Route 97 winds it way from downtown Haverhill, crosses Interstate 495 and meanders through Ayers Village to Salem, N.H.
There was a time when the stretch from I-495 to the New Hampshire border was a relatively quiet residential byway, lined by houses. There was little enough traffic that if you lived on one side of the road, you could have your mailbox on the other side and not worry about crossing the street to get your mail.
But those days are long gone. Route 97 has become a busy commuter route for those headed to and from I-495.
And residents say it has become increasingly dangerous as drivers flout the 35 mph speed limit and hit the gas to get where they are going a few minutes faster.
“It’s really dangerous,” Rocco Pelosi told reporter Alex Lippa. (See story on page 1.) “I was working in my yard two weeks ago, and I almost got clipped again.”
He said “again” because some 30 yeas ago he was hit by a car and seriously injured crossing the road to get his mail. He moved the box when he got out of the hospital.
Pelosi has enlisted the aid of City Councilor Bill Macek to bring the issue to the attention of other city officials and get some help.
“People are just too heavy on the gas,”Pelosi said. “There are always accidents around here. People are walking and jogging every day and something bad is going to happen again.”
Macek agrees that something needs to be done, especially after watching traffic on Route 97 himself.
Macek said speeders jeopardize the safety of people walking the road because there are no sidewalks.
Studies have found that there are ways to attack the problem of speeding through residential neighborhoods.
The first step is a campaign to remind drivers of the speed limit and to let them know that police intend to enforce it.
Portable or permanent speed sensors show what the limit is and flash how fast the driver is actually going.
Macek said he has talked to Police Chief Alan DeNaro about buying such devices.
The second step, of course, is to actually enforce the law by stepping up police visibility with regular patrols and radar traps until drivers get the message they not only should but also must slow down.
Macek said he has asked Council President John Michitson to talk to DeNaro about enforcement action.
Once police are ready to begin the crackdown they need to let the public know about it to make the effort more effective.
If you speed on 97, don’t say you weren’t warned.