After Pedestrian Death and Complaints, City to Reject Main St. Reconstruction

Haverhill pedestrian Charles O. “Chucky” Burrill Jr. was killed while walking in the crosswalk just after 5 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Police investigated the accident scene after a man was killed just after 5 a.m. Friday, Jan. 25. (WHAV News photograph.)

Too few travel lanes, poorly designed turning lanes, lack of traffic light synchronization and an ill-conceived bicycle lane are among reasons the City of Haverhill is giving to reject the $3.8 million reconstruction of downtown Main Street.

Haverhill City Councilor William J. Macek. (WHAV News photograph by Jay Saulnier.)

Although ruled out as the reason for Friday’s pedestrian traffic death, Haverhill city councilors Tuesday night said the hit and run death helped highlight design flaws along the rebuilt Route 125. Following a moment of silence for victim Charles Burrill, Councilor William J. Macek slammed the project.

“This was just the final straw, hearing of this tragedy, regardless of how it happened, why it happened or who was at fault,” the councilor said.

Macek said designers may have used 10-year-old data to determine traffic needs. He and other councilors called on the state to fix the problems before the city accepts the roadway. He said it is better now to address the problem before phase two—more road work near Monument Square—adds to the confusion.

Mayor James J. Fiorentini said he and City Engineer John H. Pettis III couldn’t agree more. In what might end up being only a symbolic move, the mayor said he will refuse to sign-off on the federal- and state-built project. “Particularly with taking away the left-hand turn that went from Bradford down to Merrimack Street. I felt that was backing up traffic,” he said.

As much as he enjoys bicycling, the mayor called the new bike lane “not the right thing to do.” Fiorentini explained the federal government spent $380,000 on the design and then paid 80 percent of construction, leaving the state to pay 20 percent.

Councilor Melinda E. Barrett complained some of the street signage block views from the sidewalks. She added plans to add a fence between the lanes to force pedestrians to use crosswalks seems to have also been abandoned.

As WHAV reported in 2015, several of the intersections along the route are among the state’s top 200 worst accident zones.