Local Intersections Are Part of City Effort to Stop Gridlock

Some motorists in East Boston awakened recently to odd white boxes painted along their morning commute. Some said it looked like a heliport and others thought it looked like a landing strip but it’s only a box and the Boston Police Department doesn’t want you to block it.

And if you do you can be ticketed $150–a hefty fine for being in these two traffic boxes along Boardman and Meridian Streets.

The boxes are part of a new citywide campaign dubbed “Don’t Block the Box”.

Don’t Block the Box is an education and enforcement campaign designed to curb gridlock, and increase vehicle and pedestrian safety, at two busy intersections in Eastie.

The two Eastie intersections that are part of the campaign are at Boardman and Leyden and Meridian and Monmouth. They were chosen after local residents approached the District Police Captain Kelly McCormick to ask for relief from traffic delays related to the Meridian Street Bridge and Route 1A.  Additional locations will be added to the program as necessary.

The campaign is the result of collaboration between the City of Boston and MASCO, a non-profit affiliate of the hospitals, schools, research and cultural organizations located in the Longwood Medical and Academic Area (LMA.)

A total of 16 other intersections have been chosen for the campaign along with the two in Eastie.

The campaign is based on an existing state motor vehicle law which prohibits a driver from entering an intersection when the vehicle will not be able to pass directly through it to the other side.  The fine for failing to obey this law is $150.

“A combination of new initiatives and hard work has helped to keep our local streets from being clogged with bumper to bumper traffic every day of the week,” said Mayor Thomas Menino. “A variety of programs have been implemented to help people to more easily get out of their cars and walk, bike and even ride scooters around Boston, and this has helped a great deal to keep traffic congestion at bay.”

He added that Don’t Block the Box is yet another component to ensure safety and accessibility on Boston’s streets.

“Drivers who venture into an intersection when it is impossible to drive through it cause traffic gridlock and pose a threat to pedestrians and people in wheelchairs by blocking crosswalks and interrupting the “walk” cycles at traffic signals,” said Menino. “This is in violation of existing state law and, in a busy city like Boston, it is imperative that this rule of the road is followed.”

Tom Yardley, MASCO Senior Transportation Planner, commented that it is important for drivers to realize the public safety implications associated with breaking this motor vehicle law.

“Vehicles that enter intersections when it may not be possible to cross before the light changes create both traffic bottlenecks and hazardous situations for ambulances and pedestrians alike,” said Yardley. “In speaking with our members and public officials, all agreed that more awareness and reinforcement of better behavior on this issue would improve the quality of life in the Longwood Medical Area.”

Don’t Block the Box is officially mandated by Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 89, Section 9, Designation of highways as through ways; traffic control signs and devices.

It reads, in part, “The driver of a motor vehicle shall not cross or enter an intersection, which it is unable to proceed through, without stopping and thereby blocking vehicles from travelling in a free direction.  A green light is no defense to blocking the intersection.  The driver must wait another cycle of the signal light, if necessary.”

Signs reading “Do Not Block Intersection, State Law $150 Fine” have been posted at the locations in Eastie to remind drivers of the law.

“We are giving the public fair warning, Police Officers distributed informational literature about the campaign last week” said BPD Commissioner Ed Davis. “Enforcement action began on Thursday, August 23, 2012, with the issuance of motor vehicle citations.”

Boston Transportation Commissioner Thomas Tinlin said BTD is happy to be working side by side with MASCO and the Boston Police Department on this important project.

“We are optimistic that the campaign will change driver behavior and result in safer and more efficient local streets for all of us,” he said.

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