Report finds Pike cost cuts a factor in Easter traffic jam
The decision by a former turnpike executive to "control costs and preserve revenue" was among the reasons cited for the miles-long traffic backup on the Massachusetts Turnpike on Easter Sunday that left drivers sitting in long lines at tolls, according an internal report released yesterday.
The report by the Executive Office of Transportation and Public Works was presented to the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority's board of directors. It found that the 8-mile backups were, in part, caused by former executive director Alan LeBovidge and his decision not to call in replacements for toll collectors who called in sick.
Statistics released by the Turnpike Authority showed that 17 out of 167 scheduled toll collectors called in sick.
The State Police, meanwhile, did not seek permission from LeBovidge to wave motorists through booths without stopping to pay the toll because they believed he would not approve the request.
The report said delays were not caused by any deliberate effort to force drivers to get Fast Lane electronic toll transponders, as some motorists speculated. It also said the traffic jam was not created to generate public support for a gas tax increase to ease the authority's financial problems.
"Indeed, it is clear that the zeal to control costs and preserve revenue has permeated into the core decision-making process," the report said. "However well-intentioned they may have been, these decisions impacted public convenience that day."
State Police can now waive drivers through the tolls if backups are excessive. Previously, troopers needed the approval of the authority's executive director.