ESSEX — Officials with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation removed all its civilian traffic flaggers from the Causeway Route 133 construction project this morning and replaced them with a police detail after an apparent clash between one of the flaggers and a motorist.
But a DOT spokesman told the Times this afternoon that, while the flagger involved has been "removed for disciplinary reasons," a flag crew will return to direct traffic at the site on Monday.
MassDOT briefly shut down the construction project shortly after 9 a.m., until Essex police dispatched officers to handle detail duty at the site. Work on the project resumed this afternoon, with two police officers — at least one from Gloucester — serving on the detail.
Essex Police Chief Peter Silva said he got a call from a DOT worker after a female motorist passing through the work area this morning apparently clashed with a flagger holding a stop/slow sign. In the course of the incident, the flagger apparently struck the vehicle "near the windshield," breaking the sign, Suilva said.
"The unidentified driver did not stop," Police Chief Peter Silva said.
The Essex site is one of several around the state at which the DOT has been using flaggers in place of uniformed police officers in a cost-saving move. Police unions and a number of officials have raised questions about the level of savings, and police unions have been adamant in fighting the move to flaggers, citing the public safety advantages of having police officers at the scene of construction projects.
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DOT spokesman Adam Hurtubise, however, said the commonwealth has in fact save more than $10 million since it began using flaggers instead of uniformed police on various construction jobs last year.
For more coverage, look to Saturday's print and online editions of the Gloucester Daily Times and gloucestertimes.com.
Brendan Connolly can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3447, or firstname.lastname@example.org.