By Bruce Amaro
---- — When new traffic lights began operating on Route 125 in Bradford last year, angry drivers complained about traffic jams.
Merchants in Central Square said their businesses suffered from changing traffic patterns caused by the lights, plus removal of parking spaces from the area.
State highway officials were getting an earful due to the changes they made to South Main Street, the stretch of Route 125 that runs through Bradford.
Now, several months later, the complaining has died down.
But observers said travelers’ habits have changed due to the traffic lights.
They said drivers are finding their way around places like Central Square, avoiding the traffic signals there. Motorists are using side streets more, said merchants and other neighbors of the area.
City Councilor William Macek said many drivers avoid the square’s traffic lights by traveling through adjacent residential streets.
“Neighbors still complain about the increased traffic through their streets as vehicles come down South Pine Street and in those neighborhoods back there,” he said.
Some merchants whose businesses are on side streets said they are happy drivers avoid the square.
Pat Lane, owner of the Arthur Sharp True Value Hardware store at 21 Middlesex St., two blocks from the square, said some drivers who use side streets end up travelling near his store.
“I like it,’’ he said of the possibility of more customers coming his way. “The light at the end of the street allows people easier access in and out of Middlesex Street, so they come down this way more often now.”
But merchants with businesses on South Main Street said they lose sales when drivers use side streets or are frustrated by traffic jams on the main drag.
“With the new construction, it’s worse for me,” Pat Saragas owner of Heav’nly Donuts at 55 S. Main St., said of the $15 million face-lift to South Main Street.
“The lights down the street by the bridge cause cars to slow down on my side of the street and nobody can get in or out of my place easily until the traffic moves after each light,” Saragas said.
He said the traffic has driven some of his customers to the rival Dunkin Donuts near the intersection of Basiliere Bridge and Middlesex Street.
Then there are South Main Street business owners who say traffic jams actually bring them more customers.
David Langlois, owner of Ohdaddy’s Restaurant, 125 S. Main St. in Central Square, said the square’s new traffic lights cause drivers to stop right in front of his business. That, he said, makes people notice his relatively new restaurant.
“The work has been a big improvement for us,’’ he said. “We started the business just as construction started a few years ago, but we kept going. The traffic lights bring in business.’’
The traffic lights went into full operation last June. From Bradford Common to the Basiliere Bridge, the construction widened the roadway, reduced some sidewalk area and installed the traffic lights and islands to channel cars in new directions. The new lights replaced old ones, which had not been working for years.
Michael Verseckes, a spokesman for MassDOT, said the state has continued to monitor the performance of the new traffic signals and will make timing changes to ensure they operate efficiently.