By Bill Kirk firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — A series of accidents on area highways, as well as poor road conditions on a stretch of 495 in Haverhill, led to a painful commute for many people driving through the Merrimack Valley yesterday morning.
First, at around 5:15 a.m., police responded to a report of a disabled car in the median strip off Interstate-93 southbound near Exit 41/Route 125.
As police were dealing with that problem, a six-car pileup occurred around 5:45 a.m. just north of that incident, forcing State Police to close two lanes of traffic.
Four vehicles were towed from the scene, which was cleared by around 7 a.m., but nobody was injured.
At the same time, a car fire erupted on Route 125, forcing the closure of Route 125 until about 7:15 a.m. while the fire was doused and the car towed from the scene, police said.
The incidents backed up traffic into Andover and Methuen, with some reports saying it was backed up as far north as Route 213.
While those incidents all took place in Wilmington, another accident a short time later on 495 in Andover slowed traffic for commuters there as well.
A minor, two-car crash with no injuries forced State Police to shut the left lane before the cars could be removed by around 9 a.m.
As if that wasn’t enough, commuters traveling through Haverhill had to put up with poor road conditions left by road-paving crews that had worked overnight.
About a half-mile stretch of 495, near the Ward Hill exit, had been milled overnight in preparation for paving.
The paving project started about a week ago, according to State Police, and the contractor doing the work is usually good about sweeping up any gravel or pebbles left behind by the milling.
However, a drive on that stretch of road yesterday revealed small piles of gravel that could potentially kick up rocks and break windshields.
One driver, from West Newbury, was concerned about the safety of the roadway.
“The highway was apparently ground down last evening in preparation for paving,” Steve Shepard, of West Newbury, said in an email to The Eagle-Tribune. “However, when the crew was done the highway was simply left unswept with a layer of stone sitting in the roadway making for a very dangerous commute this morning.”
He added, “In addition to the danger, I’m sure there will be reports of many broken windshields or other damage to cars.”
State Police in Newbury said they had received no reports of broken windshields.
Another project was also slowing traffic on 495 northbound this week.
A highway crew has shut down the right lane of 495 south of the Ward Hill exit while a crew works on the underside of one of the bridge decks over the Merrimack River.
Michael Verseckes, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation Highway Division, was unable to provide information about either situations yesterday.