93 from the south a mess; when it's fixed anybody's guess

I-93 jammed up in Boston

Parking Lot: A Still Life by Sonja Alves.

A crash just inside the entrance to the O'Neill Tunnel means nobody from the south is going anywhere fast this morning.

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Went through at 8:40

Not much more than the usual cluster flock of traffic. They seem to have cleared the wreck quickly, leaving some residual, but not unusual delay.

UPDATE and OOPS: I came through from the North - I read Adam's message wrong (and the tunnel entrances look a lot alike on both ends).

Traffic was considerably heavier than usual, but not "outlier" heavier. Several emergency units were headed south through the tunnel.

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Traffic

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My supervisor comes from the South Shore and it's 9:33:42 he's not at work yet. This is an unusual delay.

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Around 8 AM, WBZ was

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Around 8 AM, WBZ was reporting two crashes inside northbound tunnel - down to a single lane getting through at one point (left lane, I think) AND a left lane crash at the entry to the northbound tunnel - so traffic pushed to the right at that point (as shown in the photo).

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I advise taking public

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I advise taking public transportation rather than driving into the city. You can get work done on the train/bus, read, listen to music on your ear buds. So much better than sitting in gridlock in your own car!

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So helpful

I'm sure that option never occurred to a single one of the drivers in this traffic jam.

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Generally, yes

I can do a lot of those things in a car, too, if it isn't my turn to drive. I can also have some good discussions with my husband and son, since we drive together when we don't just bike solo on our own schedules.

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You haven't seen me driving then

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I can have music headphones and my Bluetooth phone going, while I read the newspaper, shave and eat a breakfast burrito, all at 50 mph and I haven't gotten a ticket yet

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You're the champ, Michael

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If you do it with only 6 inches cleared off your windshield (and nowhere else) after a decent snowstorm!

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My colleague got into work

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about 30 minutes ago. Said it was a "parking lot" which he sat in for about 1 hour before any movement. He was coming in from Quincy.

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Update 11:15 AM

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From bad to worse. Much worse. They just closed Morrisey Blvd at Freeport to northbound traffic due to flooding. Dot Ave is a clusterfxxx, also Neponset Ave, and Adams St, pretty much northbound everything and everywhere.

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Per Google's traffic data it

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Per Google's traffic data it was worse than usual. Solid dark red from the tunnel portal all the way to the Braintree split. Usually there's some light red and orange mixed in.

I'm curious what the new travel time signs said!

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More reasonable display

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"Drive up to Woburn, come in from the North - It WILL be faster"

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That's violating the prime directive!

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Avoid 128 at all costs if at all possible.

93 and 95 certainly can turn shit show but there's usually a reason, as seen today. There's no sense to when 128 can lock up even non-rush hour. Total wild card and you're out of your way by 20 miles to boot.

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I've actually seen many a

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I've actually seen many a time when it's faster to get from 95 in Canton to Somerville by going around on 128 then in on 2.

I've also seen times where it's faster to get from Dedham to Somerville by going 128 to 93 south.

128 may be a shitshow, but it's still often better than the Expressway, especially off-peak (since the Expressway is backed up pretty much 24/7 now).

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Maybe these days with Waze, etc

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And perhaps if you're close to 128 anyways in Canton or Dedham.
Personally I avoid 128 like the plague unless I truly have to use it. At least 93 you can pull the rip cord and still be in the city not the middle of nowhere.

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I came through a little before 8

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and it was a parking lot. Onramp backed up all the way down the Mass Ave connector to Melnea Cass. I moved 50 feet in ten minutes, then gave up and hopped on the frontage road, wound my way through Fort Point, and picked up 93 again past the accident. If I hadn't done that, I think I'd still be there.

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We Know Adam's Rhymes Refer To The Ⓣ ...

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    such a clever blogger is he!
    Adam might invoke yet another trick,
    perhaps something like a limerick,
    when it's other transportation delays UHubbers see!
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Wow - Variable Message Sign Said Something Informative

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First time in a long time I have seen these overhead signs say something relevant to traffic conditions. Usually just a PSA like "Use Ya Blinkah" or seatbelts, or no texting or something.

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I doubt that many did.

PSAs don't come with big arrows. They don't flash them the same way, either.

