Ninny Lions driver stops just short of wedging bus under bridge on Storrow Drive

Stuck bus

Alice the roving UHub photographer got a close look at the bus.

Kara Sassone reports a bus with a large Penn State Nittany Lion on the back is the reason so many Storrow Drivers are fuming this rush hour - he managed to get to the BU bridge inbound and then almost got Storrowed there. Or as somebody from the team put it:

So we have been on the road all day..are 400 feet from our last exit and the bus can't get under the last bridge on the interstate.

Alice, who took the photo, reports from the scene:

They stopped a hair short of the overpass and the driver was standing out front looking astounded (at his luck in not being a sardine tin? at the ridiculously low overpass? Not sure).

Traffic was backed up to Brighton when we went through about 40 minutes ago and the police hadn't gotten there yet - -it's going to be a big snarl.

Surely the sports departments of the schools in the area are warning teams about Storrow Drive by now- - or aren't they?

The team is scheduled to meet BU for a match tomorrow; with any luck, they can find a local Sherpa to help guide them up the hill to BU.



Free tagging: 


Cars Only

I can verify as of this morning the big rubber Cars Only sign was hanging at the Cambridge St onramp. How did no one notice the big THWAP when it hit the windshield? Or the neon sign right after that says something like "TRUCKS MUST EXIT RIGHT" at the cutoff to the Doubletree driveway?

They need to bring back the cowbells...


Mass DOT messaging?

I heard radio traffic reports of all roads having heavy traffic tonight, including and especially Storrow due to the bus. However, as I drove on the loop from the Tobin merging onto 93, the Electronic Alert Signs were mostly blank. The Storrow exit was of course, backed up very bad. As I eased slowly into the Tunnel, one sign mentioned the BCEC exit number, while another noted that the tunnel speed limit is 45.

Aren't these signs supposed to be dynamic, with real-time traffic alerts? It would be really nice to know, in advance, about severe problems on Storrow, as well as the Government Center exit, while the Left lanes (through lanes) were fairly clear. I'd like to gripe at DOT, but curious what ya'll on the Interwebs may know about this?

PS- Also baffled that Storrow does not have the chain notifiers that would noisily alert a driver to the low bridges once they've missed the road signs. This all seems like easy stuff to fix. What gives?

Yes we do have some of those signs...

On some of the interstates coming into Boston there are signs that (in the small number of characters allowed) give a destination, how many miles to that destination, and how long it is taking cars to get from here to there. Of course the data is based on cars which have just arrived at that destination, so "your mileage may vary" for cars that are starting the trip now. My understanding is that Mass. DOT gets data somehow from cell phone companies, reporting how long it takes a given phone to travel from point A to point B. I haven't seen many of these signs in the central downtown area, and the destinations that they mention are usually 10 or more miles distant.

You haven't seen them

You haven't seen them everywhere because they're just in an initial trial phase on certain roads (93, 90, 3, and 95 around the Whittier Bridge mess).

As for how they work - bluetooth. They use realtime traffic speed data from people with an active bluetooth device. And note that its realtime speed, not time elapsed.

Finally, MA is a bit slow on implementing the backend tech for those signs, which is why all the travel time signs use portable ones on the ground rather than permanent overhead ones. Many of our permanent overhead signs no longer work or are very difficult to update, meaning they can't easily be updated in real time. They do use the ones they can, but not usually to warm of routine congestion, because you should expect that anyway.

MassDOT is in the process of

upgrading the travel time system from the portable changeable message sign (CMS) panels to permanent ground-mounted "static" signs that include a changeable display for the actual travel time. Phase 1 of this conversion is currently underway on Cape Cod. Phase II of this conversion will involve I-93 and the MassPike, and is expected to take place beginning next spring. Phase III, which should begin next summer, will involve expanding the system to other routes such as I-495.

The reason MassDOT is taking this "hybrid sign" approach to updating the system instead of using the large overhead CMS panels for the travel time system, unlike as Rhode Island and other states currently do, has little to do with technological limitations. Rather, it is because it is generally accepted practice in the highway signing profession that constantly displaying a static message 24/7 on a CMS board tends to cause drivers (especially regular commuters) to ignore the board and, thus, not notice more critical messages when they are displayed. Also, if you have a series of ground-mounted signs dedicated solely to travel time information, drivers tend to quickly learn to look at those signs only when they want the travel time information.

While one could argue that the "nanny" messages (seat belt, texting, drunk driving) often displayed have a similar effect regarding ignorance of CMS boards, the difference is that those messages are normally displayed only to drivers on weekends and not 24/7/365 (FWIW, I strongly believe that using CMS boards to display ANY "nanny" messages, even so-called "transportation related" ones, should be abolished - too bad that FHWA refuses to adopt this posture regarding the MUTCD standards for CMS boards).

