Route 9 Railroad Overpass Signage

This page provides an overview of the road signage leading to the Route 9 (Main St / Bridges St) railroad overpass in downtown Northampton, Mass.

If you landed on this page because of a Google search we would recommend that you first visit the Route 9 Railroad Overpass in Northampton page.

Overview

The passive and active warning devices along the approach roads to the overpass could be improved. A recent review of the signage along these roads identified these issues:

  • The railroad overpass does not have a standard Low Clearance sign mounted on it
  • Some of the Low Clearance signs for overpass are missing the appropriate supplemental plaque, as example a Right Arrow or an AHEAD sign
  • There are non-standard Low Clearance signs at a few locations
  • The over height vehicle detection system is not working on 2 of the 4 roads leading to the overpass, and
  • Some of the warning lights, under the Low Clearance signs, are damaged

 

Further details and commentary can be found below.

(Note that the issues detailed below are as of September 1, 2020. The list will be updated when changes are observed.)

 


Locus Map

This interactive Google Map details the location of each Low Clearance warning sign for the bridge.

If someone is aware of a sign that we have missed please let us know.

 


Background information

Road signs are, for the most part, standardized by federal regulations, most notably in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) and its companion volume the Standard Highway Signs and Markings Book.

The MUTCD is the national standard for all traffic control devices installed on any street, highway, bikeway, or private road open to public travel. (Ref. 23 CFR 655.603)

The two Low Clearance signs detailed in the MUTCP are shown below —

MUTCD W12-2 Low Clearance sign
(with arrows)

 

MUTCD W12-2a Low Clearance sign

 

Requirements and recommendations for the design and placement of vertical clearance signs are described in this excerpt from the MUTCD —

Section 2C.27 Low Clearance Signs (W12-2 and W12-2a)
Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (PDF) | Page 120

 

According to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) website, there are no specific standards that detail when and how low clearance structures should be marked in Massachusetts. This simply means that the federal standards apply.

Some state DOTs though have developed sign guidelines that go beyond what is detailed in the MUTCD.

In particular the Texas Department of Transportation uses this sensible decision tree when for the placement of for at low clearance structures in the state —

Source : http://onlinemanuals.txdot.gov/txdotmanuals/smk/vertical_clearance.htm

 

Glossary

A Supplemental plaque — as example, AHEAD and LOW CLEARANCE —  is a sign mounted below Vehicular Traffic Warning signs to provide advance notice to road users.

 


Main St (Route 9) approach from the west

Main St (Route 9) Sign #1 | 900 ft before the overpass
Standard W12-2 Low Clearance sign with flashing yellow warning lights1

Comment | This sign is posted well in advance of the overpass, which at this point is far in the distance. The sign’s purpose is to get the drivers attention in advance of the low clearance structure that is ahead so that the driver can take action before reaching the overpass.

A standard supplemental plaque with the word AHEAD should be placed under the sign, in a manor similar to the Low Clearance signage on North Street.

 

Main St (Route 9) Sign #2 | 120 ft before the overpass
Standard W12-2 Low Clearance sign with flashing yellow warning lights1

Comment | Consideration should be given to adding a standard supplemental plaque with the word AHEAD under this sign since this sign is at the intersection and not at the overpass.

 

Main St (Route 9) Sign #3 | 30 ft before the overpass
Standard W12-2 Low Clearance sign, mounted 16 feet above the road, on the Manhan Trail overpass

Comment | This Low Clearance sign, with its posted height of 11′ 0″, is mounted on the bike overpass whose height is 16′ above street level. This seems a bit deceptive since the sign is mounted on a structure that 5 feet higher than the railroad overpass.

Comment | There is no warning sign on the actual low clearance structure [the railroad overpass]. Consideration should be given to adding a structure mounted “11 FT 0 IN” W12-2a sign to the front of the railroad overpass in place of this sign. An example of such a sign can be found on the railroad overpass above South Street in Dalton, Mass.

