State needs to prioritize making Route 114 safer

Robert Mellace. Nicholas Dellacroce. Jackson Frechette. The names of people killed on Route 114 underscore how traffic volume and speeds on the roadway traversing Peabody are more akin to a highway than a commercial thoroughfare.

Mellace’s brother, Dellacroce’s mother, and loved ones of Frechette, a 13-year-old Higgins Middle School student killed on Route 114 in November, 2019, confronted state officials with their losses during a Dec. 9 Peabody City Council meeting.

They demanded action from the Department of Transportation to make Route 114 safer, beginning with median construction. 

Peabody Ward 5 City Councilor Joel Saslaw condensed the anger felt by victims’ relatives when he spoke three blunt words to state officials: “Fix it now,” he said. 

A state-highway official said a “deep-dive safety analysis” is the first step to making Route 114 safer. Relatives, city officials, and state legislators said volumes of traffic data already point to Route 114’s status as a dangerous road. 

They said 16 deaths and 5,542 accidents have occurred since 2002 on the roadway’s stretch between Danvers and North Andover. They said Brooksby Village Drive’s intersection with Route 114 is rated as a “high-crash” location. 

“Stop appeasing us,” demanded Councilor James Moutsoulas at last week’s meeting. Legislators led by state Sen. Joan Lovely backed him up by saying they will hold state officials’ feet to the proverbial fire by monitoring how quickly the Department of Transportation moves on studying, planning, and undertaking Route 114 safety improvements.

We are well aware that communities across the state face pressing transportation needs, including priority road-safety improvements. Road projects are major endeavors that require planning and road work that can stretch over months. 

But we also see an opportunity for the state to use some of the billions of dollars in federal infrastructure money headed Massachusetts’ way to make Route 114 safer. Lack of action will mean that the voices of accident victims’ loved ones and local officials will have gone ignored by state officials. 

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