hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

October 4, 2012

Editorial: Better communication needed on Route 125 project

The Haverhill Gazette

---- — It’s bad enough that businesses in Bradford’s Central Square have lost business since the $13.1 million overhaul of the Route 125 (South Main Street) corridor began in 2011.

But now they say they are in the dark about the what the square will ultimately look like and how traffic will flow when the work is done sometime next year, though they are hopeful of improvement.

Parking and access are particular concerns. If the customers who stopped patronizing the businesses because of the mess the project made are to come back, parking must be convenient.

But some business owners say they still don’t know if they will have parking in front of their shops.

The project was designed, in part, to improve safety for both drivers and pedestrians so sidewalks have been widened.

Barbara Leone, owner of the Main Street Boutique, said the sidewalk in front of her shop has been widened and the street has been narrowed. If cars park in front of her shop, “they’ll be pretty close to traffic going by,” she said.

In the meantime, Leone emailed her customers to let them know there was parking at the rear of the boutique. but traffic has slowed business.

David Langlois, owner of Oh Daddy’s pizza and subs, is glad to see the new, wider sidewalks in front of his shop.

“But at this point, I still don’t know if we’ll have parking out front,” he told reporter Mike LaBella. (See story on page 1.) “Most of our business is takeout, and the biggest part of that is being able to park out front for a few minutes.”

Langlois said he stepped up delivery service when the construction began to offset takeout losses, but his business is down 25 percent, though he is hopeful it will bounce back once the work is done.

Langlois said he did see a plan early on indicating he would have parking out front, “but plans change,” he said.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that the city is pushing the state Department of Transportation to drop plans to make South Central Street one-way headed away from Central Square. That would prevent residents and a school bus company on the street from directly accessing Route 125.

The state is reviewing the request.

Transportation Department spokesman Michael Verseckes said the corridor project is 65 percent complete and scheduled to wrap up next spring or early summer — and is under budget because the slow economy has made bidders more willing to negotiate.

But in the meantime, it seems that the state and city could do a better job of keeping the merchants in the loop so they can plan for the day the project is finally done.