Haverhill’s North Avenue Reconstruction and Amenities to Top $23.6 Million

City Engineer John H. Pettis III. (WHAV News file photograph.)

A long-awaited rehabilitation project for North Avenue, from Main Street in Haverhill to the Plaistow, N.H., line, recently received approval from the Merrimack Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Mayor James J. Fiorentini told city councilors Tuesday the quasi-public organization authorized $23.6 million in state and federal money for the project. He called the amount the largest transportation investment in the city’s history.

“Last week, we got approval from the Merrimack Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization to begin this project, a $20 million investment in our city,” he said.

The mayor said Haverhill was able to leap ahead of other project requests because the city already spent $1.2 million, as required, creating a design. Fiorentini said the work, which is not scheduled to begin until 2027, includes road repaving, new sidewalks and bike lanes as well as improved drainage, tree plantings and roadway redesign for improved safety.

While pleased with the report, Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan expressed concern regarding issues facing those that use the road right now that cannot wait five years to be addressed.

“The road is crumbling and we need to pay close attention to what’s going on right now. I know that potholes were a serious problem this season. The barrels sometimes get knocked over and need to be adjusted more often,” he said.

The mayor agreed, telling councilors the Department of Public Works will be microsurfacing the road in the meantime, a paving technique, he said, should last about five years.

Asked by Councilor Michael S. McGonagle if plans included any widening of the road, particularly at the Frye Pond Dam area, City Engineer John H. Pettis III said that is part of the plan.

“We’re actually looking to remove the dam as part of this project. There will be a replacement bridge. We’ll widen away from the pond and we’ll wind up with a much wider structure at the end of the day,” he explained.

With the city engineer on hand, councilors took the opportunity to ask for an update on plans for replacement of the Basiliere Bridge. Pettis responded it is still likely three years out. but the state Department of Transportation says they plan to have one lane open in either direction while construction is underway. He added an architectural firm will work with the city to incorporate historical elements in the design of the bridge.

The Council had also planned to discuss road improvements and safety concerns regarding Route 125 at Farrwood Drive near North Andover at last night’s meeting. Residents have complained it is a dangerous intersection and should have a traffic signal.

At the request of Councilors Sullivan and Melinda E. Barrett, those discussions were continued until April 12, however, in order to allow more time for Farrwood Drive residents to take part.

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