Monday, August 7, 2006

In Defense of Matt Amorello

Someone had to do it, I guess. George Barnes of the Telegram and Gazette reminds readers that it was Matt Amorello who began work to make Route 2 between Phillipston and Erving safer for drivers. He suggests that while we're vilifying Amorello for a death in one of his high-profile tunnels, we should remember the lives he's helping save in a forgotten part of the state:

I'm interested in Matthew Amorello because he is also the Route 2 guy. He was state highway commissioner when the Route 2 safety improvement project got under way. He pushed the project, [and] promised it would go forward...

Route 2 is not the Big Dig. It doesn't compare with the Big Dig in cost or scope. It also does not seem as frivolous as the Big Dig. The Big Dig was dug to make sure people could get to the airport or more easily to shopping around Boston. It was dug because people are unwilling to use public transportation. The Boston roads were clogged and something had to be done so that people could continue to avoid using public transportation.

The Route 2 project was started because the deaths of four young women in a car accident in October 1998 were just four deaths too many on a road where people were too often getting in accidents. The stretch of highway from Orange to Petersham is known locally as "Death Valley" because of the many deaths along those several miles of two-lane pavement.

The road is also the lifeline for a lot of struggling communities. There was almost no public transportation in the towns when the project began. The road is an often difficult road, but it is also a highway of hope for people looking to connect with the larger world.


It has been a hazardous road since it was built in the 1960s. It was built lacking proper climbing lanes, with ramps that just about require high-speed, 45-degree-angle turns to avoid tailgaters running you down. Now it is getting fixed. There will be climbing lanes, better entrances and exits to ramps, a better line of sight for motorists -- and hope that more people will not be killed.

...a lot of changes have already been made this summer and more improvements are expected. And fixing the road was one of the first promises Matthew Amorello made when he became state highway commissioner. He said safety on Route 2 was a priority for him.

So far, he has been true to his word...

Barnes is right about that highway. The "Super-2" section west of Phillipston is on par with the "Suicide 6" two-lane freeway on Cape Cod. They have tried to do some things in the interim--banning passing east of Athol, placing rumble strips and reflector posts along the center stripes, requiring drivers to drive with their headlights on--but it is a treacherous stretch. Some drivers attempt to take it at 65 mph, while trucks and old ladies end up doing 45 or less, with nowhere to pass. The road is heatraveledelled, and creates dangerous driving conditions and lots of frustration and anger.

I've driven that stretch a number of times going to and from the family homestead in Vermont (including a trip yesterday to our annual family reunion) and I hate it. Hopefully the construction will be done soon.

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