Initially designed and constructed to protect Massachusetts road department and maintenance workers from slipping from the jobsite and falling onto the heavily trafficked eight-to-ten lane expressway, the Big Dig tunnel handrails have been involved in seven Boston traffic fatalities from 2005 to 2008, the Boston Globe reports.
Our Boston workers’ compensation attorneys and Massachusetts personal injury lawyers have been monitoring an ongoing debate between lawyers, accident reconstruction specialists, engineers and officials from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Each player has produced copious amounts of data regarding the effectiveness, safety, benefits and hazards posed by the six miles of guardrails that sit atop raised walkways that line both sides of the highway.
The debate may rage on, but it is the gristly depiction of how the fatalities are described and remembered that has had the most impact on public opinion. Of the seven drivers or passengers of motor vehicles or motorcycles killed after coming in contact with the guardrails, most experienced either brutal dismemberment or were ensnared in the handrails during impact and pulled from their vehicle.
While in some cases speeding or seat-belt use played some role in the cause of death, accident reconstruction specialists hired by the Boston Globe to review accident reports found three flaws in the barrier design they say significantly impacted survivability.
First, the railings are too widely spaced, leading to possible victim entanglement upon impact. Second, because the height of the guardrails are level with a car window or motorcycle seats they create a snag hazard for passengers or drivers who come into contact with the barrier. Third, instead of using rounded vertical posts to reinforce the horizontal handrails, the Big Dig posts have squared off corners which can act like blades when they come into contact with skin.
Experts on the side of Mass-DOT disagree. They say that not only have the railings passed numerous engineering and construction inspections, they also comply with state and federal safety regulations and industry safety standards. Whatever side prevails, seven families mourn lost loved ones, litigation continues and the original handrails remain intact and in place.
The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, LLC, offers free consultations to discuss your rights, either by phone or by contacting us online. Call 1-877-617-5333 to discuss your rights.