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    Starts & Stops

    A I-93 on ramp that’s off-the-charts nerve-racking

    Merging onto Interstate 93 southbound from Albany and Herald streets sometimes takes equal parts gumption and guile. Only the far left lane is permitted to enter the ramp.
    Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff
    Merging onto Interstate 93 southbound from Albany and Herald streets sometimes takes equal parts gumption and guile. Only the far left lane is permitted to enter the ramp.

    Few pleasures of Boston driving are more joyous than trying to merge onto I-93 during rush hour. And while the experience is exhilarating at any juncture, several readers have e-mailed to point out an on-ramp that is particularly hairy: The intersection of Herald and Albany streets in the South End, where the far left of three lanes of traffic merges onto the southbound highway.

    Doug of the Back Bay provided a wonderfully cogent description of the intersection, if you’re not familiar with the spot.

    “It is clearly marked that you should be in the left lane (of three lanes) with all lanes forced to take a right turn at the end of the street. Being in the left lane allows you to safely take the left side on-ramp to 93 S. Meanwhile, drivers are always trying to merge in from the center lane to take the left side on-ramp. It is clearly marked that you can’t do this on Herald Street.”


    Doug added, “I seem to have a near accident once a week because of drivers ignoring the signage.”

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    (Check out a video of the intersection at

    Another reader, Jerry, summed it up well.

    “The net result of this mass merging is a funnel-shaped parking lot of cars blocking the on-ramp to I-93 along with the lanes of Albany St.,” he wrote.

    By the way, he continued, the problem is exacerbated “by the fact that, at the top of the ramp, traffic on Southeast Expressway is super slow; hence, merging into the I-93 and onto the ramp is a slow process and cars do not readily exit the funnel.” And, he added, “there are interesting facial expressions and dynamics as drivers jockey to get onto the ramp.”


    As these readers say, the signs on Herald Street are pretty unequivocal about the fact that only those in the left-hand lane are allowed onto the ramp.

    Michael Verseckes, spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, confirmed that pushy drivers trying to elbow their way in from the right and center lanes are in the wrong.

    But, Verseckes said, some of the pavement markings that provide extra clarification for drivers have worn off in recent years. Motorists may well need additional reminders, he said.

    “MassDOT will work with the city of Boston to examine installing additional signs and will be adding pavement markings to improve the clarity of the lane assignments at the intersection,” he added.

    For new chief engineer, a long journey

    It’s 2013, so it shouldn’t be a big deal that MassDOT has just appointed its first woman in the role of chief highway engineer this past week, but considering the department’s longstanding reputation as an old boy’s club, it is.


    It was announced Wednesday that Patricia Leavenworth, formerly a district highway director, will oversee the construction and maintenance of the state’s roads and bridges.

    Praised for her “innovative spirit” by state Transportation Secretary Richard A. Davey, Leavenworth is a 26-year veteran of the division.

    She said her appointment is especially poignant considering how some in the department received her as she came into the job fresh out of college.

    At that time, she was told she would not be allowed out in the field on construction projects because it was considered too dangerous.

    “I’ve seen the agency grow and change a lot in the way it treats women,” Leavenworth said. “It’s a very different place than it was 26 years ago.”

    As she assumes her new role, Leavenworth said, she hopes to use technology to streamline the design process and get construction projects finished faster.

    One project she said she’s particularly eager to get started on: the revamping of the Longfellow Bridge, a complex endeavor that she said will be “fascinating.”

    Three years of construction, the elimination of northbound car traffic, and 25 weekends of Red Line diversions — what’s not to love?

    “I try not to look at them as headaches but instead to see them as challenges,” Leavenworth said. “It is stressful, but I think that’s how we grow as an agency.”

    Leavenworth lives in Westminster, so has a personal stake in keeping the state’s roads in top shape: Her commute to work is two hours each way.

    She usually listens to the radio in her car or conducts business over the phone — only with hands-free technology — but even so, she acknowledged, “it’s long.”

    She said she loves the view from Route 2 going west to Northampton, but her other favorite stretch of road?

    “My driveway,” she joked.

    Lights, camera . . . what’s the action?

    Commuters passing through the main foyer of Harvard Square Station on a recent Friday morning may have come across an unusual sight: a film shoot. Or something.

    The MBTA was tight-lipped on the details, confirming that there was some kind of film production May 31 that was somehow related to the T but declined to say whether it was a public service announcement or something else. Spokeswoman Kelly Smith said the finished product will debut in “a couple of weeks.”

    For now, here’s what we know — with a little help from the Twittersphere.

    1. The video/commercial/feature-length film will include a plush, life-sized Charlie (of CharlieCard fame).

    2. There will be dancing MBTA employees, according to @vmdbks, who wrote,

    “See dancing #MBTA workers at Harvard T station, say something?”

    3. Some people are really, really excited about it, as evidenced by Twitter user @nievved: “i am in a station during the filming of an mbta safety psa. it is transcendental. i am a whole new person now.”

    Martine Powers can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @martinepowers.