East Street Bridge Accidents a Historical Problem
Despite the frequency of vehicular accidents on East Street, there are no plans in place to raise or widen the bridge, police said.
Accidents on East Street are nothing new in Westwood.
The East Street Rotary has been to blame for a number of fender benders in town over the years, for one.
But the Commuter Rail bridge that passes over East Street near Morrison Field has also created a hassle for drivers, especially those that aren't familiar with the area.
The problem, according to Westwood Police, is two-fold. First, the height of the bridge is such that several trucks have been unable to pass through without their roofs striking it in some way.
"Most of the problems occur not so much with professional truckers, but people with rental trucks to move furniture," said Westwood Police Sgt. and Public Safety Officer Paul Sicard. "They're used to driving that way on a regular basis, so they don't even think about the bridge height."
The second issue the narrow space between the walls of the bridge; it creates somewhat of a bottleneck, and drivers tend to either hit the walls themselves or another oncoming vehicle.
Such an incident occurred in August that resulted in one driver being transported by MedFlight from Morrison Field.
Much of the time, Sicard said, the issue with drivers is they are looking at a GPS device or don't pay attention to the various road signs warning them of the bridge from either side of the road. The speed limit under the bridge is also posted as 25 miles per hour.
"If people actually dropped down to 25, it makes it that much harder to hit the curb or the bridge," Sicard said.
Meanwhile, weather conditions have not been cited as a factor.
"There doesn't seem to be any consistency one way or another," Sicard said. "They kind of go in cycles, some years you have a lot, some years you have none."
Below is a brief history of incidents that have occurred under or near the bridge (information was provided by the Westwood Police Department):
- 1986 - 12 accidents
- 1987 - Seven accidents
- 1988 - 13 accidents
- 1992 - Four crashes, two in which cars hit the curb or the wall, one in which a car rear-ended another vehicle and a fourth involving a truck that hit the bridge.
- 2008 - Five accidents, four in which trucks hit the bridge and another involving a drunk driver who hit the curb and ended up in Morrison Field.
- 2009 - Five accidents, two in which trucks hit the bridge, one in which a truck hit the bridge and rolled over and hit a car (the car then hit a telephone pole), another involving a car that hit the curb and wall on one side and another involving a car that hit the curb and struck another oncoming car.
- 2010 - Eight accidents: Three involving trucks that hit the bridge, two in which cars hit the curb, one in which a car hit the curb and then hit an oncoming car, one involving a car that hit another oncoming vehicle, and another involving a car pulling a trailer.
- 2011 (Year to Date) - One incident in May involved a truck hitting the bridge, another involved cars crashing under the bridge, another involved a truck full of cookies that hit the bridge, one involving a wine truck hitting the bridge and spilling wine bottles onto the ground. In late September, one driver was following a GPS device and went under the bridge, which hit an air conditioning unit that was on top of the truck, knocking it onto the windshield of the car behind.
Despite the frequency of incidents, Sicard it has been some time since anyone has tried to address the issue of the bridge.
"A number of years ago, the railroad was looking at replacing the bridge altogether as part of a bridge replacement plan," Sicard said. "The progress got delayed because there was a debate as to whether it would be raised at all. Residents were concerned about more trucks using the road if it got raised."
Should the town look into raising or widening the bridge, the issue would first have to go into the hands of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which owns the bridge. (Islington Station is the nearest train stop to the East Street Bridge.)
"We would have to start with the railroad," Sicard said. "It would have to be something they would have to do first, and they would reach out to the town."