Bay State travelers heading west for the holiday weekend experienced massive delays as part of a 45-mile backup on the Massachusetts Turnpike Friday that is believed to be one of the worst traffic jams on the highway in years.
The state Department of Transportation had warned drivers to expect delays because of the backup, which stretched from Charlton to Boston and from exit 19 to exit 9. The traffic tie-up was slowly clearing up Friday night, State Police and the state Transportation Department said.
David Procopio, State Police spokesman, said that despite some car accidents and disabled vehicles through the day, the high volume of traffic was due mainly to people traveling for the Columbus Day holiday weekend.
“It’s one of the heaviest traffic days we’ve seen this year,” he said.
Leila Amerling recounted her bus ride from Boston to Pittsfield, inching very slowly down the highway. Her trip home, which normally takes 3½ hours, lasted six hours on Friday, she said.
“[I] didn’t realize what I was getting myself into until we hit the Pike about 15 minutes out of Boston,” Amerling, 30, said. “[This is] one of the main reasons why I don’t even drive in this state.”
The heavy congestion was gradually clearing, with cars moving at approximately 35 miles per hour at 7:30 p.m., said Michael Verseckes, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation.
Yet, those in the Sturbridge-Charlton area were still struggling to get home as traffic volume remained high at 8:15 p.m., Procopio added.
He predicted the heavy traffic would clear later last night.
“This is one of the biggest weekends for travel,” said Verseckes. “There was a substantial backup with people leaving work early and trying to get the most of the weekend.”
Verseckes said tolls would have to be calculated after the weekend frenzy to determine if it had been the worst traffic jam the state has ever seen.
Melanie Dostis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.