Questions are being raised over whether the handrails that line several miles of the Big Dig tunnel are a danger to Boston motor vehicle accident victims. Seven of the victims that died in the tunnel system between 2004 and 2008 were dismembered after they struck the handrails. One Massachusetts traffic accident victim who did survive lost an arm.
In Suffolk Superior Court, Massachusetts trooper Vincent Cila’s widow is suing the turnpike and Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff for Boston wrongful death. Her Boston, Massachusetts motorcycle accident complaint claims that the sharp edges that support the handrails have the same effect on a person as would blades from a shredder. Cila was riding a motorcycle when he hit a handrail post in 2005. He severed his arm and broke his neck.
The handrails have earned the nickname “ginsu guardrails” after the ginsu knives. They were installed in the Big Dig System to prevent workers from falling into traffic.
The defendants in the Cila case claim that the handrails satisfy industry, federal, and state guidelines. However, the Boston Globe reports that experts they consulted with agree that the handrails’ design is flawed. They cite the handrails’ bars as being too widely spaced apart, which can cause a motorist to becoming entangled in the event that his/her vehicle hits the barrier. They also say that the railings should be placed higher up.
Currently, the handrails are placed a little under three feet above the ground. This is the approximate height of a car window or a motorcycle seat. The experts did say that recklessness and human error, such as speeding, and failure to wear seat belts, also contributed to the grisly Big Dig auto crashes.
Review of tunnel handrails is urged, Boston.com, February 22, 2010
Crash Deaths Spark Big Dig Tunnel Lawsuit, WCVB, February 22, 2010