EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 24, 2013

Haverhill loses business to road work

By Mike LaBella

---- — HAVERHILL — Businesses at Central Square in Bradford say they continue to suffer due to the state reconstruction of Route 125 and its sidewalks. Some businesses have moved and a computer sales and service company owner says the project has cost him $100,000 in sales.

Bob Bertoni, owner of Megahertz Computer Inc., said he relocated his business from 105 So. Main St. to Bradford Plaza on the east side of Central Square where Latitude Sports Club and Papa Gino’s are and that he did it to survive. Now in his 13th year of operation, Bertoni said he found safe refuge in Bradford Plaza, where he opened his doors Jan. 1.

“Business has been very good,” he said. “It’s back to how it was. My customers have a place to park and they’re happy.”

Bertoni is one of many merchants and property owners who last year pleaded with city leaders to replace already scarce customer parking gobbled up by the Route 125 improvement project and to speed the work that had been ravaging the heart of Bradford since last summer.

“The sidewalk in front of my old store has been torn up for over six months with nothing done and a safety issue ignored,” Bertoni said. “The construction has cost me $100,000 in lost revenue and the city and state do not care.”

Bertoni said the sidewalk in front of his former location at 105 So. Main St. is still under construction and that rush hour traffic jams are still bad.

“It backs up and it’s harder to get around the square than it used to be,” he said. “But once they install new lights, it should be easier to maneuver but my fear is the traffic backing up could be worse.”

Bertoni said his wasn’t the only business that suffered from the construction and reduction in on-street parking.

Estelle Perrault, who operated The Cut Above, a salon at 127 So. Main St., said that prior to her retiring and closing her salon late last November, business was off.

“There wasn’t much parking to begin with and they’ll probably be less when they’re done,” Perrault said about the difficulties her customers had with finding a convenient place to park. “I was going to retire anyway, but the construction hurried it up. It definitely hurt and I don’t think they’re done.”

While she was still operating her business last year, Perrault said the elimination of on-street parking was an inconvenience, especially for elderly customers who were used to being dropped off in front of her salon. She said the parking spaces that were in front of her salon became a travel lane.

According to MassDOT, the Route 125 reconstruction project is scheduled to be completed by June.

The project was originally expected to cost $14.6 million, however, because of a slowdown in the economy and with more firms bidding on construction jobs, the actual cost has been driven down to $13.1 million, state transportation officials said.