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I-Team: State Promises To Change Barriers On I-93 After Serious Crashes

BOSTON (CBS) - An I-Team Investigation reveals a problem on I-93 where two trucks careened through a guardrail last August. MassDOT officials are now promising a fix.

Paul Healy has flashbacks of his crash from I-93 onto the Leverett Connector in the Boston Globe delivery truck every day. He's still too traumatized to talk about it, but in an exclusive interview with the I-Team, Paul's mother Jackie Elinoff described what happened. "As soon as he saw that bridge coming, he said I'm going over. That barrier is not going to stop me," Elinoff explains. The truck tore apart on impact. Paul miraculously survived. His mother says he had fractured vertebrae in his lower back, a fracture in his neck, fractured ribs, bruised kidney, and a contusion to his head."

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Bernice Corpuz reports

State Promises To Change Barriers On I-93 After Serious Crashes Part 1

Healy and his family were stunned when just four days later they learned of another crash just 100 feet away: a beer truck cab tore through the same guardrail and was left dangling over the Leverett Connector. Elinoff says, "To know they have no control and the barriers are not going to hold them back from going off that bridge, that had to be and is in my mind the most heart-wrenching part of this whole thing."

More From WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Bernice Corpuz

State Promises To Change Barriers On I-93 After Serious Crashes Part 2

After the two crashes, former Inspector General Greg Sullivan, who now is the Research Director of the Pioneer Institute, began asking questions. "Why hasn't something been done there?" he asks. He wrote a letter to the state asking for a review of the safety barriers in the area. "It's a maze unlike any other in Massachusetts.

We went to MassDOT for answers. Highway Administrator Frank DePaola says the state has identified a problem with that stretch of road: a curb next to the barrier. "We've determined curb climbing is a culprit in at least in part with the trucks leaving the roadway," DePaola explains.

The road where the two truck crashes occurred was built in 1970. It is 30" tall, which is 12" shorter than if it was built today, with a curb at the bottom that was originally designed to keep cars away from the barrier. MassDOT experts say it's having a different effect on trucks. DePaola says, "We feel what's happening is the large truck tires actually climb up on that curb like climbing on a step and effectively it reduces the overall height of this railing."

As a result of these findings, DePaola tells the I-Team the state plans to build a new 42" barrier for the half mile stretch of road. He says, "Obviously we don't want to have anything stay in a substandard condition any longer than it has to."

Sullivan and the Pioneer Institute are now asking that the barriers be raised in the Big Dig roadway by the Zakim Bridge as well. Those barriers are 32" tall, but Sullivan says the design should have included 42" tall barriers, which were used at that time in other areas of the state. Sullivan says of the 32" barriers: "Tests that have been done since then with heavier vehicles and taller vehicles now show they are not safe."

DePaola says it will cost several million dollars to build a new barrier on the older section of I-93 where the August truck crashes occurred, and he expects that project will start next spring. When asked about increasing the barriers in the newer section of I-93 in this area as well, DePaola explains it would cost tens of millions of dollars and, "With the infrastructure across the entire state, there are many areas that need upgrading to bring them up to today's standards and we just don't have the resources to do everything all at once."

Jackie Elinoff and her son Paul want a fix before anyone else is hurt. "If he can see safety measures put in place to protect others that would be gratifying to him, and to me," Elinoff explains.


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