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 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 , 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 .

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. ( 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."

WW Resident October 06, 2011 at 12:26 PM
Matt, thanks for coverage on this topic!! Here's my take - I confess I prefer the bridge remain low so as to minimize truck traffic through town. I think more effective signage should be placed warning of the height. **Most importantly, I think that there should be a pedestrian solution - this is critical because if anyone was walking on that narrow sidewalk under the bridge during one of those many accidents, there would be a fatality. I hope our selectmen recognize this as a danger (a car-hit-pedestrian fatality waiting to happen) to our residents and respond/act as needed. I don't know the answer - a pedestrian tunnel running parallel to east street? Stairs up to the tracks and a platform to cross the bridge to stairs on the other side? A two way stop light activated by pedestrians when walking under the bridge? Maybe none of these ideas work or make sense, but I think the town needs to start thinking of a solution and act on this.
Matt Perkins (Editor) October 06, 2011 at 01:26 PM
Thanks for the feedback and input on this issue! Those are all great thoughts, and I will definitely work to keep readers informed of any potential developments that may arise on that end.
Cobber October 07, 2011 at 12:11 AM
Regarding trucks hitting the bridge: I saw a neat bridge protection device used in Iceland. A certain distance from each bridge, there was a pole with a horizontal arm that had a long metal plate on chains, painted in a black and yellow diagonal pattern somit was visible. Plate was placed at the same clearance height as the upcoming bridge. Trucks would hit that metal plate well before the bridge, alerting them of the upcoming height restriction. One of those devices could be placed before Carroll Ave., perhaps on a telephone pole or street light pole so the truck could turn around there. Another such device could be placed near Morrison Field for trucks coming the other way so the could turn down Stratford or the CVS parking lot to turn around.
WW Resident October 17, 2011 at 02:43 PM
Another accident under the bridge this morning... broken glass everywhere. Lucky again no pedestrian fatality.
Peter Cameron February 04, 2013 at 11:37 PM
I lived in the town, One street away from the bridge(Carroll ave.)trucks hitting the bridge was one of those things that used to bring neighbors out of their homes, Sort of like when we used to get those huge snow storms. One time a truck transporting hams hit the bridge, Needless to say we all enjoyed some good dinners and some left over sandwiches after that crash. They should look back a bit further, They would find out we had at least two trucks a month hit that bridge, Between the years 1978-1984 This is the point in my story thats going to make me seem not so bright. I wrote an article in the dedham transcript in 1986 about the hazard problems that this bridge was creating. Jump forward one month...My buddy and I following our girlfriends back to my house in our company truck...You guessed it, Took off the top like a sardine can #$%* How dumb did I feel? when the cop showed up he nearly peed himself when he saw it was me. I guess my point is this, They have wasted a lot of time over a lot of years and nothing has ever been done to change this. If anyone is interested back when I wrote the article the transportation people did have the drawings done up( at a substantial cost) so they exist some where. Good luck.


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