Lawmakers and individuals are calling for change after seven deadly Big Dig crashes have been linked to handrails in the tunnels. State Senate President Therese Murphy has requested that the Department of Transportation, which overseas the tunnel system, review the handrails’s design and safety. Between 2004 and 2008, seven of the nine fatal accidents in the Big Dig were the result of vehicles hitting the handrails. Most crash victims were dismembered. The handrails line about six miles of the Big Dig on elevated walkways and are designed to prevent workers from tumbling into traffic.
The handrails are also the subject of litigation in Suffolk Superior Court. The widow of State Trooper Vincent Cila, who was killed after hitting a handrail post while on a motorcycle in 2005, has filed a wrongful death suit against multiple parties, including the state Turnpike Authority. The defendants assert that the handrails meet all applicable safety standards and regulations.
Despite assertions to the handrails’ safety, relatives and friends of crash victims are calling for the handrail design to be changed. Experts consulted by the Boston Globe said that the handrails are flawed. The horizontal rails are spaced far apart, allowing motorists to become entangled, and the rails are only three feet above the road, at head level. However, handrail design may not be solely to blame for the grisly crashes. Many of the drivers killed were speeding or not wearing seatbelts.
For more information on this story, see the Boston Globe.
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