affected the status of over 40,000 voters who have suffered heavy business losses and depreciated valuations of business real estate, entailing present loss of taxes to these several towns and great possibility of future losses through foreclosure of mortgages on abandoned property and consequent loss to the State.”
The gist of the resolution forwarded to the Governor and the Commissioner of Public Works follows:
“Whereas, it has been the policy of this and other States in constructing new parallel highways along Route 1 to mark such new construction as A. B or C, and as a large percentage of tourists are more interested in passing through our scenic New England villages and towns rather than in traveling over a super-speed highway constructed through a wilderness and swamp: and as many of our citizens who have purchased and developed properties over a period of years are now faced with ultimate loss.”
“Whereas, it is unthinkable that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts should make an exception to its policy in this particular instance so prejudicial to the several towns mentioned.”
“Be it resolved, that Route 1 be returned to its rightful owners and constitute the original highway through the centers of these towns.”
So it appears that the modern day conveniences carry along with them new sets of troubles to contend with. Part of the citizenship of these towns think the State has acted unfairly and, on the other hand, State officials were undoubtedly of the opinion that they had performed a great duty for this section of the Commonwealth in the construction of the new super-highway.
The whole question will be aired at a public hearing in the State House July 26, and there appears to be no reason why for the sake of the changing of a few signs, there cannot be an amicable settlement.