Talking about traffic in Andover is like talking about the weather anywhere else: It’s something everyone has an opinion about.
For good reason. Over the last several decades, the population in Andover has swelled to more than 30,000 people. What was once a farming community with just a few paved roads has become a busy suburb crisscrossed by superhighways. And more people means more cars. But that doesn’t even tell the whole story.
Around the fringes of Andover, commercial development has skyrocketed along the Interstate 93 and 495 corridors. Commuters looking for an easy path to work often seek out back roads that may be less congested during morning and afternoon rush hours.
So it is in Ballardvale, where residents of Tewksbury Street and several side streets have been clamoring for some time about traffic in their once sleepy section of town.
In a true case of grass-roots organizing, residents along a roughly 1-mile stretch of the street, which runs from Ballardvale center to the Tewksbury line, filed a petition in the spring with town officials highlighting their concerns about the busy roadway.
They say heavy, oversized trucks are damaging the road; it is too narrow in some sections making it dangerous for bikers and pedestrians, children can’t safely walk to the store for candy or a slice of pizza, even adults walking to the train station are forced off the road by speeding cars as they make their way to work.
Initially, the petition was ignored. But one of the originators of the petition ran into state Rep. Jim Lyons, R-Andover, at a function in town and begged him to get involved. Thankfully, he did. With a little prodding, town officials agreed to hold a meeting in the Town Offices one night earlier this month.
More than 50 people from all over the neighborhood showed up, with photos and stories about the dangers of the road. There were too many close calls, they said. Someone is going to get injured or killed. Something needs to be done, they said.
Police had already started taking action, conducting a traffic survey, doing radar patrols and studying other options for making the road safer. Town Manager Reginald “Buzz” Stapczynski told residents they could put together a warrant article seeking funding for a sidewalk. He noted that while the town won’t be doing a repaving project there for another year or two, once that is complete, the road will be wider and safer.
In short, the neighbors’ actions led to results. Town Hall did listen.
An online survey on andovertownsman.com showed that it’s not just the Ballardvale section of town that is of concern. Traffic is worrisome all over. While police can’t be everywhere, it’s good to know that if a neighborhood has a problem, they can reach out and their concern will translate into results.
Meanwhile, State Police have stepped up the ticketing of people caught texting and driving. A federally funded program is paying troopers in the Andover barracks to go out on patrols to find and cite people who are breaking the state law against texting and driving.
While sometimes it is tricky to tell the difference between someone making a phone call and sending a text, troopers are refining their observational skills and becoming more aggressive about citing lawbreakers.
In the first month of the program this past June, State Police pulled over and cited 440 people. Also that month, troopers wrote 509 citations for impeded operation.
The second phase of the operation started Sept. 16 and will run until Oct. 11. Troopers are looking for people texting and driving in Andover, Lawrence, Methuen, North Andover and several other, neighboring communities.
Don’t say we didn’t warn you.