Stop and Go, or Not


a governor

Dear Gov. Patrick:

I know you will leave office in less than a year, and I’ll be sorry to see you go. You’ve accomplished a lot and really helped our state. Er, uh, rather, our Commonwealth. I’m not originally from Massachusetts, so I’m still getting used to the terminology. Like our state being a Commonwealth, and “regular” coffee having cream and sugar, and you push your groceries around the store in a “carriage,” which is what we push babies around in, where I come from. Well, you must know what I’m talking about. You were born in Chicago, which is where I grew up. So you know it’s not a carriage. But you’ve been very wise not to make a big deal about it here in the Commonwealth.

As you enter your final year in office, I’d like to make a suggestion that I feel certain will ensure your legacy as a real game-changer. If you could take this one final, brilliant action, there is no question you will go down in the history books alongside our greatest leaders, and maybe even bump Mitt Romney to the next page.

Here’s the situation:

No town in the, uh, Commonwealth can put up a traffic light on a state route, even when the road passes through the town, unless the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, Highway Division, fondly known as MassDOT, says they can. Of course MassDOT works for you, our dear Governor. So you could snap your fingers and make a traffic light appear on any state route in Massachusetts. If you wanted to.

This means that you have it within your power, Your Excellency, to solve the most grievous and enduring problem plaguing the Town of Ipswich, where I live. I refer to the problem of Lord’s Square. Don’t be fooled by the name, sir. It’s not a square. It’s more of a triangle, if the triangle was finger-painted by a gaggle of blindfolded kindergarteners. This is the place where State Route 133 becomes a slithering snake, as if wriggling to escape the grasp of High Street, Short Street, Liberty Street, and Linebrook Road.

I tell you this from firsthand experience. Someone who wants to cross 133 from Linebrook to Short would sell his soul, or at least his vote, for a traffic light. I have a friend who lives on Liberty Street and has raised his children in the back of his SUV while trying to turn left onto 133. A traffic light would have allowed this poor fellow to attend his son’s soccer games, and his wife to join a book club, instead of living their lives watching a steady stream of vehicles pulling out of Dunkin’ Donuts.

At the same time, people approaching Lord’s Square from the east on High Street come to the most literal stop sign in America. You normally assume that after stopping for a stop sign, you go. It’s not really a stop sign; it’s a stop-and-go sign. But when you stop for this stop sign, you stay stopped. That’s because the flow of traffic on 133 is cutting you off, while an eastbound Dodge Ram truck on High Street is already backed up at his own stop sign, just daring you to pull out before he does.

Beloved Governor, you will be the hero of Ipswich for eternity if you simply exercise your traffic-light-installing authority and untangle our Gordian knot. It won’t take much to master the muddle. All we’ll need is one set of traffic lights to replace the High Street stop signs, another light at the start of Linebrook Road, a third set of lights between Liberty and Short. And maybe while you’re at it, put a light at the Dunkin’ entrance. Oh, what the heck, let’s put one at the Dunkin’ exit, too.

And a set of lights where Short empties onto High.

And one where you pull into the gas station.

And maybe another where you pull out.

That should about do it, I think.

Wait — one more, at the entrance to Rite-Aid. No, sorry. Rite-Aid has two entrances. I’m sure MassDOT has another traffic light lying around somewhere.

You’re going to be adored, Governor. Venerated, I’m tellin’ ya. Revered. We might even rename it Deval Patrick’s Square.

Next let’s talk about Five Corners.



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