Where did that stop sign come from?

Somewhere between the Blue Hills and the best supply of winter blueberries I’ve found near Boston, I drove through a series of “nuisance” stop signs.

If you look on a map you’ll see Dana Avenue, Hyde Park, Boston is a line from point A to point B, one of only two crossings over 3 miles of the Neponset River and a commuter rail line.

What probably happened is residents complained about outsiders on their street and the city posted stop signs to deter cut-through traffic.

That is illegal in Massachusetts. You can’t use stop signs for traffic calming. You can’t use all-way stops at low-volume intersections without a documented safety problem. Almost all the reasons people want stop signs are not legal reasons to post stop signs.

I asked the Boston Transportation Department for the paperwork backing up the signs. There’s supposed to be an engineer’s report and an entry on the official list of stop signs.

Nothing. Boston doesn’t even know where its stop signs are, much less why they are. That official list of stop signs mentioned in city ordinances doesn’t exist.

If there are any records — I’d bet many signs appeared unofficially — they are scattered around old file cabinets. If I really cared I could insist the city look, and the city would have the right to charge me the cost of locating and copying records.

The answer is good enough. The city isn’t going to defend the stop signs. I will treat them as illegal.

Not satisfied with this situation, Boston hired a consultant to find out where its stop signs are. Every sign and pavement marking in the city will go into a database.

The town of Wellesley went through a similar process 10-20 years ago. Somebody entered all the signs into a database, including the illegal speed limit signs that MassHighway had ordered removed.

When Boston finishes modernizing the BTD will be able to reply “the computer tells us there is a stop sign there, just like you saw!”

But the computer still won’t be able to tell me if it’s a legal stop sign.

The opinions expressed in belong to the author and do not necessarily represent those of the National Motorists Association or the NMA Foundation. This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice. No representations are made regarding the accuracy of this post or the included links.

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