Low-ceiling on Freeport bridge snares trucks

The MBTA bridge above Freeport Street was hit by trucks four times in 2007 and twice last week. The T says the bridge was inspected after each encounter and that it is structurally sound. Photo by David Benoit.

Dec. 26 was a bad day for trucks on Freeport Street and an even worse day for the MBTA's bridge over Freeport. Large trucks twice hit the bridge that day, both getting stuck under its low clearance. MBTA officials say the problem is rare and not of immediate danger, but neighbors have complained that it happens too often.

"There were two unrelated incidents on the 26th, but only four for the year," said Lieutenant Joe O'Connor of the MBTA police department. "The bridge is marked clearly on both sides as low clearance."

The bridge, only twelve feet above the ground, is safe, O'Connor said. Another bridge carrying the same set of tracks crosses Dorchester Avenue in Fields Corner with a ceiling of 13 feet and six inches, a foot and a half more clearance.

Every time there is an incident inspectors are called out to examine the damage, and it would be rare for the bridge to face a collision strong enough to cause serious danger.

"The way the trucks are designed, their tops aren't too strong. The trucks lose that battle," O'Connor said.

At least one local leader is a concerned about the situation. Bob Scannell, executive director at the Colonel Daniel Marr Boys and Girls Club, thinks he has seen at least ten of the accidents, and maybe as many as twenty that he can remember.

"I swear to God, I've been saying, 'I can't believe how many trucks get caught under there,'" Scannell said. "These guys that drive trucks, they know what they are doing most of the time, so it just seems crazy it is happening so much."

Scannell said he worries about the bridge's long-term stability, but also about the truck drivers getting tickets or losing their jobs.

"I've got to wonder how many trucks are caught under the damn thing," Scannell said. "There is something wrong there, either it's not marked clearly or something. But what if they are losing their jobs or getting in trouble when it's not their fault?"

O'Connor said the bridge itself is marked clear enough, and though there are no signs in advance of the road, he didn't believe there was any discussion to add any. Each side of the bridge, which has three sets of tracks across it, does have bright yellow signs signifying the low twelve-foot ceiling.

"I believe it's more of a problem with the drivers trying to sneak under," O'Connor said. "Professional drivers, most of the time, know what the hell they are doing and are aware, so they are just being careless."

Both drivers in last week's incidents were given a ticket from the MBTA for failure to obey signs, which comes with a fifty-dollar fine.