By Mac Cerullo
---- — AMESBURY — Clogged summer beach traffic used to be a fact of life in Amesbury, but this summer has been different. Since the completion of the Route 110 widening project, the frequent backups that used to ensnare the city’s busiest road have largely disappeared.
Despite record-breaking temperatures and seemingly endless heat waves, reports indicate that the traffic along Route 110 between I-495 and the Salisbury town line has flowed smoothly throughout the summer. The state last fall finished widening the road to two lanes in each direction to help relieve the previous gridlock, a job that took two years to complete. Mayor Thatcher Kezer said it seems clear now that the project has achieved its stated objective.
“My anecdotal observation is that it’s much better,” Kezer said. “Before the project, the traffic used to back up onto I-495; there was a whole lane of traffic on 495 backed up because of Route 110. I am not aware of that happening now.”
Kezer isn’t alone in his opinion, either. Rob Ouellette, the owner of Amesbury Skate and Sport right near the I-495 off-ramp, said the difference between last summer and this summer has been like night and day.
“I’m looking out the window and the cars just keep streaming by,” Ouellette said. “Even on the hottest days there was just a small hint of a slowdown, but otherwise it’s been great, a 1,000 percent improvement over last year.”
The stretch of Route 110 is Amesbury’s busiest road, and besides causing frustrations for local residents, the frequent backups were a major problem for state officials as well. The road serves as a main connector between I-495 and I-95, and out-of-town motorists trying to travel between the two highways were frequently getting caught up in the traffic.
In order to relieve the congestion, the state conducted a $5.9 million project to widen Route 110 from the I-495 north off-ramp to Merrill Street in Salisbury to two lanes in each direction, plus a turning lane.
Work began in 2010 and was originally supposed to be completed by March of 2012, but a series of holdups wound up delaying the project’s completion until November, after the summer beach season was already over.
While the delay was a source of consternation for local residents — who were also dealing with the ongoing closure of the Hines Bridge at the same time — the project’s eventual completion did bring the traffic relief everyone had been hoping for.
Kezer added that beside an improved flow of traffic through the area, it is also much easier to get in and out of the businesses that line the road, particularly the Carriagetown Marketplace.
“The traffic at Stop & Shop is much improved, because now you have that extra lane,” Kezer said. “You used to have only two lanes, and if you were in that left lane, you were stuck waiting for that left-hand turn.”