Expect traffic delays to last "several months," transportation officials warned Tuesday, as crews repair damages from an over height truck that crashed into the Roosevelt Circle Overpass Monday on Interstate 93 southbound in Medford.
Just two lanes were open as crews worked on the eastbound overpass near Exit 24, causing traffic during the Monday evening commute that carried into Tuesday morning. Making matters worse Tuesday was a serious crash on Route 1 southbound by Route 99.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation is urging drivers to avoid I-93 southbound and to also expect delays on Route 1 south, Route 16, Route 28 and through Roosevelt Circle for the next several months as lane closures continue while crews make permanent repairs.
“Our first priority is to safely stabilize the structure, which is underway,” Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver said. “Drivers are urged to avoid the area and consider public transportation options until I-93 southbound can be fully reopened. Travelers who use Roosevelt Circle should expect restricted lanes for several months until permanent repairs can be made.”
Massachusetts State Police are still investigating the crash, which involved a 2013 Peterbilt 367 with an Alabama registration, owned by Dove Transportation of Lincoln, Alabama.
A 57-year-old Alabama man was driving the truck with a 54-year-old Alabama woman as a passenger, who was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital with possible minor injuries.
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State police said Tuesday afternoon that the driver is being cited for operating a vehicle that was "over height" and for violating a permit issued by the Department of Transportation. Each offense carries a fine of $105, for a total of $210.
The height of the truck with its load -- a water clarifying tank used in wastewater treatment -- measured at 14 feet, 9 inches, which is 9 inches more than the truck was permitted for. Additionally, state police said the driver violated the permit for not having flag cars and for traveling on an unapproved route. I-93 was not on the truck's permitted route. MassDOT says Dove had permits for a smaller load on a different route.
The tractor-trailer -- with an "oversize load" banner and two orange flags -- was carrying a large metal piece of equipment, which had to be extricated from underneath the overpass. The structure was significantly damaged in the crash, police said, which happened around 3:20 p.m.
MassDOT officials said they are working with state police and intend to hold the trucking company legally and financially responsible for damages. The investigation will determine if the operator or company were in violation of any state laws or federal motor carrier regulations, police said.
Jamie Canada, of Dove Transportation, said she and her husband, who runs the company, spoke with the driver but do not know how the crash happened. They are waiting for the results of the investigation and said the truck was carrying an empty clarifier tank.
An inspection Monday evening found extensive damage to an outside beam on the Roosevelt Circle Overpass over the right two I-93 southbound travel lanes. The beam will need to be removed to safely allow traffic to be fully restored underneath on I-93 southbound, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation said.
"Usually bridge strikes, the bridge is usually the winner when something hits it," MassDOT highway administrator Jonathan Gulliver said.
But this time, the bridge was the loser, according to Gulliver.
A beam was flatted, snapped into two. And the concrete above it was destroyed. The entire beam and a section of bridge deck, approximately seven feet wide, will need to be demolished between the west abutment and the center pier, which is located above I-93 southbound lanes of travel.
The damage came as no surprise to those who heard the crash. Rick Sacco, who lives nearby, heard it from inside his home.
"Something is going on," Sacco said. "I was sitting down watching TV and I heard what sounded like a sonic boom, like a bang. I thought something exploded then I heard a weird scrapping sound and I knew something was going on.”
Overnight, MassDOT crews put up shoring towers to support the demolition of the section of bridge deck. Some existing bridge fencing and bridge rail on the top side of the structure were also removed. The demolition will proceed in stages.
An area within the inner part of the Roosevelt Circle rotary will also be closed as a part of this work. Once demolition activity is complete, the eastbound overpass will be reopened.
MassDOT deployed message boards on I-93 southbound for drivers approaching the Medford work zone as far away as the New Hampshire border and also on Interstate 495 and on Interstate 95/Route 128.
The highway should be back to four lanes by Wednesday, but Roosevelt Circle will be rough for the next few months. So it will be rush hour outside of Jeff Klossner's front door for a while.
Bridge reconstruction on I-93 south is forcing drivers past Klossner's home. And it will be like this for months.
"Obviously not excited," said Klossner, who lives along Roosevelt Circle in Medford. "This is going to be our new normal for the next coming weeks or months."
Klossner said traffic Tuesday was backed up way more than normal.