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Starts & Stops

Driver's alleged free ride ends in cuffs

Email|Print| Text size + By Noah Bierman and Sarah M. Gantz
Globe Correspondent / February 17, 2008

Some of us might have had that dream, the one in which we drive up to the toll booth, see the demand for money, and say "No. I'm not going to pay. You can do what you want with me, but I'm not going to give you 75 cents - or whatever it costs; and I'm not going to stop."

Maine state troopers say they caught a man who lived that dream more than 1,300 times.

Derek M. Theriault, 28, of New Hampshire, racked up those violations in just 2 1/2 years, after his E-ZPass was suspended in 2005 for nonpayment, police said. He allegedly breezed through the York toll plaza, saving $1.75 a pop, and another booth at exit 44 in Scarborough, saving 60 cents each time.

"There are only two tolls that he ran, but he just ran them repeatedly," said Roger Teachout, the trooper who apprehended Theriault.

Teachout said he decided to hunt Theriault down after he landed at the top of a list of the state's all-time toll scofflaws, based on reams of photographic evidence. Teachout had already caught a lower-ranking member of the most-wanted list, whom toll-takers allegedly spotted wearing hats and a fake beard.

On Feb. 8, at 6:30 a.m., Teachout parked his cruiser by the York exit and waited for the fish to come to him.

Bingo. Theriault drove through before 7:30, as usual, and Teachout pulled him over, slapped handcuffs on, and read him his Miranda rights before taking him to jail. Teachout said the toll evasions amounted to twice the $1,000 threshold for a felony charge.

A message left for Theriault at his workplace was not returned.

Remember those commercials where a frail lady presses an emergency call button, moaning "I've fallen and I can't get up?"

A junior at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst has invented an upgrade, presumably for younger folks who get around on bicycles and motorcycles.

He has designed a helmet with a built-in device that detects a crash and dials for help, using a satellite transponder to mark the victim's location. Cars with the OnStar system employ a similar technology.

Brycen Spencer, 21, developed the idea while brainstorming for an engineering class. He knows plenty of people in his hometown, Carver, who ride all-terrain vehicles around cranberry bogs or in remote woods.

"If you crash or get injured, it's real hard to get back or call for help," he said.

Spencer has won a few inventors' awards at UMass and has applied for a temporary patent. Similar devices marketed to skiers require the user to activate them; usually no help to the unconscious. Spencer is still testing the mechanics of his helmet. He said the components all work, and he expects to have a prototype within a year.

Christina O'Neill was excited when the MBTA announced last month that it launched a free wireless Internet program on her commuter line from Worcester to Boston. She spends nearly three hours a day on the train and likes to get a jump start on work.

But O'Neill has not been able to log on for long, even when she finds a train with a Wi-Fi sticker identifying it as a wireless carrier.

"Consistently, I can't get connected until around Wellesley," about an hour into her 90 minute inbound trip, she said.

O'Neill has been checking every day, and asking her neighbors, but the system has been sluggish even when it works, she reported in a series of e-mails.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority says riders should expect some bugs as the project remains in its pilot phase. General Manager Daniel A. Grabauskas said in an e-mail that the vast majority of the 90 people who have e-mailed the T have been successful connecting. Other data gathered by the T shows 1,407 different visitors have logged on for an average of 32 minutes.

If you have a Wi-Fi problem or a suggestion, and want to e-mail the T, be sure to include the coach number, the date, time, and a full description of the issue. (wifipilot@mbta.com).

Last week, in an item about the closed-meeting process of the Massachusetts Port Authority, I paraphrased spokesman Matt Brelis, explaining that his agency is considering making its agendas public in advance of its meetings. In describing Brelis's response, I used the word secret to characterize the agendas under the current policy. That was my word, not his. Brelis said he would not use that word to describe the agendas because they are made public on the day of the meeting.

Can't get there...

Two or three lanes of Interstate 93 South will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Friday.

A section of I-93 South at Exit 20B will close 1 to 5 a.m. Saturday.

The Haymarket onramp to I-93 South and the Callahan Tunnel will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Thursday. It will close at 11 p.m. Tuesday.

Exit 23 to Purchase Street off I-93 South will close 11:30 p.m. Wednesday until 5 a.m. Thursday.

The Essex Street onramp to I-93 South will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Tuesday and 1 to 5 a.m. Saturday.

The Herald Street onramp to I-93 South will close 1 to 5 a.m. Saturday.

Two or three lanes of I-93 North through Downtown and Charlestown will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Friday.

Exit 26 to Storrow Drive off I-93 North will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. the next morning on Wednesday and Thursday.

The underpass from Storrow Drive eastbound to I-93 North and the Tobin Bridge will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Thursday.

The Sumner Tunnel onramp to I-93 North will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Friday.

The Haymarket onramp to I-93 North will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Friday.

Exit 23 to Government Center off I-93 North will close 1 to 5 a.m. Saturday.

The ramp at Exit 20 to Interstate 90 East off I-93 North will closed 11:30 p.m. Thursday until 5 a.m. Friday. Access to Kneeland Street and South Station will remain open.

The ramp from Frontage Road Northbound/Broadway to I-93 North will close 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Thursday.

Lanes will be closed on I-90 East near the Prudential Tunnel 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Thursday.

The ramps at Exit 24B and C off I-90 East to I-93 North and South will close 11:59 p.m. Friday until 5 a.m. Saturday. Access to Kneeland Street and South Station will remain open.

One lane of I-90 East in the Ted Williams Tunnel will close 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. the next morning on Wednesday and Friday.

The onramp from Congress Street to I-93 in South Boston and Exit 24 off I-90 West to I-93 will close 11:59 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Saturday.

One lane of I-90 West in the Ted Williams Tunnel will close 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Tuesday through Friday.

Nighttime lane closures will take place on I-90 West near Exit 15 at the Newton/Weston line 10:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. the next morning on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Congress Street onramp to I-93 South and I-90 West will close 1 to 5 a.m. Saturday.

The Sumner Tunnel onramp to Storrow Drive will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. the next morning on Wednesday and Thursday.

One lane of the Sumner Tunnel will close 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. the next morning on Wednesday and Thursday.

Route 1A North near Logan Airport will close during daytime off-peak hours, 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Thursday and Friday.

Please send complaints, comments, or story ideas to starts@globe.com The column can be found at boston.com/starts.

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