Clinical psychologist James Eckels put off patient appointments this week at his home office on Ballardvale Road while his nurse midwife spouse Jo Ann also cleared her calendar at a Lawrence health center.
The Eckelses were supposed to be vacationing this week with their three adult children and toddling twin granddaughters in New York.
But last Friday, Aug. 17, their car and another vehicle collided at Route 125 and Wildwood Road in Andover. The husband and wife both died.
The accident happened at peak commuter time — just after 5 p.m. —at what police say is one of the busiest intersections in town.
“We’re a destination community, and that means a lot of cars are leaving town at commuter time,” said Andover Police Lt. Jim Hashem. “There is a lot of high traffic volume during those hours.”
Barbara L’Italien of Andover, the former state representative who is running again for the seat, was a key advocate of more traffic lights for
Andover intersections on Route 125 — including one at Wildwood Road — about 10 years ago. Route 125 is a state-owned road so money from the state’s Department of Transportation was needed to pay for the traffic lights.
“There’s a history on Route 125 of speeding and a need for traffic lights,” said L’Italien, who was in the resulting traffic mess after Friday’s accident.
She said the town pushed for five traffic lights on Route 125 but only got three. Those three traffic lights are located at Hillside Road, Salem Street and Stinson Road. Traffic lights at Prospect and Wildwood roads were rejected, though blinking lights were installed at both crossings.
“I was told there was a lack of funding. The Big Dig was going on then and that’s why,” she said.
L’Italien lives on Gray Road and drives on Route 125 frequently, she said. Her autistic son often bike rides on Route 125.
“There have been lots of accidents over the years,” she said. “So many people use that road.”
L’Italien said the issue of traffic lights at Wildwood and Prospect roads must be revisited, along with the issue of reducing the 50 mph speed limit on Route 125.
But Michael Verseckes, spokesman for the state’ Department of Transportation, said those issues are not on any upcoming agenda.
“The accident is still being investigated by state police. So we don’t know about contributing factors,” Verseckes said.
Jo Ann Eckels was driving the couple’s 2004 Saturn on Wildwood Road when she came to the blinking light, which flashes red facing Wildwood Road and yellow facing Route 125. Jo Ann Eckels was turning left onto Route 125 when her car was struck by a pickup truck traveling north on Route 125 (see side story for full accident report).
“We have a lot of town roads that intersect with state-owned roads. All of these intersections are busy, especially at peak commuter times,” Hashem said.
In addition to the site of the fatal car crash, Hashem said, intersections on Route 28, Dascomb Road and River Road are also very busy at peak commuter times.
Meanwhile, the Eckelses’ son, Jim Eckels, who now lives in California, said the intersection has been dangerous for years.
He said his parents were returning home from an appointment at Lahey Clinic in Burlington as his mother was planning to have knee replacement surgery.
“They were 72 and 82 but not elderly...they were very alive, so much fun...they lived a long life but this was not the way to go...that intersection is dangerous,” Jim