Haverhill Train Station to Close to Downtown Commuters; Officials to Receive Secret MBTA Briefing

This 2022 construction rendering represents the MBTA’s proposed replacement of the South Elm Street bridge.

Beginning this summer, a bridge replacement project will surprisingly and inexplicably close the downtown Haverhill station to commuter rail passengers, yet leaving it open for Amtrak Downeaster passengers.

Starting “tentatively” in mid-July and continuing for 10 to 12 months, those who usually board the commuter rail in Haverhill must get on at the Bradford station instead, according to a letter from the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority—or MBTA—to the city. The letter explains, as WHAV reported first in 2022, the diversion is due to the replacement of the South Elm Street bridge originally built in 1906. The downtown parking lot will remain open.

“The project understands that a request has been made for the MBTA to provide alternative service between Haverhill and Bradford stations during the construction of the South Elm Street bridge replacement project,” the letter continued.

No explanation was provided about why Amtrak passengers can use the downtown station, but not local commuters.

Asked about transportation between the two stations, a spokesperson for the MBTA told WHAV, “We are actively listening to feedback from stakeholders to inform our general public outreach plan before moving forward. We will have more information following the briefing scheduled for April 26. Our goal is to carefully consider all input and develop a well-informed approach to address the community’s needs and concerns.”

Officials will receive a briefing from the MBTA this Friday at 9:30 a.m., but the mayor’s office told WHAV the event is closed to the public.

MBTA Deputy Press Secretary Lisa Battiston wrote in an email to WHAV, “We are committed to ensuring all voices are heard. The MBTA is conducting a legislative briefing for elected officials in Haverhill, similar to the numerous meetings previously held with the city and the delegation, during which we will focus on developing strategies for how to best engage Haverhill officials and gather resident feedback.”

In a 2022 YouTube video, MBTA Project Manager Jonathan Kangas explains why a new bridge is needed. “The width of the railroad bridge is too narrow for modern trains, resulting in speed restrictions. The beams and girders have significant amounts of corrosion. Other structural elements are also showing signs of deterioration due to years of wear and tear.”

He added, “By assembling the new bridge next to the old bridge and sliding it into place over one weekend, impacts to customers and traffic on the roadway below will be minimized.”

Improvements will get rid of speed restrictions and bring a “smoother ride,” according to Kangas. He said the road and stormwater drainage system beneath the bridge will also be rebuilt.

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