No Thumbs Up; In Fact, Councilors Almost Used Another Finger in Rocks Village Bridge Dispute

Haverhill's Rocks Village Bridge was also closed after a Friday, July 5, 2019 accident. (Courtesy photographs.)

With the Rocks Village Bridge scheduled to open to traffic again Monday, Oct. 10, a plea by the Haverhill City Council, Town of West Newbury and state representatives to exclude heavy-truck traffic on that span is, apparently, water under the bridge for the time being.

City Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan, who spearheaded the drive to have the Mass. Department of Transportation create the exclusion, told his colleagues this week the request fell on deaf ears.

“In spite of our efforts and West Newbury’s efforts and the legislative delegation’s efforts, the Mass. Department of Transportation is not budging, and they will not entertain a heavy commercial truck exclusion,” he said.

Sullivan pointed out the decision came despite the bridge having sustained 10 incidents since 2012—each of them causing hardship for residents on both sides of the river. He said the state has determined that putting a cross bar and a warning sign on the Haverhill side of the bridge is sufficient.

Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua noted barriers and signage have not proved effective in preventing oversized vehicles from causing similar damage to overpasses above Storrow Drive in Boston.

Sullivan did offer a small ray of hope, recognizing Gov. Charlie Baker and his department heads will not be in office that much longer.

“In the new year, we’re going to have a new governor and, with a new governor, comes new leadership, and we’ll have a new secretary of the Mass. Department of Transportation, Maybe those people will care about the impact that the multiple, repeated closings of the Rocks Village Bridge has had on the residents on both sides of the river,” he said.

Adding insult to injury, Sullivan pointed out the new warning sign and crossbar will not be available when the bridge opens next week. He said the state intends to have them in place by Nov. 1.

In a separate transportation-related issue, Bevilacqua asked his fellow councilors to approve sending a letter to Mayor James J. Fiorentini and the Department of Public Works, asking for a schedule to repaint some of the city’s faded crosswalks.

Bevilacqua said many are faded so badly they cannot be seen well, particularly at night. He pointed out a technique other cities have used that might work well in Haverhill.

“Some cities and towns have accentuated their school crosswalks as well as crosswalks in where the elderly cross as well as in the downtowns by painting the interior of the crosswalk a color, then putting a stripe of white on either side of that,” he explained.

Currently, as a cost-saving measure, the painting of crosswalks is subcontracted out by the city and tend to be painted in clusters, usually in the Spring.

Nonetheless, councilors approved the motion by a unanimous 9-0 vote.

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