January 6, 2016
Boston – On Wednesday, January 6th Senator Richard J. Ross testified before a public hearing of the Joint Committee on Transportation regarding legislation he filed to preserve public safety and prevent trespassing on state highways.
Senator Ross filed the legislation early last year in response to serious public safety concerns on several interstate highways due to several demonstrators stopping traffic.
S1869: An Act Relative to Preserving Public Safety and Preventing Trespassing on State Highways would punish anyone who willfully trespasses upon a state highway without just cause, with a fine of not less than $5,000 or imprisonment for not more than six months.
“Just cause” shall be included but not limited to a disabled vehicle or medical emergency, provided the person offers proof of the situation.
“When traffic is purposely disrupted or stalled to send a message, it is a serious public safety concern. As a legislature, it is our responsibility to ensure that this behavior does not become a trend and that the public is aware of the consequences associated with these actions,” said Senator Ross.
The bill comes as a result of 29 protestors being arrested after blocking I-93 northbound at East Milton Square and I-93 southbound at Mystic Avenue in Medford at 7:30am on Thursday, January 15, 2015. Police reported that the people chained themselves to 1,200 pound barrels causing massive delays. The month before, four men were arrested after trespassing on the Massachusetts Turnpike, causing the major roadway to shut down for several minutes during peak commuting hours.
“While I respect and encourage lawful protesting, we cannot allow lives to be put at risk. The incident that occurred last year resulted in not only considerable delays, but put hundreds of people in danger and prevented ambulances from having efficient access to area hospitals. Increasing penalties would serve as a deterrent and encourage more meaningful discourse and discussion on pertinent issues in appropriate locations,” said Senator Ross.
The bill has a wide range of bipartisan support with 22 cosponsors.
The current penalty for trespassing on a state highway is a fine of not more than fifty dollars or imprisonment of not more than three months.
Please contact the office of Senator Ross with any questions or concerns at (617) 722-1555 or Richard.Ross@masenate.gov.