HAVERHILL — A $3 million dollar state project to reconstruct Main Street from White's Corner north to beyond City Hall has not solved the problem of pedestrians crossing wherever they choose, according to two City Council members.
Councilors Mary Ellen Daly O'Brien and William Macek say pedestrians crossing Main Street between GAR Park and the public library and between Pentucket Medical and Central Plaza are not using the crosswalks in those areas.
They say these pedestrians are creating a public safety hazard for themselves and for drivers who sometimes have to slam on their brakes because they were not expecting to see someone cross in front of them without warning.
"They're crossing willy-nilly in moving traffic in both directions," Daly O'Brien said. "It's an accident waiting to happen and I can't understand why people are crossing wherever they want, and sometimes within feet of a clearly-marked crosswalk."
She said she travels through this area daily and routinely sees pedestrians crossing Main Street where they should not be walking.
"Frankly, I don't want to burden our police department with something like this when they must devote time to more important things," she said.
Daly O'Brien and councilor William Macek discussed their concerns at the July 9 council meeting.
"I'm not sure what we can do other than make it inhospitable to cross where there isn't a crosswalk," Daly O'Brien added. "I know we'll have to work with the state, as it's a state road, but maybe we can install some sort of barrier to keep people from crossing, or maybe more signs warning pedestrians about this busy intersection and for their safety and the safety of drivers, to please use the crosswalk."
She said the same situation exists where Arlington and White streets meet Main Street in Monument Square.
"There are crosswalks there, too, but people aren't using them and this is a busy, main thoroughfare for the city," she said. "They are also crossing at the plaza where there's a laundromat and an auto parts store."
City Council members agreed to send a letter of concern to Traffic and Safety, the mayor, and MassDOT.
MassDOT spokesman Patrick Marvin told The Eagle-Tribune that the Main Street reconstruction project is substantially complete. As of Friday, MassDOT had not received an official request from the city of Haverhill to install any pedestrian barriers, he said.
"We will review the request when it is received," Marvin said.
Daly O'Brien did say the reconstruction projects has resulted in a smoother flow of traffic, especially where Ginty and Bailey boulevards meet Main Street.
"I don't think there is any perfect solution, but we also must look ahead at what's going to replace the Basiliere Bridge and how that will impact drivers and pedestrians," she said.
Macek, who also travels through this area daily, said the state's reconstruction project did not include barriers to prevent pedestrian from crossing wherever they choose.
"There was no forethought into pedestrians crossing Main Street, or the fact they would be crossing in areas other than the crosswalks," he said. "A lot of the people crossing are seniors who are going back and forth between Central Plaza and their housing and don't want to walk to where there is a crosswalk, so they end up crossing the median, which the state expanded."
He said a solution may be to create an aesthetically acceptable barrier so that pedestrians cannot cross the median wherever they want.
"We may be able to accomplish this with dense plantings, as I've seen in other major cities," he said. "We don't want to make things difficult, we want to make things safer."