February 1, 2014

Traffic Ahead: A Rant & Rave Set off by Flashing Sign

Over the past week, I am realizing that the Massachusetts State Police are physically monitoring traffic in one of Greater Boston’s most busy intersections, Wellington Circle in Medford.

How do I know this? Well, today I saw a sign flashing in the middle of this intersection that reads “Don’t cause grid-lock. $100 fine.” And I see at least 2 state police cruisers, with flashing lights. Sitting. Stationary.

OK - anyone that knows this intersection can tell you this crazy convergence of busy roads has been a clusterf*ck for years. It’s an antiquated, huge rotary with at least 6 different traffic lights that change in the matter of a minute sending traffic in all different directions. Wellington Circle, we’ll call WC, is the result of one of the worst civil engineering jobs of all times.  Not to say when it was first laid out, that it was this bad.

WC is estimated to be over 110 years old and was probably built to handle a few hundred cars, max, at that time of the early 1900’s, people.  Today, this behemoth of an intersection handles tens-of-thousands of cars in which it wasn’t built to handle. There is traffic at WC till all hours of the night. One can pass thru WC and you will never be alone.

WC is the convergence of extremely busy Rts. 28 (north, south – which is also the end of the Mystic Valley Parkway) and 16 (east, west – which is also known as the start of the Revere Beach Parkway), but also branches off in different directions to shopping centers, apartments, train stations, eateries and more. The suburbs that surround this area are Somerville, Medford, Malden, Everett and are a pass through for cities and towns of Revere, Chelsea, Melrose and Stoneham. The biggest pass-thru is its link to the City of Boston.

The “circle” is a huge rotary (circle, round-a-bout, road that no other parts of the country would ever build today because they are antiquated, based on the English which brought them to the states with no purpose). It contains incessant traffic in all directions, most of which are coming to and from the huge metropolis, Boston.  Rt. 28 leads right to Boston from WC and is just under 1.5 miles away – Rt. 93. Rt. 93 carries Rt. 28 right into Boston and beyond.

I was curious over the days as to why are there flashing lights on state police cruisers at this intersection? Did someone die? Are they trying to nab a terrorist? Is this the next Sochi? Of course, what does anyone do that is driving a car when you see flashing police cruiser lights? You slow down. Not that the traffic is bad enough and there is no way you could be going over the speed limit anyway, but traffic is being slowed down by the presence of these state police cars with their flashing lights; oh yes, to hand out $100 traffic tickets.

Let’s revisit that illuminated sign that the state wants us all to pause and look at: “Don’t cause grid-lock $100 fine.” I hear you – and TRUST, I don’t think anyone driving through this ridiculous circle wants to sit in, nor cause a grid-lock! It begs to ask the question: Why is the state penalizing and resurrecting a law that drivers can’t control because of an antiquated highway system?

Are we trying to raise money to redo this road? Are there plans to improve this out-of-date rotary, circle, call-it-what you will? Clearly, WC is 50+ years out-of-date. I have no idea what the plans are, if any, for improving or ridding the citizens of this state of this horrible convergence. But to spend state police time, tax-dollars and posting flashing signs like this are not the solution.

The solution is to work with these cities and towns and bring these roads from the twentieth century, into the twenty-first century. Fining innocent drivers that have no control over poorly planned roads with out-of-control traffic volumes is not the solution. The solution is waiting to be heard from the Mass DOT on what the plan is. There could very well be a plan, but I’ve lived in this general area on and off for decades and all I’m hearing at this point are crickets.