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Merrimack Valley Planning Commission

The following proposals and descriptions of existing facilities in the Merrimack Valley region have been submitted to the bicycle facilities inventory.

Existing facilities

The Merrimack Valley region has two urban centers, in Lawrence and Haverhill. Haverhill developed a bikeway plan in the 1970’s, mostly with on-road facilities. However, the plan was not realized. The urban centers have the usual problems with traffic speed and volume which discourage child and novice bicyclists.

Outside the urban areas, there are large, lightly-populated areas with many lightly-traveled roads. There are at present no designated bicycle facilities in the region of which this project was made aware.

Proposed projects

The following proposals have been submitted to the bicycle facilities inventory.

At the first public meeting, few proposals were presented for the heavily populated areas of Haverhill and Lawrence. Following the meeting, the Planning Commission made this known to the city administrations. Additional projects, and extensions of previously submitted projects, were presented at the second meeting. This is especially important since the new projects include bridge improvements at crossings of the Merrimack River, the major geographic barrier in the region.

The Planning Commission is underway with a project to identify scenic and historic corridors. Some may be logical locations for bikeways.

Rail-Trail proposals

Several organizations and individuals have proposed rail trails in the region:

North Shore Bikeways rail-trail proposals (Border to Boston Trail)

The North Shore Bikeways Coalition has developed an ambitious vision of rail trails connecting New Hampshire to Boston.

Various segments of the trails appear to be easily realizable, due to the condition of the railbeds. The core of the proposal is for a rail trail from Danvers to Newburyport via Georgetown. Other segments would link this to Newburyport and on to Salisbury and Amesbury at the north end; to Peabody and Salem at the south end; and by road, to the Minuteman bicycle path and into Boston.

Bradford Bikeway (Groveland-Haverhill)

The suggestion is for a path and on-road bikeway connecting between Groveland and the Merrimack River bridges in Haverhill. The AT&T Bicycle Users’ Group has a connecting proposal for a path/route to connect this to the North Andover Bikeway (see below).


The City of Lawrence submitted a proposal from the 1970’s for on-road bicycle routes. It appears that this was not implemented. There is some interest at present in improving bicycle access across the Merrimack River Bridges in Lawrence, linking to the North Andover Bikeway. An individual commenter presented a proposal for bikeways in a park along the Shawsheen River in Lawrence.

Town bikeway projects

Several towns, notably North Andover, Andover, Salisbury and Newburyport, have submitted plans for local systems of bikeways connecting locations within the single town.


Proposals for Andover include two on-road bikeways and a trail along the Shawsheen River. Together, they provide access to many parts of the town.

North Andover

There was a suggestion for a trail in North Andover from the northwest to the southeast along an abandoned rail right of way, connecting at its northwest end to the Bradford Bikeway.


A proposal was received for a trail in Salisbury on an abandoned rail right of way from the Merrimack River north to the New Hampshire border, with a spur westward to Amesbury.


Two paths in Newburyport were proposed, one along the riverfront and another between the railroad station and the riverfront.

Road improvements

Improvements to streets and highways were suggested by a number of individuals, notably Emmett Halpin of Wakefield. His recommended improvements appear to indicate roads used for through bicycle travel which may require more attention to maintenance and be considered for upgrading to accommodate bicyclists better.

Several proposals for bikeway systems included long segments on roads. Halpin’s own recommendations for the Haverhill Street/Jenkins Road/Boston Street/Route 114 corridor between Reading and North Andover fall into this category.

River Road in Amesbury and Route 1A in Newbury and Rowley have also been proposed as bicycle routes.

Cross-state bicycle routes

See the section of this report on cross-state routes for more detail on the following routes:

One north-south route passes through the Merrimack Valley region, as does a side trip to the North Shore and Cape Ann.

Merrimack Valley region priorities

The following priorities were developed through the inventory process:

1) Bradford bicycle path (Georgetown-Haverhill). This connects an urban area with a suburb. The utility of this project will be greatly increased by improved connections across the Merrimack River, as described in the Haverhill bicycle route plan. The two should be considered as one project.

2) Andover system of road improvements and paths. Together, these comprise a fairly comprehensive system of community-wide improvements.

3) North Andover path, primarily the northern segment connecting to Lawrence. The southern segment will require careful design to overcome potential safety problems due to the current numerous grade crossings. Like the Andover system, the North Andover one will be much more useful with attention given to the connections across the Merrimack River and through the industrial area in the bend of the Merrimack River to Haverhill, as suggested by the AT&T Bicycle Users’ Group.

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