Saturday, 2:15 PM
New Turnpike policy causes holiday traffic tangles
By Noah Bierman, Globe Staff
Thousands of motorists were stuck in backups over the holiday weekend on the Massachusetts Turnpike because of a change in Turnpike policy on how to deal with toll takers who call in sick.
Turnpike chief Alan LeBovidge said there were fewer toll takers at several toll plazas and resulting backups because the authority had decided to stop paying overtime to replace toll takers who had called in sick.
Asked why the Pike hadn't paid for replacement toll takers, LeBovidge said, "I don't have money."
He said backups, to some extent, are not unusual during holiday weekends, but in this case the combination of fewer toll takers and some confused drivers and even some road rage created further backups in some places.
LeBovidge said he didn't know how many toll takers had called in sick.
He said the turnpike should also do a better job in putting up signs farther from each toll plaza reminding drivers with a Fast Lane pass to stay in the left lane, which would reduce lane-changing and confusion closer to the tollbooths.
Sheri Richberg, 34, of Ashland said it took her 90 minutes to travel from Framingham to the Route 128 tolls early Sunday afternoon.
"Unacceptable, especially on Easter Sunday, especially when families are trying to spend holidays and quality time together" was how Richberg described it.
Going home Sunday evening, Richberg found a line on Route 128 to get onto the Pike backed up to the Winter Street exit in Waltham. She decided to take Route 9 and traveled home "free as a bird," she said.