Starts & Stops

Without HOV lane barrier, sneaky drivers run amok

The HOV lane barrier on the southbound side of Interstate 93 has been temporarily replaced with painted diagonal lines.
The HOV lane barrier on the southbound side of Interstate 93 has been temporarily replaced with painted diagonal lines. Google Maps

If you’ve driven on Interstate 93 South past Somerville in the past few weeks, you may have noticed two big changes:

1. The disappearance of the concrete barrier and plastic posts that split the carpool lane from the other lanes, replaced by white diagonal stripes.

2. The recent surge of TOTALLY ANNOYING drivers who have taken the absence of a physical barrier as an open invitation to hop between the regular and high-occupancy lanes at opportune moments.

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Sam Silverman of Medford wrote in with news of the disappearing HOV lane barriers: “I’ve already seen a car cut across from the HOV lane to the regular lanes on the lower deck where they could never do it before,” Silverman said.

That was the diplomatic take. One of my co-workers provided a much less newspaper-appropriate response to the experience of watching single drivers jump into the carpool lane, then glide back out before they could be caught by State Police. Not cool.

I talked to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, and spokesman Mike Verseckes confirmed that the physical barriers were indeed removed recently.

The good news: The barriers were removed because the bridge deck is being repaired and resurfaced. The $10.8 million project, scheduled to be finished by the year’s end, comes as welcome relief to anyone who’s found that the deck’s plethoric potholes make the southbound approach to the Zakim Bridge feel more “Mad Max” than “Easy Rider.”

“We removed the island barriers both to remove the obstruction for crews to make deck repairs, and also because toward the end of the project, we’ll be resurfacing I-93,” Verseckes said. The barrier is coming back, with the new plastic posts that are wider, brighter, more durable, and better able to handle emergency vehicles that need to cross the barrier.

But until that time: Fight the urge to whiz past your fellow single-occupancy commuters. Respect the painted lines. Don’t be that person.

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