HAVERHILL — City Councilors want immediate attention given to a stretch of Route 125 — the segment that runs between Cedardale Health and Fitness and a new Dunkin' coffee shop — where drivers and pedestrians are at risk of being hurt, they agreed.
At last week's meeting, Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O'Brien brought up the area, expressing her grave concern. Her colleagues were quick to side with her, explaining that they too have braced themselves for bad crashes on the state highway.
The Dunkin' shop relocated to the former site of a Saturn dealership from its previous location at Academy Plaza. At the new location, Route 125 is four lanes wide. Heading northbound, drivers coming from the Ward Hill Connector crest a hill and may find stopped in the left lane just feet ahead a car waiting to turn into the coffee shop.
Likewise, customers leaving Dunkin' and wanting to travel north on Route 125 must cross two lanes of southbound traffic and merge into the left northbound lane with a short line-of-sight for oncoming traffic.
"I've literally lost my breath a few times," Daly O'Brien said. "It's a very dangerous left turn after the connector and there is no lane to pull into to make a left into the Dunkin' Donuts. And there is no way to exit Dunkin' Donuts and cross over onto Route 125 north. It's an accident waiting to happen."
Councilor William Macek shared a story about some kids nearly being hit by speeding cars at the spot, where there are no crosswalks.
"Driving in toward Haverhill going north on 125 I saw that there was a group of young adults from Cedardale that were looking to cross the street," he said. "I stopped because somebody could have hit them. I'm looking in my rear view mirror just waiting for a car to not see that I stopped. It needs to be improved and we have to do whatever we can to try to expedite that."
During Daly O'Brien's three to four weekly trips through the area, she has seen "many near misses," she said.
"I don't want us to be reactionary," she said. "But instead, proactive."
Her idea is to extend an island so that no one can turn in front of Dunkin', instead forcing them down to a nearby traffic light.
Councilors weighed the most effective way to have the option evaluated. They decided to write letters to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation as well as local legislators, with the hope that they'll advocate for change on the city's behalf.
Haverhill has a Traffic and Safety Committee that the council would like to see involved as well, along with City Engineer John Pettis.
"I don't want to wait," Daly O'Brien reiterated. "It's only getting worse."
Haverhill police records show two crashes at the location since the start of 2019.
O'Brien has been in touch with the department as well, but the issue is under the state's jurisdiction.