Starts & Stops

A traffic light shifts

The signals at the intersection of Route 3A and Manomet Point Road, looking north.
John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
The signals at the intersection of Route 3A and Manomet Point Road, looking north.

Call it the mysterious case of the shifting traffic light.

Peggy Croke of Plymouth wrote the state Department of Transportation about a problematic light at the intersection of Manomet Point Road and Route 3A in her hometown.

The traffic light is skewed left — way left, so if you’re driving in the right lane headed northwest it’s difficult to tell that the light is meant for you at all.


“It is way too far to the left,” Croke wrote in her message to MassDOT. “When will this be corrected?! I fear it’s open for an accident waiting to happen, as it appears cars can travel straight through the intersection, going north, without stopping!!!”

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She feared that, someday, a driver may miss the traffic light entirely, unintentionally blowing through a red light and potentially causing a collision in the busy intersection.

It is not that there are no rules on such situations, because there are: According to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices — that menu of all things traffic design from the Federal Highway Administration — two traffic lights corresponding to lanes of traffic must be on either side of “the center of the approach.”

Specifically, they should be at 20-degree angles on either side of the approach. At the Plymouth intersection, things are most certainly off-base.

After months of complaints to MassDOT, she finally received a response last week.


“A MassDOT engineer has investigated this issue and has confirmed that the traffic signal has shifted from its original location,” the response said. “The engineer has notified the contractor to reposition and secure the signal head.”

Great. Problem soon to be solved. But “the traffic signal has shifted from its original location” . . . what does that mean? How could the traffic signal have “shifted”? A slow migration of tectonic plates? Blown five feet by the wind?

For her part, Peggy says that the light, which was installed about a year ago, has always been in that position. But she says she’s willing to give up the argument about whether the traffic light moved on its own accord. She just wants it fixed before anyone gets hurt.

‘PoeTry’ project is hoping for a summer-long run

Last month, Mass Poetry debuted a public transit poetry project — dubbed “PoeTry” — to highlight three contemporary poems on the walls of subway cars in celebration of National Poetry Month.

My favorite: Joseph O. Legaspi’s “What Travels,” with its stirring line that evokes so much thought in the middle of a commute: “What is train but transport to other lives?”


Now, the organization is trying to keep the program continuing through the summer, and has launched a fund-raiser to solicit donations “to enrich the commutes of the millions of citizens who ride the T every day.”

So far, they’re 30 percent of the way to their $9,000 goal, which would get poetry posters on 60 subway cars.

Donors get thank-you gifts — postcards, broadsides, or posters that display a poem chosen by the organization. So, if poetry is your thing:

What’s that weird structure at the end of the Tobin?

Multiple readers have inquired about the strange new metal structure that has appeared overhead at the Boston end of the Tobin Bridge: That’s the new gantry for the bridge’s long-awaited switch to all-electronic toll collection.

In the spring of 2013, MassDOT officials said the switch on the Tobin Bridge would occur before the end of that year; 2013 has since come and gone, but the toll-takers are still taking tolls on the apex of the Tobin.

This week I asked MassDOT for an update, and a spokeswoman said the launch date will be in July — though an exact date has not been set.

The Massachusetts Turnpike-wide switch to all-electronic tolling is still set for summer 2016, though it is unclear whether the delays on the Tobin will push back the expected arrival date on the Pike.

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