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Right-On-Red Comes to Boston

Starts January 1st

By Jonathan D. Rabinovitz

When it becomes legal to make a right turn on a red light this January 1, the law will not apply to 90 per cent of the state's intersections.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Works will spend approximately $358,000 to place "No Right Hand Turn on Red Light" signs at intersections, a source said yesterday.

Ninety-six per cent of Boston's intersections will need signs, Robert Drummond, an official in the Boston Traffic Department, estimated. An employee at the Cambridge Traffic Department said Cambridge would need signs for over 90 per cent of its intersections.

Drummond said right turns will not be legal on a red light where there is an exclusive pedestrian cross-walk, or where large numbers of pedestrians are normally present.

Every town will take an inventory of its intersections to decide which ones are dangerous for right-hand turns during red lights, Sue Myers, Massachusetts assistant secretary of transportation, said yesterday. At those intersections, towns will not post signs, she said.

The state will grant each town the necessary amount of money to implement the law, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Public Works said. The Federal Highway Administration will reimburse the state for much of the money, he said.

"The law will make it safer for the pedestrian," Myers said. "People from out of state don't know that a turn is illegal here, and surprise Boston pedestrians when they turn right on a red light," she said.

The Commission for the Blind has taken preventive measures against danger to blind pedestrians, Peggy Connors, a member of the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, said yesterday.

"It is an issue that blind people are very concerned about," Connors said, adding, "If it's handled right, it doesn't have to make things worse for the blind."

The commission has prepared a brochure and sent out a public service message to all the radio stations in the state to encourage blind people "to wait until they're sure," before crossing the street and to ask other people to offer their assistance to the blind.

Massachusetts is the last state to implement the law. The federal government pushed the law through to make a uniform motor vehicle code, and the government threatened to withhold the state's national energy funds if the state did not pass the bill.

Governor Edward J. King signed the bill on August 8.

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