By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — The City Council is moving fast to make it illegal to park in five “dangerous” spaces on a busy stretch of Route 125 between Bradford’s Central Square and the Basiliere Bridge.
The spaces, on South Main Street in front of Wendy’s, McDonald’s and Heavenly Donuts restaurants, have been the scene of 36 automobile accidents in two years, police said.
The worst of those accidents occurred Dec. 18, 2011 when Karen LaPierre was struck and killed in front of Heavenly Donuts as she was loading doughnuts into her car.
The council last week took up a request from police Chief Alan DeNaro to make it illegal to park in the spaces.
“Traffic and safety officers have evaluated these spaces and determined they are a danger not only to vehicles entering and exiting these locations, but also to vehicles traveling on South Main Street, as well as pedestrian traffic,” DeNaro said in a letter to councilors.
The chief said all three restaurants have “ample parking” to accommodate customers and, in his opinion, won’t be negatively impacted by eliminating the parking spaces.
Councilor Michael McGonagle, chairman of the council’s Public Safety Committee, said the council decided not to hold a public hearing on the chief’s request and instead immediately referred it to the Planning Board to craft a ‘no parking’ ordinance.
McGonagle said he spoke to several police officers and business owners in the area about the spaces and that “everyone agrees they are dangerous and should be eliminated.” He said he expects the council to pass an ordinance making it illegal to park in the spaces within a few weeks.
“As soon as we approve it, we’ll put ‘no parking’ signs in front of the spaces and I expect police will be vigilant in enforcing it,” McGonagle said. “Then drivers (exiting restaurant driveways) won’t have to come halfway into the roadway to see if it they have clearance to come out, because at that point it’s often too late.”
McGonagle said the state “painted in” the parking spaces when it completed the Route 125 traffic improvement project in the fall. He said the spaces have been used for parking for many years as a matter of custom and convenience, but that they were never legal spaces.