BOSTON (CBS) — Route 24 has certainly seen its fair share of serious and deadly crashes over the years. A quick internet search of the road will show headlines like the “Road From Hell” or “The State’s Most Dangerous Road.”
“We had no time to merge. If someone was in this lane they would be hit by a car,” local Transportation Planning Manager Paul Mission told WBZ-TV on a recent Route 24 ride-along.
“We, for years, have been saying something needs to be done. You’re dealing with a road that was designed back in the 1950s and ’60s. It really hasn’t been improved,” Mission said.
Mission and his team at the Southeastern Regional Planning & Economic Development District (SRPEDD) in Taunton, work with Mass DOT analyzing traffic and road safety. The team shared some of the latest crash statistics they’ve gathered from the state’s crash data portal.
From January 1, 2016, to December 31, 2019, there have been:
- 3,645 crashes
- 1,198 injuries
- 21 fatalities
Data shows most of the deadly crashes happened at night or in dark conditions and a high number of cars hit the guardrail, median barrier or rolled over. Rear-end crashes were also frequent and there’s a pattern that shows hundreds of crashes at several interchanges.
“The 24-140 interchange right in the center: 274 crashes. So that leads us to believe because of the short space between the off-ramps and the on-ramps people are essentially playing chicken,” Mission pointed out.
Built in 1951, Route 24 is 40 miles of highway from Fall River to Randolph. On-ramps along the road curve sharply, forcing drivers to slow way down, but merging ramps are incredibly short, giving them little room to pick up speed. Travel lanes on Route 24 are a straight shot with little to no curves, which encourages speeding, and there’s the Jersey barrier that is less forgiving than a grassy median.
“You just have the three lanes in either direction separated by a concrete barrier, so it’s not really surprising with the way that road is made up that you’re going to have a little more significant crashes with injuries and unfortunately fatalities,” said Mission.
The Transportation Planning Manager also says when you combine Route 24’s design shortcomings with distracted driving, there’s little room for error.
“I don’t want to say it’s typical but unfortunately with the way the road is laid out, then add in driver error and the sheer volume of traffic and you’re undoubtedly going to have problems.”
A 2008 audit suggested completely upgrading Route 24 to interstate standards, but Mission says it’s highly unlikely it will ever happen.
“Just having the amenities of an interstate highway I think it would just blow out MassDOT’s budget to the point that they would just throw in the towel. It would be a huge undertaking, and I think with all the other transportation issues that are being focused on right now, it is not something that is a number one priority. You can only do so much with the money that you got. It would make more sense to bring the interchanges up to a safe standard and try to integrate those in with the current highway. Considering they have to address all the issues statewide, they’ve done a fairly decent job.”
MassDOT has made several improvements to Route 24 over the years including repaving, widening and installing an anti-glare screen. The Route 24 and Route 44 interchange is currently under construction and there are several projects in the design phase. One of them addresses the dangerous merging issues at Route 24 and Route 140 in Taunton. Construction is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2021.