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Boston launches 'Don't Block the Box' campaign to crack down on drivers who block intersections

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  August 24, 2012 12:16 PM

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Boston is cracking down on drivers who block intersections.

Police officers were scheduled to begin issuing citations today as part of an awareness and enforcement campaign the city launched this week called “Don’t Block the Box,” which runs similarly to strictly enforced measures in New York City.

The Boston campaign is based on a state law that prohibits drivers from entering an intersection when they will not be able to make it completely through before the light turns red, according to city officials.

Such a scenario often slows traffic or causes gridlock as the next group of drivers to get a green light has to maneuver around the vehicle blocking the intersection, if they are able to pass at all.

Drivers who fail to obey the law are subject to a $150 fine, the city said.

So far, 18 Boston intersections, 11 in the Longwood Medical Area, have been chosen for the campaign. Signs reading “Do Not Block Intersection, State Law $150 Fine” have been posted at the locations.

More locations will be added to the program “as necessary,” city officials said.

“We are giving the public fair warning,” Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said in a statement earlier this week.

He said officers had planned to distribute fliers about the campaign on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Citations were set to begin being issued today.

“‘Don’t Block the Box’ is yet another component to ensure safety and accessibility on Boston’s streets,” Mayor Thomas M. Menino said in a statement. “Drivers who venture into an intersection when it is impossible to drive through it cause traffic gridlock and pose a threat to pedestrians and people in wheelchairs by blocking crosswalks and interrupting the ‘walk’ cycles at traffic signals. This is in violation of existing state law and, in a busy city like Boston, it is imperative that this rule of the road is followed.”

The campaign is the result of a collaboration between the city and MASCO, a non-profit affiliate of the hospitals, schools, research and cultural organizations located in the Longwood Medical Area, city officials said.

“The thought of an ambulance being delayed in the medical area due to gridlock is appalling,” Boston Transportation Department Commissioner Thomas J. Tinlin said in a statement. “We are optimistic that the campaign will change driver behavior and result in safer and more efficient local streets for all of us.”

The state law that mandates “don’t block the box” reads, in part: “The driver of a motor vehicle shall not cross or enter an intersection, which it is unable to proceed through, without stopping and thereby blocking vehicles from travelling in a free direction. A green light is no defense to blocking the intersection. The driver must wait another cycle of the signal light, if necessary.”

The following intersections are included in the campaign:

  • Brookline Avenue and Francis Street
  • Brookline Avenue and Deaconess Road/Jimmy Fund Way
  • Brookline Avenue and Longwood Avenue
  • Longwood Avenue and Binney Street
  • Longwood Avenue and Blackfan Street
  • Evans Way and Fenway/Louis Prang Street
  • Huntington Avenue and Longwood Avenue
  • Huntington Avenue and St. Albans Road/Mission Street
  • Huntington Avenue and Fenwood Road
  • Brigham Circle
  • Huntington Avenue and Ruggles Street/Louis Prang Street
  • Atlantic Avenue and Congress Street
  • Atlantic Avenue and Seaport Boulevard
  • Congress Street and Purchase Street
  • Massachusetts Avenue and Albany Street
  • Massachusetts Avenue and St. Botolph Street
  • Boardman Street and Leydon Street
  • Meridian Street and Monmouth Street

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at
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