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Despite signs and barriers, drivers trying to cross closed Manhan Bridge in Easthampton

Workers from Northern Construction, front, earlier this month saw a concrete drain pipe on the Manhan River bridge near the corner of Northampton and West streets in Easthampton. Although the bridge is not expected to reopen until late October, some motorists recently have attempted to drive across the bridge.
JERREY ROBERTS

Workers from Northern Construction, front, earlier this month saw a concrete drain pipe on the Manhan River bridge near the corner of Northampton and West streets in Easthampton. Although the bridge is not expected to reopen until late October, some motorists recently have attempted to drive across the bridge. JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

But in the past week, numerous drivers have skirted barriers on the bridge’s south side and driven across the unfinished deck, cruising through the construction workers and equipment, before realizing they cannot get across and beating a hasty retreat.

“It happens a lot,” Police Sgt. William Kelly said. “People are oblivious. I worked a traffic detail there Saturday and at least three or four came down and tried to drive across.”

The drivers can’t get all the way across because of barriers and a fence on the north side of the bridge.

Since the deck was finished a few weeks ago, the bridge is able to hold the vehicles. “It’s not a big deal because it’s structurally safe, it’s just annoying,” Kelly said.

The bridge is closed while Northern Construction of Weymouth completes the $3.75 million replacement project, paid for by the state Department of Transportation. The bridge is expected to reopen at the end of October.

Throughout the project, some drivers have ignored the “bridge closed” signs and driven right up to the bridge until stopped by cement barriers. “Then they ask if they can go through,” Kelly said.

But the problem with drivers actually getting onto the bridge started in the last few weeks when, after the concrete deck was finished, the cement barriers on the bridge’s south side were moved aside. That allowed construction workers to drive vehicles and equipment onto the bridge.

Motorists have driven across until they were forced to stop at the barriers on the north side. Kelly said that on Saturday he had to leave his post directing traffic around roadwork on the north side of the bridge to tell several drivers to turn around because the bridge was closed.

“They look at you like you have three heads,” he said.

Kelly said he does not know how drivers could miss the fact that the bridge is closed from the south, even with the barriers removed. To even get to the bridge from that direction, drivers must pass a line of cement barriers and “bridge closed” signs at the entrance to Route 10 at the downtown rotary and then drive 600 feet down the street to the bridge, where construction work clearly continues.

It is not safe for motorists to be on the bridge because of the equipment being used, and construction workers also may be endangered, Kelly said.

“They have cranes swinging around,” he said. “And the workers aren’t expecting unauthorized vehicles to be driving there while they’re working — it could catch them off guard.”

Until the bridge reopens in about a month, detours continue on Pleasant, Lovefield and O’Neill streets. Many motorists also have used an unofficial detour on West and Glendale streets to bypass the bridge.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

Related

Elizabeth Cole: More signage needed at Manhan Bridge work

Thursday, October 24, 2013

To the editor: “People are oblivious.” “They look at you like you have three heads.” “It’s just annoying.” I’m hoping your reporter Rebecca Everett took the Easthampton police sergeant’s quotes out of context in the Sept. 27 story about drivers trying to cross the closed Manhan Bridge in Easthampton despite signs and barriers. It’s true, there is a “bridge closed” … 0

I will be so happy when it is all done. The businesses have been suffering . I wonder if it is older folks who out of habit and forgetfulness try to cross anyway? No matter almost done is music to residents ears!

Aren't you on the list? There is a special guest list of people to whom the perfectly legible road signs don't apply. Those people must just assume they are on that very special guest list.

Wow! They're a special kind of stupid, huh? I sure hope the officers are handing out tickets for that.

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