HAVERHILL — It's got all the makings of a family oriented neighborhood where the pace is slow — a little red schoolhouse, a church, and homes along a rural road where couples go for strolls.
Parents walk their young children into the schoolhouse each day on Amesbury Line Road. Families attend Second Baptist Church there. Moms and dads raise their children on this street at the edge of the historic Rocks Village neighborhood.
But each day cars speed through the area, sending fear through neighbors who have seen crashes there and are afraid someone will be badly hurt or killed.
Their complaints have caught the ears of police and city leaders. Haverhill's Public Safety Committee wants to lower the speed limit from 35 to 30. But the real answer, police said, is for officers to spend more time patrolling the neighborhood and catch speeders.
Police Capt. Alan Ratte said regardless of whether the speed limit is lowered, his department is stepping up patrols of the road in response to neighbors' concerns.
"We had a meeting about this area and we told residents we'd be monitoring it, and we are," Ratte said. "It is a curvy road and there is a concern there."
City Councilor David Hall is chairman of the Public Safety Committee, which meets monthly to discuss traffic concerns.
"It's posted 35 but it should be 30," Hall said of the speed limit on Amesbury Line Road. "It's a thickly settled area."
The committee consists of Hall and a representative from the Police Department, Merrimack Valley Planning Commission and city engineer's office.
Amesbury Line Road is at the east end of Haverhill, just before the Merrimac line. The road connects Route 110 with Rocks Village. When drivers turn off Route 110 onto Amesbury Line Road, the posted speed limit is 30 mph and remains that speed until just beyond Second Baptist Church. The speed limit increases at that point to 35 mph and remains at that speed into Rocks Village.
Theresa Straw and her husband — the Rev. Wesley Straw, pastor of Second Baptist Church — would like to see the speed limit lowered. She also would like to see traffic control lights installed at the intersection of Amesbury Line Road and Merrimac Road, where she said at least four accidents have happened during the past year.
"People travel fast on this road, especially the kids who get out of the trade school in the afternoon," Theresa Straw said of traffic from Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School, which is on Amesbury Line Road. "Lowering the speed limit is a good idea."
Just past the church is the schoolhouse, or the Merrimack Child Care Center. Just opposite is the intersection of Amesbury Line Road and Merrimac Road. It's where several accidents have occurred, said Nancy dosSantos, executive director of the child-care center.
"Speed has been an issue here for years," dosSantos said. "We've had some terrible accidents at that intersection. People just don't slow down."
Hall said the Public Safety Committee will recommend to the City Council that the speed limit be reduced. He said the City Council would first need to agree to send a request to the city's Planning Department — which would in turn draft an ordinance lowering the speed limit on that section of road. Then the City Council would have an opportunity to vote on whether to adopt the ordinance or not.
"Hopefully, we could get this accomplished within a few meetings," Hall said.
Fighting speeders on Amesbury Line Road
Lowering the speed limit from 35 to 30
Increased police patrols along the rural, winding road