Haverhill Councilors Seek Rocks Village Bridge Truck Ban; State Says Repairs Will be in Phases

State officials closed the Rocks Village Drawbridge March 17, between Haverhill and West Newbury. (Mike Jarvis photograph for WHAV News.)

The recent closing of the Rocks Village Bridge due to damage caused by an over height tractor trailer has spurred the Haverhill City Council to request weight restrictions, effectively eliminating truck traffic.

Last week’s accident was the third time in three years the bridge sustained damage from large trucks. City Councilor Melinda E. Barrett told her colleagues Tuesday Haverhill put up warning signs on its side of the bridge and reduced the speed limit there from 35 to 30 miles-per-hour after previous problems and complaints from people living in that area. She said, however, it obviously was not enough.

“We don’t have the ability to exclude trucks from the bridge because that is a MassDOT decision. I would suggest that we write to both MassDOT and West Newbury to look at a truck exclusion on the bridge and, in the meantime, West Newbury could put up a sign warning trucks about the size and height,” she suggested.

The most recent accident left the bridge closed indefinitely while the state continues inspections and ultimately undertakes repair work.

Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua said he visited the site and was told there is more structural damage than originally suspected.

Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan said there needs to be better signage on Routes 110 and 113, warning trucks before they actually reach the bridge. He added he agrees with sending letters, but the city should also contact its legislative delegation to push the issue.

“It’s up to the state legislators to pressure MassDOT to do what we need them to do, which is to create the truck exclusion and get it off the GPS system,” he said.

City Engineer John H. Pettis III notified councilors Wednesday morning the state Department of Transportation is already sending new data to navigation systems. He forwarded a message from the state.

“The detour plan that was used during the rehabilitation project that was completed in 2013 has been implemented. MassDOT confirmed that the closure of the bridge has been captured as an active incident in our system since it occurred and the information in that system’s web feeds is what many of the driving apps draw from for their mapping services. As an additional step, MassDOT contacted a number of the wayfinding apps to confirm the closure of the bridge and to request that they update their mapping service so that drivers are not unnecessarily directed to the bridge,” it said.

State officials noted, “At this stage, it is expected that the repairs will need to be implemented in several phases, the first of which involves installing temporary measures to allow the draw bridge to be safely operated to swing it into the fully open position, whereby additional interim repairs could safely and efficiently proceed.”

Councilors voted unanimously to send letters to Mayor James J. Fiorentini, the state Department of Transportation, state legislators and the town of West Newbury. asking for a truck restriction on that bridge and, meanwhile, work with West Newbury in creating more and better warning signs on Routes 110 and 113.

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