Haverhill Council to Review Narrowing of North Avenue Bridge—One of Two Newly Restricted

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

Drivers may have noticed bright yellow barrels reducing roadway widths at bridges on both Rosemont Street and North Avenue. State inspectors say both bridges are deficient and that is worrying at least two city councilors.

Councilors William J. Macek and Thomas J. Sullivan have asked their colleagues to look at the situation when they meet remotely tonight. Macek says the Snow’s Brook bridge on North Avenue is of particular concern and explains what was behind the state action.

“The bridge was not safe at the edges so they reduced—they told the city to do something to reduce the width of the bridge toward the center,” says Macek.

In an email to councilors, City Engineer John H. Pettis III said the city responded to initial state concerns about the bridge rails by setting jersey barriers in 2017. However, he said, the state recently decided steel barriers were required. Macek explains how that led to the addition of the yellow barrels for motorist safety.

“They wouldn’t crash into the barriers. They would slam into the sand-filled plastic barrels. Rather than hitting cement, they would hit something a little softer,” he says.

While the state has scheduled the Snow’s Brook bridge for replacement in 2023, Macek says more immediate action may be required such as restricting trailer trucks or reducing speed limits.

“We also have to maybe think about if that bridge is so old and dilapidated that it’s not safe on the sides, do we want to still allow heavy tractor trailers and large, 10-wheel dump trucks full of material to go over it with a lot of weight?”

Macek is also concerned the state may wish to delay bridge repairs in light of expected budget problems related to the COVID-19 pandemic. He says the loss of the bridge would be “unbearable” and believes the city—through Pettis and the legislative delegation—may need to lobby the state Department of Transportation for speedier action.

The Haverhill City Council meets at 7 p.m., tonight. As a public service, 97.9 WHAV FM plans to carry the meeting live.

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