Tractor-trailer stuck after driving half a mile down rail trail in Northampton

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Published: 4/19/2022 1:11:34 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A tractor-trailer entered the Norwottuck Rail Trail from Damon Road on Tuesday morning and traveled a distance of just under half a mile before it became trapped at a tight turn onto Bates Street, forcing a multi-agency response to remove the vehicle from the bike path.

Northampton police blocked the road and crews from the Department of Public Works responded along with Massachusetts State Police, Red’s Towing and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, which maintains the trail.

The DPW removed a stop sign and a pedestrian crossing sign to give the truck more room to turn onto Bates Street. The Red’s crew separated the truck from the trailer and towed them one at a time; still, the tow truck’s range of motion was limited by a tree across the street and the driver had to avoid getting the tires stuck in mud.

Some students and caregivers were at the Montesorri School nearby for programs during school vacation, and employee Chris Scanlon said the traffic tie-up would have been much worse if the incident had happened on a typical school day.

Scanlon said he saw the trapped truck at around 8 a.m. and flagged down a police officer who was working a detail with a tree-trimming crew down the street.

“I saw the truck coming down the bike path, and I automatically assumed it had something to do” with the tree trimming, Scanlon said. “I said to the police officer, ‘Is that supposed to be there?’ He said ‘No.’”

Scanlon said he was worried the situation would drag on “all day,” but around 9:45 a.m., he expressed relief, watching alongside Tony O’Callaghan, the school’s facilities manager who had gotten caught up in the initial traffic jam, as the tow truck successfully move the tractor-trailer.

“He tried several times to make the turn and he couldn’t do it,” O’Callaghan said.

“The good news is that we have the kind of kids who look out the window and think, ‘This is fun!’” Scanlon said. “They got their money’s worth today.”

On Damon Road, deep tire tracks were visible in the mud next to the intersection of the street and the bike path, which is marked by a sign that reads “Norwottuck Rail Trail.” A tractor-trailer is commonly 8½ feet wide, while the bike path is 10 feet wide.

“The giant granite rocks and the big yellow pole that keep vehicles from entering were removed” as part of an ongoing project by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, Northampton Police Sgt. Patrick Moody said.

A MassDOT spokesperson, Judith Riley, said there is a culvert replacement project underway. Orange metal drums are in place to keep the public out of the work zone and it “appears the truck drove far around the drums and across an unpaved area to get to the trail,” Riley said.

The driver said he had been trying to get to the Coca-Cola bottling facility on Industrial Drive and he followed the directions provided by his GPS, according to Moody; police did not receive any complaints from people on the bike path and Moody said it was unlikely that the area was being used due to the rain.

The Massachusetts State Police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Section, commonly called the Truck Team, responded and took the driver and the truck “out of service,” Moody said. A Massachusetts State Police spokesperson could not immediately detail any actions taken by the Truck Team.

Brian Steele can be reached at

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