Included in the recently released FY2016-FY2020 Five-Year Capital Investment Plan for the Commonwealth is $1 million toward public safety improvements along Route 114 in North Andover.
The announcement of these funds, which will be matched up to 50-50 by Merrimack College in a public-private partnership, comes on the heels of years of accidents and injuries along the highway. In spite of the presence of a shuttle bus to drive them to campus, students at Merrimack frequently cross the traffic-packed four-lane road to get to and from the college, their homes and the many businesses along the Route 114.
The partnership between the Commonwealth and Merrimack College comes after more than a year of efforts by the North Andover legislative delegation to address safety concerns along Route 114.
In January 2014, at the request of the delegation, Merrimack College, the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission (MVPC) and the Town of North Andover, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) conducted a Road Safety Audit of Route 114 in North Andover. State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) hosted several meetings with representatives from DOT and provided the department a tour of the area.
The safety audit ultimately suggested improvements in sidewalk construction, better traffic signals and more clearly defined zones for pedestrians and cyclists. DOT stated in its audit that Route 114 has among the highest reported incidents of vehicle accidents in the area.
In February 2014, the MVPC commissioned a local engineering firm to draft a Route 114 Conceptual Improvements plan, which illustrated a series of improvements from the intersection of Route 114 and Andover Street to the intersection of Routes 114 and 125. In March 2014, the plan was presented to MassDOT and Merrimack College.
“We in the North Andover legislative delegation strongly advocated for funding toward improvements in pedestrian and bicycle safety and, through a Transportation Bond Bill passed in April 2014, met those concerns with action, securing $1.5 million toward sidewalk construction and better accommodations for both cyclists and pedestrians,” said DiZoglio. “These are improvements that, once completed, will leave safer thousands of local pedestrians and motorists.”
After it was determined that $2.1 million would be needed to fund the project design, DiZoglio met with officials from Merrimack College to discuss the possibility of a public-private partnership in approaching the project funding.
“Following several meetings, I was so pleased to see Merrimack College agree to partner with the Commonwealth for up to 50 percent of the project costs,” said DiZoglio. “I see this as a prime example of how important and successful public-private partnerships can be.”