HAVERHILL — A controversial plan to convert a stretch of South Central Street to one-way traffic goes into effect tomorrow, despite the objections of city councilors, as well as residents and businesses in that part of the city.
Beginning at approximately 5:30 a.m., South Central Street between Central Square and South Chestnut Street will be restricted to one-way, eastbound traffic. In conjunction with the change, new traffic signals at the intersection of Route 125 (South Main Street) with South Central Street, Ferry Street and South Pleasant Street will be placed into flashing mode, according to state transportation officials.
Since last summer, the City Council has voted three times to oppose the change while business owners and people who live near the square rallied against the plan at several public meetings.
Merchants and property owners have said the change would hurt business and lower real estate values, while residents expressed concerns it will lead to more traffic on narrow residential streets behind the square because of motorists seeking other ways to reach Route 125.
City Councilor Robert Scatamacchia said the council recently asked the state to keep the traffic pattern on South Central two-way. He said the state informed the city that the change to one-way travel would be taking place and that it was based on traffic safety studies based on the redesigned Central Square.
“I don’t agree with the state,” Scatamacchia said. “Making South Central Street one-way will cause more problems than it will solve.”
Restricting traffic to one-way on a stretch of South Central Street is part of the state’s massive reconstruction of Route 125, which included redesigning and rebuilding Central Square for improved traffic flow. State officials have said keeping South Central Street two way, once the new traffic light is activated, would cause Route 125 to back up all the way to Salem Street near Bradford Common during peak traffic times in the late afternoon.