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Westwood police chief fears bridge is ‘perfect storm’ for major crash

Westwood Police Chief Jeffrey Silva, who became the town’s top cop 15 months ago, says he is being plagued by the same problem as his predecessors: the MBTA’s East Street bridge.

“That place has been a problem for probably 30 years,’’ if not longer, Silva said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

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“I would say it’s the most dangerous and/or problematic intersection that we have in town,’’ Silva said, adding that it is getting worse as traffic volume grows in the suburb southwest of Boston.

“When you combine those two elements of high volume and high risk, you set yourself up for the perfect storm,’’ Silva said.

“We’ve been very fortunate so far. We are hopeful we can get this situation ameliorated before anyone gets hurt.’’

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Just this week, there were three crashes at the bridge.

On Monday, a box truck was ripped apart when it slammed into the steel bridge, which can only accommodate vehicles that are 10 feet 6 inches high.

A 13-foot-high Freightliner truck driven by a man from Maine that was hauling lobster slammed into the bridge Tuesday. A small fire broke out in the truck cab, forcing major delays to the morning commute on the Franklin MBTA commuter rail line.

And the driver of a passenger car drove onto the curb of the winding road Wednesday and caromed into the path of an oncoming car.

There were no major injuries in the accidents.

All three crashes were captured by a Westwood police surveillance camera that Silva said was positioned near the MBTA bridge because of the chronic traffic problems there. On Wednesday, the department posted a fourth video, one that recorded a Dec. 10 crash of a rented box truck.

In 2012, an MBTA bus powered by natural gas had its roof skinned off, which led the Westwood Fire Department to evacuate area residents.

MBTA spokesman Joseph Pesaturo said the T did launch an effort to remake the bridge about 15 years ago, and the idea was dropped because of opposition from residents. But times have changed, and the T now lists a makeover for the East Street bridge on its priority list for bridge work.

“The bridge over East Street is on the MBTA’s priority list of bridges that will be designed for replacement,” Pesaturo wrote in an e-mail. “The MBTA has initiated the process of procuring a design consultant for a replacement bridge.

“The competitive bidding process will take several months, but once the designer is under contract,’’ the MBTA will meet with town officials to map out the next step, he said.

John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.
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