MA isn't the first state to use these signs for PSAs or alerts ... there is a whole body of user interface experience, knowledge and evaluation available. Since you work for a transport agency, you can probably find it in your research library.

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Yes Cliff - excuse me - Swirls

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I am very familiar with both past and ongoing research on this subject. Since the late 1980s, I've dealt with several of the different aspects of variable/changeable message signs as part of my job. One of the prevalent schools of thought is that always displaying messages on these signs, especially when those messages are irrelevant to traffic conditions, will create a level of driver contempt for the signs. This will reduce driver reaction time to critical messages, and will also result in some drivers totally ignoring the signs regardless of what they say.

Note that this is also one of the reasons that the new travel time signs are hybrid, as opposed to using standard message signs (as had been done starting in 2011) for this purpose.

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Okay, then

So you also know that there is another school of thought: if you keep them blank most of the time, people will ignore them as well - or not know where look to look for them for guidance when they are important.

What does the actual evaluation and performance data say on the subject?

The drive time signs are great - they let you know what you are getting into. But the message signs do exhibit different modes when the message counts - I've noticed this

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I wish...

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I wish the travel time signs were overhead. They are too easily missed on the right side, especially on a multi-lane freeways like I-93.

I also wouldn't mind if they signs said "Delays to Exit 15" or similar. Also if the travel time as a result of a crash or other bad incident, the signs could say "Major Crash I-93 NB Downtown Boston, Seek Alternate Route" or similar

The more info the better.

I have been stuck in many a Saturday jams on I-93 with no info to the cause, the location it ends. "Use Ya Blinkah" is no use to me while sitting in stopped traffic and no explanation as to why.

The overhead signs could be used much more effectively and proactively than they are.

(Disclaimer - traffic engineer who did Freeway Operations and controlled these signs signs for Washington State DOT in Seattle in the 90s.)

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Thank you for your post.

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You raise some interesting points, and I could tell even before I read your disclaimer that you were "in the business."

The travel time signs MassDOT has been installing were specifically designed as"hybrid" signs (white on green panels with changeable displays) to enable drivers to more quickly identify them as travel time signs, and to distinguish them from "normal" changeable message signs - particularly the portable signs used for temporary traffic control. In areas with wider roads and greater traffic volumes - such as the immediate Boston area, the intent is that these signs will supplement the permanent message signs, not replace them.

In other words, when a given travel time sign states an unusually long delay to a destination, in theory adjacent changeable message signs should provide drivers with more details of the reason for the delay. To build in the capability of displaying even the most simplistic "reason why" messages into the travel time signs themselves, which get their data for the times to display through an entirely "hands-off" automated system, would largely defeat the ability to have the current system be "hands-off." The larger variable displays required would also make it impractical to power the signs with solar power. Even in urban areas, commercial power hookups for freeway ITS equipment can be difficult to attain and impractical to install.

Your suggestion that at least some of these signs be installed overhead has merit to it. However, overhead installations would require larger signs AND larger displays to meet MUTCD requirements, which may also preclude the use of solar power for the signs. Also, overhead installations would require more complex support structures and foundations than with the current ground-mounted signs. This may not be practical at many urban and suburban locations, where overhead signs might be most beneficial, due to utility and other conflicts.

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Again if you are in the left

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Again if you are in the left lane on 4+ lane I-93 SB, the travel time side on the right is going to be ignored/missed as you deal with all the lane changing between the tunnel exit and South Bay. MassDOT should have followed Florida's example. Even on rural I-4(3 lanes each direction) between Tampa and Orlando they use overhead VMSs to display travel time, not static. There is always something displayed regarding traffic conditions. Once, on my way to TPA Airport one time there was a major crash on the Howard Franklin Bridge (I-275 between Tampa and St Pete, over Tampa Bay), the signs were giving crash info and travel time and allowed me to divert from the interstates to local arterials to get to the airport on time for my flight (rental car - no navigation). MassDOT has a 24 hour Highway Operations Center with access to many cameras on the highway, just like we did in Seattle. We were proactive with construction, crashes, disabled vehicles, emergencies, etc. When an event began and confirmed by CCTV or radio, we put the signs up. Once verified completed, we put the signs down. MassDOT could use its manpower to provide more information, as well as auto-generated information, if it chose. But alas, MassDOT went the half-*ss route (and I suspect it's due to some of its hiring practices - most HOC operators are former toll collectors). All that money for the ITS as part of the Big Dig is not being used to its potential. No attack on you roadman - I appreciate your info and I think we agree 90+% on all this. I just think if I worked at MassDOT HOC, the signs would be used much more to give travel/traffic info to motorists, if I could also hire the right staff to operate the equipment.

