Recurring Pooling on Massachusetts’ I-93 Risks Hydroplaning

Andover man hit pool in 2015 crash

Kevin Keller was working late toward the end of 2015.

Rain dampened the drive to his home off Dascomb Road, a quick hop off Interstate 93.

But just before his exit, as he was switching lanes to the right, he hit a pool of water that collected in the right-most driving lane and the breakdown lane.

“Water pools in that spot, about a quarter of a mile south of exit 42 on I-93 northbound at the top of a hill, when it rains hard,” Keller said.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation told NBC Boston that it would look into the problem, but declined to make someone available for an interview.

“As I was hydroplaning, perpendicular to the road, seeing headlights coming at me while i was in the drivers seat,” Keller said.

After he hit that water back in 2015, he spun across three lanes of Interstate traffic and came to rest against the median guardrail facing oncoming cars.

“It was one of the most frightening things I’ve ever experienced,” he said.

Keller wasn’t injured, but another car had hit his rear bumper while he was sliding.

In the months since, Keller has stopped in the breakdown lane — only on weekends, though, because the breakdown lane becomes a travel lane during rush hour — and recorded cars driving through inches of water in the rain.

“Car after car after car hit that water and they were throwing up rooster tails, spray that was eight to 10 feet high consistently,” he said.

According to MassDOT crash data, there were 109 crashes at that spot between 2010 and 2014.

The data did not list the causes of those crashes.

Dr. Daniel Dulaski, a civil engineer and professor at Northeastern University who specializes in transportation design and safety, said one of the top jobs of engineers designing a road is to move water.

“As we design a roadway we’re trying to get that water out of the travel lane as quickly as possible,” he said.

Though he didn’t inspect the area himself, Dulaski said a clogged drain on the side of the road would be the first place to check.

“When you think about catch basins, in the fall, especially in New England, you might have twigs or leaves that clog the catch basins,” he said.

But water pooling on the side of the road, like in Keller’s video, isn’t normal.

“There’s a fair amount of water that’s pooling in the shoulder, and in some instances making it out to the first or rightmost travel lane,” he said.

Keller says storms still bring pools on the interstate, followed by MassDOT crews to fix the guardrail.

MassDOT said it has repaired the guardrail in that spot 18 times in the last year and a half.

“It’s been an ongoing problem for at least two years and nothing’s been done,” Keller said.

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