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Starts & Stops

Rider raises concerns about gap between platform, train

An Amtrak Acela at South Station, en route to New York and Washington.

ohn Tlumacki /Globe Staff

An Amtrak Acela at South Station, en route to New York and Washington.

Returning from her daughter’s wedding in New York, Laura Bernard of Boston was stepping off the Acela at South Station on July 1 when her left leg plunged through a gap between the train and the platform, scraping off the skin and leaving her bloody and bruised.

“Oh my God, it was traumatic,” said Bernard, who does not remember the startling fall itself, only the immediate aftermath. “I must’ve grabbed the platform with my right hand because two nails broke. Then I was standing up and my leg was bleeding. ... It was like raw meat, it was all bloody, and people came by and said, ‘Are you all right?’ and I said, ‘No.’ ”

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The station manager brought a wheelchair and called an ambulance. On the way to Massachusetts General Hospital, Bernard said she was told by an emergency medical technician that crews had responded to a similar accident at South Station just days before.

Bernard wrote last week to Amtrak, to the state Department of Transportation, and to the National Transportation Safety Board.

“I think some attempt should be made by Amtrak or the station to remedy this situation before some other person is injured,” Bernard wrote, copying the letter to the Globe. “Ferries and other boats have a ramp for embarkation and disembarkation. Perhaps Amtrak could install a similar device to their cars for passengers to enter and exit safely.”

Amtrak trains, like MBTA commuter rail coaches, carry bridge plates that can serve that purpose, but they are deployed only at a customer’s request.

Bernard said she has heard only from Amtrak, which did not apologize but sent a cryptic form to release her medical information related to the accident, apparently as part of its review.

‘I was lucky because I didn’t break any bones . . . I’m just worried this will happen to other people.’

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Though she normally takes the T and walks to get around, she has been forced to use taxis since the accident to reach doctor’s appointments and run errands; she hopes Amtrak will at least reimburse her cab fares.

MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo called the incident an Amtrak matter but said there are no defects or structural issues associated with the platform in question.

Amtrak spokesman Cliff Cole responded with a statement: “Amtrak is aware of the incident and is looking into the matter. We can also add that these types of incidents are still considered to be rare throughout our system.”

Cole said he could not comment on the frequency of such falls at South Station, the specifics of this matter, or the gap between platform and train in Boston. But he said Amtrak service standards require crews to make announcements three minutes ahead and again at arrival cautioning passengers to mind any gap when disembarking.

Bernard is a youthful 77 — she walks 3 miles a day and goes to the gym three times a week — but said she has been hobbled since the fall, fighting persistent pain and swelling.

“I was lucky because I didn’t break any bones, probably because my bones are strong,” she said. “I’m just worried this will happen to other people.”

Fixing bridge on Route 3

Good news for South Shore commuters and people heading to the Cape from Route 128: The state has come up with a temporary fix to support the degraded bridge on Route 3 near the Braintree-Quincy line that forced a lane shift and snarled traffic for the past month. And that means traffic should return to normal by the end of summer.

If you missed it, last month the state narrowed the three lanes on an elevated section of Route 3 suth and shifted them to the right, eliminating the breakdown lane, to shift weight away from a degraded secondary steel support beneath the highway.

And to calm — in other words, to slow — traffic approaching that shift, the state forced drivers exiting Route 128 south onto Route 3 to form one lane instead of two. The combination has snarled traffic at the merge.

“I’ve been driving from Interstate 93 north” — which, only in Massachusetts, doubles as Route 128 south — “for the past five years, and I’ve never seen this kind of traffic,” one reader, Carisa Mendoza, wrote recently. “It doesn’t matter what time [rush hour or not]; the traffic is horrendous.”

When I wrote about this last month, state officials said they were trying to figure out both a short-term and a long-term fix. Department of Transportation spokesman Michael Verseckes said Friday that the agency has resolved the short-term fix and will begin this week to erect a set of six vertical steel columns to support Route 3 from below.

The columns will be anchored from the Thomas E. Burgin Parkway, which runs beneath Route 3, and will be surrounded by barriers but will not require lane closures on the Burgin Parkway.

Excavation, erection, and support will take about six weeks, meaning the Route 3/Route 128 changes will be lifted at the end of August, Verseckes said.

“We realize this has caused a lot of headaches for people,” he said. “We appreciate everybody’s patience in bearing with us.”

The state does not yet have a cost estimate for the short-term work, and a long-term solution is still being developed, Verseckes said.

Boston signals and streets

Reader Dean Waller wrote in recently to ask two questions about prominent Boston streets. He wanted to know what was up with the traffic signals on Berkeley Street falling out of synch between Boylston and Beacon streets, causing backups and requiring drivers to wait multiple light cycles just to travel one block.

He also asked about the condition of the pavement on Clarendon Street in the South End, calling it one of the worst stretches in Boston.

“For three years, I’ve expected the city to repave each summer between Columbus and Warren,” he wrote. “What gives?”

First, the good news. The city discovered the signal issue on Berkeley and has already corrected it, said Tracey Ganiatsos, spokeswoman for the Boston Transportation Department. The problem was a malfunctioning modem that is supposed to communicate between the on-street control box for that signal and the wider system monitored at City Hall’s Traffic Management Center, where real-time changes can be made remotely, she said.

The modem was repaired, restoring communication, and the signal is now working properly, Ganiatsos said.

As for resurfacing, the Boston Public Works Department has its sights set on Clarendon between Columbus Avenue and Tremont Street, said John Guilfoil, spokesman for Mayor Thomas M. Menino. The work could occur next summer, after electric and gas company National Grid completes a main replacement on the street, he said.

Eric Moskowitz can be reached at emoskowitz@globe.com.
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