EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 17, 2013

City wants to end traffic jams around high school

470 students, staff drive, clog roads, each day

By Shawn Regan
sregan@eagletribune.com

---- — HAVERHILL — With more students driving to school than in past years, the city is looking for ways to smooth out traffic jams at intersections near Haverhill High.

Haverhill High Principal Bernard Nangle said about 400 students and 70 teachers and administrators drive to school each day — clogging roads around the campus during the early morning and mid-afternoon hours.

“With the economy improving, more and more kids are driving to school,” Nangle said. “We have about 470 cars coming into the high school in the morning and leaving in the afternoon.”

Nangle said a major redesign of the high school driveway two years ago resulted in much better flow on the property. But that has caused it’s own problems, he said.

“We now have two turning lanes out of the high school and bus lanes in front, which work great,” he said. “But that also means vehicles are getting out much faster, which leads to more congestion on Monument Street.”

Several isolated traffic issues have come up recently for roads and intersections near the school. Among them are a request by administrators that police limit traffic to one direction in and out the high school’s gated back entrance onto Brook Street, and a proposal to prohibit left turns in the late afternoon from Broadway (Route 97) onto North Broadway.

Another intersection of concern even closer to the high school is North Broadway and Monument Street, where there is a four-way stop.

“Most of the traffic is heading that way to (Interstate) 495, so maybe they could look at a traffic light there, which is what other schools our size do,” Nangle said of that intersection.

At its meeting last week, City Council voted to ask the city’s Traffic and Safety Committee to take a hard look at all the roadways and intersections near the high school. That committee includes police, city planners and traffic experts.

“We should come up with a unified plan that looks at all the intersections together and handles the traffic in the best way,” Council President Robert Scatamacchia said. “The volume going in and out of the high school in the morning and afternoon is tremendous.”

Nangle said security guards do their best to limit traffic to one direction through the gate at the high school’s rear entrance, but that he wants police to enforce it.

“It’s too narrow to have cars going in both directions, plus we have kids walking through there,” Nangle said of the gateway near the student parking lot that leads to Brook Street.

He said a security guard opens the gate for about a half-hour at 7 a.m. and again at 2:05 p.m. when school lets out. He said the guard has been told to prevent drivers from going out the gate in the morning or using the gateway to enter the campus in the afternoon.

“Sometimes a parent comes in, drops the kid off, and tries to go back the same way,” Nangle said. “We stop them and send them back through the front (entrance to the campus). But if I have someone who wants to argue, I need to be able to show them a sign that says one-way only. I was looking to have a sign put up and to have some police enforcement, but police said they need an ordinance to do enforcement.”

At last week’s meeting, councilors decided to hold off on the ordinance until police ask for it or it is recommended as part of the larger traffic study they want.

“I wanted the school safety officer to come and talk to us about this, but I was told he was advised not to come here,” City Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien said at the meeting, referring to police Officer Sean Scharneck.

Scharneck, who is assigned to the high school and recommended the one-way ordinance for the gateway, could not be reached for comment.

Clogged roads North Broadway at Monument Street Broadway (Route 97) at North Broadway Broadway at Monument Street High school's rear entrance onto Brook Street