 


Bridge St (Route 9) approach from the east

Route 9 Sign #1 | 1 1/2 miles before the overpass
Standard W12-2 Low Clearance sign with two white supplemental plaques

 

Route 9 Sign #2 | 1 mile before the overpass
Standard W12-2 Low Clearance sign with a yellow supplemental plaque

 

Bridge St (Route 9) Sign #3 | 3,500 ft before the overpass
Non-standard sign with white background. The text reads, “11′ –  Bridge Ahead Truck Detour Next Right”

Comment 1 | This small sign is probably easily missed by truck drivers. Consideration should be given to replacing this sign with a larger sign with a black legend and border on a yellow background — the colors used on standard highway warning signs.

Comment 2 | On the truck detour — a sign should be added at the corner of Lincoln Ave and North St so that trucks know to turn right and not left at this intersection.

 

Bridge St (Route 9) Sign #4 | 350 ft before the overpass
Standard W12-2 Low Clearance sign with flashing yellow warning lights1 and a non-standard supplemental plaque

Comment | The supplemental plaque may be difficult to understand because of it small size and because it is a non-standard design. Consideration should be given to replacing the non-standard sign with a plaque with the word AHEAD, in a manor similar to the signage on North Street for the low clearance underpass ahead on this street.

 

Bridge St (Route 9) Sign #5 | 200 ft before the overpass
Non-standard yellow sign with digits “11′ ” and supplemental plaque with the words LOW CLEARANCE.

Comment | Consideration should given to replacing this non-standard sign with a standard W12-2 Low Clearance sign and a a supplemental plaque with the text “OVERSIZED VEHICLES MUST TURN LEFT”, in a manor similar to this Low Clearance signage on Main St in Holyoke.

 

Bridge St (Route 9) Sign #6 | 30 ft before the overpass
Two standard W12-2 Low Clearance sign and supplemental plaque with the words LOW CLEARANCE.

Comment | This is the standard signage for this location.

Comment | There is no warning sign on the low clearance structure [the railroad overpass]. Consideration should be given to adding a standard structure mounted “11 FT 0 IN” W12-2a sign to the front of the railroad overpass in place of this sign. An example of such a sign can be found on the railroad overpass over South Street in Dalton, Mass.

 


Pleasant St (Route 5) approach from the south

Pleasant St (Route 5) Sign #1 | 800 ft before the overpass
Standard W12-2 Low Clearance sign with flashing yellow warning lights1

Comment | The yellow warning lights under this sign are not working correctly. (they are constantly flashing) Additionally, one of the light fixtures is damaged.

Comment | The signage at this location makes no sense because it indicates a low clearance structure that is not visible to the driver at this location. This anomaly could be easily resolved with the addition of a standard supplemental arrow plaque, which is a Right Arrow, in a manor similar to the advance warning signage in use on King Street for the North Street overpass.

 

Pleasant St (Route 5) Sign #2 | 500 ft before the overpass
Non-standard yellow sign with the text “LOW UNDER PASS 11′ FT”

Comment | Consideration should be given to replacing this old sign with a new sign.

If the driver turns right on Main Street the next sign would be Main Street Sign #2 (noted above)

 


King St (Route 5) approach from the north

King St (Route 5) Sign #1 | 1,000 feet before the overpass
Standard W12-2 Low Clearance sign with flashing yellow warning lights1 and a non-standard supplemental plaque.

Comment | The yellow warning lights under the sign would appear to be not working. Additionally, one of the light fixtures is damaged.

Comment | The supplemental plaque may be difficult to understand because of it small size and because it is a non-standard design. Consideration should be given to replacing the non-standard supplemental sign with a standard supplemental arrow plaque, with a Left Arrow, in a manor similar to the signage being used on King Street to alert drivers to the low clearance North Street overpass.

 

King St (Route 5) Sign #2 | 500 feet before the overpass
Non-standard yellow sign with the text “LOW UNDER PASS 11′ FT”

Comment | Consideration should be given to replacing this old sign with a new sign.

 

If the driver turns left on Main Street the next sign would be Main St Sign #2.

 


See also

Route 9 Railroad Overpass in Northampton – the main page for this topic

 


Footnote

1 The flashing yellow warning lights are activated (for 30 seconds) when a vehicle over 11 feet in height is detected approaching the overpass on Bridge, King, Main, or Pleasant streets.

 


Further reading

Weight and Height Restrictions that Impact Truck Travel (PDF)
Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization | December 2017

 

 

Page last updated: September 7, 2020
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020