Frank Georges, a Lowell resident and an elite runner, sent the following letter to city councilors regarding the motion on tomorrow night’s council agenda to consider forcing the Baystate Marathon to alter its route due to traffic issues during the race. I’ve written my own post on this subject and Frank gave me permission to post his letter as well. Here it is:
To Whom it May Concern,
I’m a longtime resident of Lowell and have lived here for over 30 years. I’m also a current member of the Greater Lowell Road Runners. Because I cannot make the council meeting on Tuesday night due to work obligations (as I teach at Northeastern University in Boston), I’d like to share some thoughts I have about the motion to re-route the Baystate Marathon course.
I’d like to mention that the current route is probably the best route for not just the runners (since it’s a flat, fast course which attracts runners hoping to qualify for races like the Boston Marathon) but also for alleviation of traffic concerns. The race organizers and I agree that there’s no way to put on a 26.2 mile race without having some traffic issues. However, I would argue that running along the river actually disrupts less traffic as any other feasible route would cross more intersections and eventually go through the heart of some congested neighborhoods. If the race is to continue to thrive, it makes the most sense to keep the current route. I don’t think there is an adequate route away from the river that could both serve the needs of the runners and prevent even further traffic issues. Also, forcing runners to do loops on a shorter course along the river would also not work as fast runners would be eventually catch up with slower runners. This would diminish the quality of the race and perhaps also make it too difficult to organize.
The Baystate Marathon brings thousands of people into the city and this is beneficial for businesses. A lot of people come into Lowell who would never come otherwise and it’s usually an overwhelmingly positive experience. People might come to Lowell for the marathon and then return again as a result.
The marathon brings people into the city throughout the year. A lot of people training for the race come to Lowell to run the course several times before the actual race.
The Greater Lowell Road runners and I hope that city continues to support this event which has become a draw for many runners both near and far. Our running club has worked hard to minimize the traffic issues that this event inevitably causes. We have placed signs alerting the community to traffic changes that may occur during the marathon. We have volunteers at each bridge to aid police in traffic control. I believe that these measures and the fact that two bridges (those at Bridge St. and Rte 110.) remain completely open during the Sunday morning of the race adequately address the concerns of most of the community. Personally, I feel that traffic on the Sunday morning of the marathon in Lowell is no worse and arguably better than that during any weekday commute at rush hour, although the challenges certain residents may face are different.
I don’t dispute that some people will be inconvenienced by the marathon. This is true even in major marathons such as those in Boston and New York. These cities still choose to put on marathons because the benefits to the community can compensate for some of the logistical issues that are feasible for most to overcome. I hope Lowell can do the same for many years to come.
When the council considers the motion on Tuesday night, I hope the current race course can be preserved. I believe that the board members of the club will seek to actively work with the city to best resolve any concerns residents might have about the race.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
–Frank Georges Jr.
25 Morningside Drive
Lowell, MA 01852