By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — Merchants and residents of Bradford’s busy Central Square were united in opposing the state’s plan to limit traffic on a stretch of South Central Street to one direction.
City councilors also opposed the move.
Prior to the change in May, the council voted three times to oppose it, while business owners and people who live near the square rallied against the plan at several public meetings.
Merchants and property owners said the change would hurt business and lower real estate values. Residents said it would lead to more traffic on narrow residential streets behind the square, due to motorists and school buses from a company on South Central Street seeking other ways to reach Route 125.
Councilor William Macek said the concerns of those who opposed making the road one way have come to fruition.
Macek said the council plans to discuss the matter at tonight’s meeting. He is inviting anyone with concerns about the new traffic flow to attend the meeting at 7 p.m. in City Hall.
“I’d like to see the roadway reconfigured back to two ways,” Macek said yesterday. “Traffic is really bad behind the square. School buses are already a problem and the new school year hasn’t even started yet.”
Restricting traffic to one-way on South Central Street, leading away from the square, was part of the state’s reconstruction of Route 125, which included redesigning and rebuilding Central Square for improved traffic flow.
State officials said keeping South Central Street two ways, once the new traffic lights there was activated, would have caused Route 125 to back up all the way to Salem Street near Bradford Common during peak traffic times in the afternoon.
Macek said the city is running out of time to get the state to pay to change the roadway back to two ways, because the state is scheduled to finish the Route 125 project this fall and hand control of the square back to the city.
At that point, Haverhill could still change the roadway, but the city would have to pay for it instead of the state footing the bill, Macek said.
Mayor James Fiorentini said he is aware of the traffic complaints that relate to the one-way change. But he said the state and the city’s traffic consultants have told him there would be more problems if South Central Street is changed back to two ways.
“The merchants don’t like it one way and there are a few people who are upset,” Fiorentini said. “But the state tells me there will be a lot more people upset if we change it back, because traffic (on Route 125) would back up all the way to Bradford Common.”
The mayor said he prefers to give the change some more time.
“It seems to be getting better, so I think we need to give it a little more time to work itself out,” Fiorentini said.
Macek said the state has been unwilling to address the one-way concerns.
“They believe their design expertise and traffic expertise is superior to our local knowledge of the area and what goes on,” Macek said. “The state never reviewed the impact this would have on the neighborhood.”