HAVERHILL — A serious accident that sent an elderly man to a Boston hospital earlier this month has sparked a new effort to install a crossing light for pedestrians on Bethany Avenue.

Many senior citizens living at the nearby Merrivista housing on Water Street cross Bethany Avenue on the way to Market Basket and downtown Haverhill. Several of them told The Eagle-Tribune about how dangerous that trip can be and warned that eventually there was going to be a serious accident there.

Earlier this month, such an accident happened. An elderly man crossing Bethany Avenue was struck by a car, according to City Councilor William Macek.

The man was using a walker to get across the street, and the driver said the man was hunched down and not very noticeable, Macek said. The victim was transported to Lawrence General Hospital, then transferred to a Boston hospital, he said.

Patrolman James Cotreau is investigating the accident.

"I want a stop light there," Macek said.

Andrew Herlihy, chief of staff for Mayor James Fiorentini, said the situation on Bethany Avenue will be studied as part of a federal grant the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission recently received.

This week, examiners were studying three intersections on lower Main Street, Herlihy said. Summer and Winter streets, Bailey and Ginty boulevards and Merrimack and Water streets are all considered dangerous intersections by the state, Herlihy said.

Because Bethany Avenue, which runs between Water Street and Ginty Boulevard, is so close to lower Main Street, Herlihy said he asked state officials if it could be included in the study. They agreed, he said.

Installing some sort of stop light on the street would be a long-term solution, Herlihy said. He, Public Works Director Michael Stankovich and other city officials plan to talk about a short-term solution on Monday, he said.

Back in December, Macek put Bethany Avenue on the City Council agenda. At that time, Manny DiMattia, 78, said he contacted Macek and told him it is not safe crossing from the Merrivista housing complex on Water Street, where he is a resident, to Central Plaza. He said dozens of seniors living at Merrivista, as well as at neighboring senior housing complexes at Mission Towers and Penacook Place, use the crosswalk on Bethany Avenue every day and on many occasions have put their lives at risk.

DiMattia said some elders walk across and some ride electric scooters, while others use walkers and need extra time to reach the other side of the street.

"If you're in the middle of the crosswalk the cars just zoom around you," DiMattia said. "They don't stop and it's really unbelievable."

Councilor David Hall said in January the Highway Department would move the crosswalk and erect "proper signage" when the weather improves. Presently, two signs on either side of the crosswalk warn drivers to "yield for pedestrian in crosswalk."

"It seems like more is needed," Herlihy said.


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