For Amesbury’s Wells Avenue, not all happy with bus route | News

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AMESBURY — The Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority’s new bus route is not a big hit with a residents on Wells Avenue, who are calling for a meeting with the city.

The MVRTA established the Route 51 bus line, which ferries passengers from the Nicholas J. Costello Transportation Center, up through Amesbury Center and onto Main Street to allow for easy access to Heritage Towers, Our Neighbors’ Table and the U.S. Postal Service.

The bus then turns onto Wells Avenue to access the Amesbury Health Center but some residents of that steep, residential street are not thrilled with the new change.

A group of over a dozen Wells Avenue residents signed a letter to Mayor Kassandra Gove stating their belief that there is no critical reason for the MVRTA to use their street for the new bus route and asked that it be discontinued.

According to the letter, dated Feb. 17, Wells Avenue is used as a shortcut to avoid Main Street, as well as daylong parking for middle school teachers and a route for parents to drop off and pick up students. The letter then asks that the MVTRA no longer use Wells Avenue.

“We want to get the bus out of here and for them to give us our lives back,” Wells Avenue resident Allison Lindstrom said.

The new bus line is an important connection between Amesbury and Haverhill, according to MVRTA administrator Noah Berger, who also said the line requires a full passenger bus and not a smaller van.

“We did look at alternate routings but this one made the most sense,” he said.

Berger also said the MVRTA is not trying to avoid Route 110 or traffic lights.

“I would really like all the residents on Wells Avenue to be regular MVRTA riders and to take advantage of the benefits of having transit right in their backyard,” he said.

Lindstrom is a longtime Wells Avenue resident and said she was unaware of the MVRTA’s new bus route until she looked out her window and saw one heading down her street on Valentine’s Day.

The former city councilor also said her husband had been blocked in by a bus that was letting off a passenger and she often has to back up and down Wells Avenue to allow MVRTA buses to pass.

“This is extremely disruptive and loud. We have a blind corner and a blind bend here and it is an extremely dangerous situation,” she said.

Berger said MVRTA bus drivers have been trained to treat Wells Avenue as if it were a school zone or retail plaza and they will only travel 5 to 15 mph on that street.

“The drivers are also higher up than a typical car and they have a much better sightline, so there should not be any safety concern,” he said.

Lindstrom disputed Berger’s claim and said the buses are going well above 15 mph when going up and down Wells Avenue. Berger, however, stood behind his drivers.

“I would much rather be driving behind one of our well-trained, professional drivers than most people in Massachusetts who have a driver’s license,” Berger said.

City Communications Director Caitlin Thayer said the mayor has been in contact with the MVRTA during the bus route change and she is excited about the new transit line.

“This new route now serves more important spots in our community,” Thayer said. “The MVRTA looked at the routes and their bus drivers are highly trained and capable. We do understand that the residents are concerned about bus safety. But the MVRTA are the experts here and we are trusting them to say if it is safe.”

Berger has been working with the Wells Avenue residents to arrange a meeting with them, which Thayer said the city would be happy to take part in.

“I’m sure the mayor or someone else from the city would attend,” she said.

Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at jsullivan@newburyportnews.com or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.

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