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STARTS & STOPS

Curse sign comes down . . . and traffic backs up

Governor Mitt Romney, who has long pledged to put commuters first, and the Department of Conservation and Recreation, formerly the Metropolitan District Commission, teamed up the other day to cause a traffic jam.

Ambulances were delayed, business people missed appointments, and stress levels jumped, all for a photo opportunity.

Worst of all, Romney came to Storrow Drive, ceremoniously wielded a welding torch, and took down the now infamous and beloved Reverse Curve sign, which had long been altered by graffiti artists to read "Reverse the Curse."

It's gone, folks.

While Red Sox fever is widespread and the Curse is over for good, we have to wonder about the wisdom of staging an event that closed two lanes of Storrow Drive, backed traffic on Interstate 93 southbound to Somerville, clogged the Leverett Connector, and caused chaos in Sullivan and City squares. Readers said the jam lasted about 1 1/2 hours.

Worst of all, the sign was taken down despite assurances to readers of this column from Department of Conservation and Recreation officials that it would remain in place and be cleaned up whenever letters were added and subtracted.

The sign won't hang in the Romney living room. It's going to the Red Sox Foundation, where it will be auctioned off.

Regardless, Starts & Stops Nation is not pleased.

Most of the e-mails we received were not fit for a family newspaper, so we'll let John of Salem speak for them all.

"It took over an hour to get from Sullivan Square to Massachusetts Avenue," wrote John, who also posted his message on the ne.transportation newsgroup. "Ambulances, while delayed, fought their way through to Mass. General, but thousands of other drivers surely missed appointments and were inconvenienced.

"Finally, at the Longfellow Bridge, the reason for the terrible jam became apparent: Two lanes of Storrow Drive were closed off by several MDC vehicles. On the right side of the highway were gathered a couple [of] dozen people in business attire watching two workmen remove graffiti from the 'Reverse Curve' sign. Standing at the curb was a 'politician looking' man in a fancy suit, alongside another man wearing a baseball cap."

Then John got specific:

"These hooligans happily posed for their private photo opportunities, oblivious to the misery and expense they were causing the general public. If removing the sign was so important, why didn't they have a plan to do so at night or in the early morning hours before heavy traffic? At least, it could have been done quickly and with closing only one lane of traffic. Instead, with no advance warning, that showed a total lack of respect to drivers, the MDC made it into a spectacle for self-promotion.

"When revelers blocked Massachusetts Avenue last [week], they were arrested. The MDC caused a worse problem that affected many more innocent people. Instead of being arrested, they just keep feeding at the public trough."

The governor's folks responded. Romney spokeswoman Shawn Feddeman offered no apologies before taking a political shot on the local presidential candidate. "It was a quick event, and we took steps to minimize traffic disruptions, including keeping the event brief," Feddeman said. "Comparatively speaking, it was nothing when you consider the five-day traffic tie-up in the Back Bay caused by shutting down a portion of Dartmouth Street to construct staging for Senator [John] Kerry's election night event."

Ouch, though we've received no complaints from the public about said tie-up.

"It's nothing compared to that," Feddeman said. "The sign was an eyesore and factually incorrect, and we were pleased to be able to donate it to charity."

Pit stops

From the start of service until noon next Sunday, Nov. 7, Orange Line service between Wellington and Back Bay stations will be replaced with buses. . . . During the first two weekends in November, starting at 9 p.m. each Friday and ending at the end of service Sunday, buses will replace Red Line service between Ashmont and JFK/UMass stations. Ashmont, Shawmut, and Fields Corner customers can get service along Dorchester Avenue at any designated bus stop. Buses will make all stops along Dorchester Avenue in both directions. This weekend diversion is one of many over the next three years.

Can't get there . . .

The MassPike eastbound between Exit 22 (Prudential/Copley) and South Boston will be closed from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Friday morning and from 12:01 to 7 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 6, and Sunday, Nov. 7. Direct access from the Ted William Tunnel from I-93 north, Frontage Road, and South Boston will remain open.

The Frontage Road Northbound onramp to the MassPike westbound at the Broadway Bridge will be closed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Friday morning and from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. Friday through Sunday morning.

The ramps at Exit 20 (MassPike/Logan) from I-93 northbound will be closed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Friday morning and from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. Friday through Sunday morning. The Exit 20 ramp to Frontage Road Northbound and South Station will remain open.

The MassPike westbound in South Boston will be closed from 12:01 to 5 a.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 12:01 to 7 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 6, and next Sunday, Nov. 7. The onramp to the MassPike westbound from D Street will also be closed.

The Storrow Drive onramp to I-93 south will be closed from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Tuesday. Martha Road between Storrow Drive and Lomasney Way will also be closed. The onramp will also be closed from 12:01 to 5 a.m. Wednesday through Friday and from 1 to 6 a.m. Saturday.

I-93 south over the Charles River will be closed from 12:01 to 5 a.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 1 to 6 a.m. Saturday. Also, the onramps to I-93 south from Mystic Avenue and Storrow Drive will also be closed.

The Storrow Drive onramp to the Leverett Connector leading to I-93 north and the Tobin Bridge will be closed from 12:01 to 5 a.m. Tuesday.

The Rutherford Avenue onramp to the Tobin Bridge will be closed from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday morning.

The ramp from the Tobin Bridge to I-93 south will be closed from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday morning.

The Haymarket onramp to I-93 south and the Callahan Tunnel will be closed from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Friday morning and from 11 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday.

The Sumner Tunnel onramp to I-93 north and Government Center/North End will be closed from 12:01 to 5 a.m. Thursday and Friday and from 12:01 to 6 a.m. Saturday.

The Sumner Tunnel onramp to I-93 north will be closed from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. tomorrow through Friday and from 12:01 to 5 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Haymarket onramp to I-93 north will be closed from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. tomorrow through Friday.

The Atlantic Avenue onramp to I-93 north will be closed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Saturday morning.

Complain to us at starts@globe.com. Don't forget to send us your hometown. Outside the paper, the column can be found at www.boston.com/news/local/startsandstops/. Our mailing address is Starts & Stops, P.O. Box 55819, Boston, MA 02205-5819.

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