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FHWA "best practices" for changeable message signs

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which are considerably more detailed than what is contained in the MUTCD, emphasize that the most important thing for an agency operating these signs is to maintain credibility of the sign system with the traveling public. As such, they strongly caution against overuse of information that is irrelevant for the location (like posting "Toll Plaza Demo/New Traffic Pattern" on signs on I-93 south north of Wilmington), inaccurate for the sign location (like posting "Road Work At Exit (X)/Left Lane Closed" when the road work and associated closure is actually at Exit (Y)), out of date (like posting "Left Two Lanes Closed/From X To Y" well after the lanes have been reopened, or trivial information that does not relate to traffic conditions at the sign location (like "Use Yah Blinka" or "No Teen Cell Use" or the truly irrelevant (to driving) "Change Your Smoke Detector Every 10 Years/Test Batteries Monthly").

Now say a driver passes under a sign five days a week, 52 weeks a year. 95% of the time, the sign is blank - while the other 5% of the time the sign is displaying a critical message. You shouldn't need fancy studies or analysis to realize that a sign that is normally blank and suddenly is "on" is going to command greater attention than a sign that is on 100% of the time, but displays information that is irrelevant to the immediate driving task and traffic conditions.. The "Oh, that normally blank sign is on" reaction in the first scenario should be a HUGE CLUE to all but the most inattentive driver to read the message. And, despite what you may want to believe, you and I are in the minority when it comes to the driving task. Sadly, the majority of drivers - especially ones who routinely drive a particular route time after time - do not pay nearly enough attention to signs, this is one of the reasons design and implementation of effective temporary traffic control can be such a challenge.

Lastly, 99.99% of the PSAs, even the "approved' 'transportation related' ones, that DOTs display on message signs are totally uncecessary and largely pointless from the perspective of the DRIVER on the road. They are put on these signs for only one reason - to satisfy other state agencies promoting their programs and politicians who erroneously believe that blank signs are "a waste of money.'. Some states are even pushing to allow advertisers to use these signs to hawk their cheezy cr^p - as if they need yet another medium to do this.

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Thanks!

This is great information.

I'm sure that this will bug the hell out of you, but I was told last summer (regarding the drought) that MassDOT was looking for content for the signs and that we could easily get them to run a PSA on water shortages and conservation. And so the alerts went up in dry areas regarding water conservation.

So it sounds like MassDOT believes that the signs should be used for alerts not related to traffic. This may be political (builds goodwill with other agencies, makes it look like expensive signs are actually being used, etc.), or it may be borne of the belief that the signs need to have messages so that people will pay attention to them on a routine basis.

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I am not involved with policy decisions regarding the

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actual messaging that appears on the signs. As such, I am not qualified to, nor will I, speculate as to why MassDOT posts some of the specific messages they do. However, per current and past editions of the MUTCD, if a message is not even remotely transportation related (and IMO "Use Yah Blinka' - which is a basic rule of the road that all drivers should know and normally would not be posted on static highway signs - is a stretch), it should not appear on that sign.

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Ugh

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Did you notice this when you were giving us the all clear when you were omn the wrong side of the road this morning?

More quality, less quantity please.

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Hope everyone involved in the

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Hope everyone involved in the crashes is ok. Their day was way worse than being a little late to work...

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Sounded awful

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WBUR this morning around 8am estimated the drive time from Braintree to the tunnel to be 90 minutes, which is probably the worst time estimate I've ever heard.

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Per TrafficHackers

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(Which needs a rebuild, and the ability to search and show historic data)

Between the Braintree Split and Columbia Road traffic was within the range of normal for cars exiting until about 8:30 (14 mph). By 9:00 it had dropped to 7 mph, by 10: 6 mph. That's about a 75 minute drive, plus however long it takes to get from there to the tunnel. That second crash must have taken some time to clear, because traffic stayed below 20 mph until after noon.

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