Lastly, you should be aware that MassDOT is also in the initial stages of a project to replace the oldest overhead CMS boards along their highway network (most of which are on I-95 and I-93 between Braintree and Reading and were installed in the mid-1990s) with updated boards. As current CMS technology allows for the use of far lighter panels than the current boards weigh, it is expected this work can be done without requiring the replacement of the support structures. In addition to this upgrading program, you should also note that MassDOT has been installing additional overhead CMS boards at key locations as part of other sign update and construction projects - recent examples of such installations include along I-93 between Somerville and Methuen and along I-95 between Georgetown and Salisbury.

not just "Go Pats"

I recently got stuck in bad traffic on Storrow, and tweeted DOT why the signs did not warn of this. Instead, signs said, "Underage: don't text and drive", or something like that. Reply from hacks at DOT was that "no texting safety warnings are important"

I generally give public employees benefit of the doubt for having to work with constrained resources. But in this situation, they seem to just have ZERO customer focus. Anyone know who to complain to at DOT or state? I'm sure I can find a contact link online, but does anyone listen?

Was the purpose of the bad traffic

due to a crash, lane closure, or the like? These situations normally justify displaying an applicable CMS message to traffic. However, if the delay was due to congestion that normally occurs at a given location on a regular basis, that generally doesn't warrant displaying a special message under present standards and guidelines for changeable message sign (CMS) boards. Though I agree that the MassDOT person who responded to you could have done better than a semi-snarky bureaucratic response.

And see my reply above regarding my opinion of "nanny" messages on CMS boards.

Why should the message signs

on I-93 southbound entering and within the O'Neill Tunnel, which is AFTER the Storrow Drive exit, be required to tell drivers about traffic conditions on Storrow Drive. And if you meant to refer to the overhead message sign on the loop ramp from the Tobin Bridge SB to I-93/Storrow southbound, that is not a full message board.. Rather, its sole purpose is to display a static message to overheight trucks that trip the clearance sensors along the ramp.

Not saying I totally disagree with you that MassDOT could use some improvements in how they use CMS boards to convey information to drivers in unexpected situations, but providing information about a situation that won't directly impact the drivers reading the board won't exactly help matters.

Sorry to hurt your feelings Adam, but no hatred here.

I know President Obama is your hero Adam and I'm sorry to have hurt your feelings. Truth be told though, I actually respect President Obama, (a) for getting elected twice and (b) being able to maintain a 39% approval rating despite his disastrous performance. When you called Penn State the "Ninny" Lions, it merely reminded me of Obama's prior, well publicized gaffe. Is that OK to mention or is it "racist?"

I know, right?

All that cleaning up Obama has had to do in the face of what Bush left him(and us) and a Republican House whose inaction and out and out sabotage of everything this President has tried to do since they won the House is outright treasonous, then yes, he certainly deserves that 39%,no?


He had both houses of

He had both houses of congress for 2 years and spent more money than the cost of the Iraq War in a single bill. Voters responded by flipping the house. A do nothing congress is a better idea than one actively doing things the country doesn't want done.

Me, too

Because, although the obsession can be offputting, Don is actually right: Sunshine is the best disinfectant, and better and more accessible public records would allow us to hold our government ot a higher standard of accountability.

To Be Fair ...

He wasn't the idiot in charge of planning the route and driving the bus. He's not expected to know that it isn't an interstate.

What gets me is that these drivers are coming from states where low clearance on non-interstate routes is a major issue! It isn't like they are non-professional drivers arriving from Nebraska in a U-Haul.

Other Traffic Problems

I was stuck on 128 last night for about 50 minutes because there was a car in flames on the other side of the highway. The traffic jam was due to a large amount of people rubbernecking. It makes me really concerned about society.

They made them sit here for a while

I ran by here around 7:30 and they'd backed the bus up to the pull-off before the bridge. Hadn't seen it on UH earlier. I called State Police who said that they knew, and were waiting for traffic to die down before they backed him up. Not that there was a lot of traffic at that point. That seems to be a good policy, make the guy sit there for three or four hours and think about what he's done.

Welcome to Boston.

Back in the days before the

Charles River Crossing was replaced with the Zakim Bridge, and the HOV/carpool lane on the lower deck of I-93 also served as the exit ramp to the Tobin Bridge northbound, the State Police had a good scheme. If a single-occupant vehicle wasn't astute enough to spot the trooper at the end of the lane and take the Tobin ramp, the trooper would pull them over, write them up, and then force them to take the Tobin ramp anyway. Depending on the alertness (or lack thereof) of the driver and/or the traffic conditions, that meant either a trip over the Tobin Bridge and a U-turn in Chelsea, or a trip onto local Charlestown streets (the last exit to Charlestown was just before the start of the Tobin).

IMO, the current "enforcement area" located about midway down the Lower Deck, which is set up so the trooper can release the offender back into the general traffic lanes after they've been issued the citation, is nowhere near as effective a punishment as the old way was.