Brand new and insufficient

I have written in the past that the new tunnel system under the city has done wonders for Boston traffic. Honestly, someone was thinking when they set out to design the highway and the various ramps. I mean it. I'm not being sarcastic one bit. I have been really impressed with the whole project, except for the leaks, but that's a construction flaw not a design one.

No. The major design flaw is the lack of breakdown lanes. So much was put into moving the traffic through the city, but nothing to handle cars that can't make it through the city. Let's face it, some cars have bad days. Some just give up when the timing is worst, and that can mean in the tunnel. Some cars, with distracted drivers, can rear-end another person in the tunnel and cause a major tie-up in the tunnel like Monday's incident with a Volvo SUV.

Driving to work that morning was a dream come true. There was no traffic to speak of heading inbound. There was no merge congestion at the Neponset Circle upramp nor at the HOV lane outlet. No sooner did we turn the corner at Savin Hill, though, and we were stopped heading beyond Columbia Road. And it stayed that way until we all got a good look at the Volvo with the smashed front end in the tunnel. I didn't notice the sign any sooner, but those handy electronic pep rally boards that are usually used to tell people to Click It or Ticket, to watch out for motorcycles, or to Cowboy Up; Go Red Sox were finally put to use. The message: "Incident in tunnel. Expect delays."

I laughed to myself thinking, "no kidding." That's about as useful as Cowboy Up. Here I was at the entrance to the tunnel already delayed because of the incident. As I thought about it more, I wondered why they don't use those signs more effectively? After all my federal gas tax and someone else's toll money is paying for them. Why not say: Incident in tunnel. Right lane closed.

Although in this case the right lane wasn't closed at the time we went by, it was clear from the accident debris that the right lane had been closed earlier. The damaged Volvo was moved further down into the tunnel to a yellow cross-hatch area so that traffic could move in the right lane again. But why not have breakdown lanes throughout most of the tunnel except in certain areas? And why aren't those yellow cross-hatch areas better signposted to say they are for emergency stopping, or aren't they?

Either way, my perfect ride was wrecked. If I read the electronic sign at Neponset, I would have made sure I stayed out of the right lane, and I bet more people would have too. However, I don't know if it would have made a difference, because by now I'm so used to seeing useless messages on those boards that I just ignore them. That's probably why I didn't notice it until I was just in front of the tunnel's entrance.


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