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What's up with the crickets?

Posted by Nichole Davis March 21, 2014 06:36 AM

Oh! Well, hello again. It's been a while, I know.

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Image courtesy of indiewire.com

You might have wondered why things got a little quiet around here. Unfortunately (or fortunately, as you might decide to see it), I've been incredibly busy with lots of fantastic opportunities, traffic and non-traffic related. It's been just crazy enough where the blog hasn't been able to get much, if any, time and love.

So, I've decided to pull the plug, at least for now.

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Monday mess on the Expressway

Posted by Nichole Davis January 20, 2014 12:55 PM

Traffic alert for your MLK Day holiday...

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A Callahan detour guide

Posted by Angela Nelson, Boston.com Staff December 27, 2013 09:43 AM

By Nichole Davis

The 52 year old Callahan Tunnel, which takes you out of Downtown Boston to Logan Airport and points on the North Shore via 1A, is going to be shutting down completely for several weeks. That's starting tonight at 11:00 PM. Now, we're not expecting it to be that big of a deal during the holiday week, but when volume picks up after the New Year, commute times (especially during the afternoon) could get really difficult.

As you also may have noticed, there's not just a few, but many detours being set up. The DOT's also been pushing this message pretty hard. I met recently with representatives from the DOT, including spokeswoman Sara Lavoie and State Traffic Engineer Neil Boudreau. They told me they're really trying to plan ahead for this closure, and that's why they've taken the time to set up so many detours -- including ones people might not have originally thought about. The DOT's been reaching out across the media, but the pair also told me they're utilizing different outlets, such as tearoffs on Logan Express buses and at the airport car rental centers.

Let's have a look at what your detour options are for the duration of the closure.

Keep in mind that you do have another tunnel option to get out to East Boston - the Ted Williams, of course, which isn't going to be shut down during this work. However, we've found that it's getting consistently busier, especially in afternoon drive -- sometimes it'll be jammed up end to end for hours. The thousands of cars that utilize the Callahan per day need to go somewhere, and we can absolutely determine that many of them will use the Ted Williams, which will just add to the gridlock already in place.

If you're coming from the downtown of Boston and want to take the Ted Williams, there's not exactly a direct route. You'll want to take the Expressway southbound to Exit 18 (Mass Ave), and then turn left at the end of the ramp onto the Bypass Road. Follow that road for just over a mile to the Mass Pike east on-ramp.

There's another way to get to the Ted Williams, too, if you're coming from the Theater District or South Station (near Kneeland Street). Get on the Kneeland Street ramp to 93 South and 90 West. Stay in the far left lane and follow the signs for the Express lane to the Airport. That will merge you in with the Ted Williams after just about half a mile.

The HOV lane to the airport will be open during the Callahan's closure -- and everyone will be able to use it. To access it from downtown or the South End, make your way to Albany Street and then enter Frontage Road northbound. Turn left under the highway and stay on Frontage Road north. Follow signs to the HOV Lane.

Coming in from western areas of Greater Boston (Brighton, Watertown, Newton, etc), you might be considering avoiding the Ted Williams, simply because of all the extra traffic. You can jump on Storrow Drive inbound to the Expressway southbound, get off at Mass Ave and take the aforementioned Bypass Road detour. The DOT also recommends taking Storrow to Leverett Circle, getting on Route 1 northbound and then getting off at Route 16 east. You can follow that for just over a mile to Bell Circle. Take 1A south to the airport -- you'll see it after just about 3 miles. Get off 1A at Curtis Street for access to East Boston. (By the way -- the DOT has informed me they've widened the ramp at Curtis Street, so it will be better able to handle the heavy traffic they've been expecting.)

Now, there's been detours published for as far out as Routes 2 and 3, as well as the 128 belt. Chances are that, if you're trying to get to the airport or East Boston from that far out, the Callahan wouldn't be your first choice anyway. But, in case it is, here's what the DOT recommends...

Coming from north of town on 3, 93 or 128, the DOT says you should get off 93 south at Route 16 east (Exit 31). Follow that for just about 6 miles to the Bell Circle Rotary, where you can then continue with the detour above. If you are planning to come in from Route 2, pick up Route 16 east at the Alewife rotary and just follow that straight to Bell Circle, where you'll then follow that prior detour that takes you down 1A. From west of 128, the DOT recommends you just take the Mass Pike and stick with it out to the Airport.

If you're thinking about taking public transit to try to avoid the ballyhoo that these detours and delays will cause, there's some good news for Blue Line riders. The MBTA will be keeping Bowdoin Station open later than normal -- in fact, it will be open seven days a week now during normal operating hours, as opposed to only staying open five days a week like it does now. An extra Blue Line train will also be added to normal service during the evening rush. Also, the Silver Line will be running service to and from the airport at peak consistently through the day.
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For the curious: The DOT has published the schedule of what they'll be working on. The first week of work will consist of demolishing the curb near each approach of the tunnel, and they'll also be milling pavement. The next week crews will start to demolish the concrete deck and continue working on taking apart the concrete curb inside the tunnel. I'll keep on top of what they're working on and try to pass it along as I can.

A Callahan detour guide, and your holiday transit options

Posted by Nichole Davis December 24, 2013 09:35 AM

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('Tis the season for space savers! I took this shot of a specimen in Brighton. I'll be collecting these throughout the winter -- send me your favorites at commuting.boston at gmail.) Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year! Please be safe in your travels.

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It's far from a Festivus miracle from the DOT -- the 52 year old Callahan Tunnel, which takes you out of Downtown Boston to Logan Airport and points on the North Shore via 1A, is going to be shutting down completely for several weeks. That's starting this Friday at 11:00 PM. Now, we're not expecting it to be that big of a deal during the holiday week, but when volume picks up after the New Year, commute times (especially during the afternoon) could get really difficult.

As you also may have noticed, there's not just a few, but many detours being set up. The DOT's also been pushing this message pretty hard. I met recently with representatives from the DOT, including spokeswoman Sara Lavoie and State Traffic Engineer Neil Boudreau. They told me they're really trying to plan ahead for this closure, and that's why they've taken the time to set up so many detours -- including ones people might not have originally thought about. The DOT's been reaching out across the media, but the pair also told me they're utilizing different outlets, such as tearoffs on Logan Express buses and at the airport car rental centers.

Let's have a look at what your detour options are for the duration of the closure.

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Starting to shovel and sand our way into the holiday season

Posted by Nichole Davis December 12, 2013 02:54 PM

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Ahhh, winter. You have arrived. Not quite to this extent -- this photo from the Boston Globe archives from 1936 shows getting rid of the white stuff has never exactly been easy... but we're at the point where salt's caking our cars and roads, the parking spot savers are making a reappearance and it's time to put the French Toast alert on full power.

(Check out this article for more historical storm photos around the city of Boston.)

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Testy Turkey Day travel - by plane, train, or automobile

Posted by Nichole Davis November 26, 2013 03:27 PM

It's been long-standing knowledge that one of the worst traffic days of the year is the day before Thanksgiving. Everyone and their mother, dog, and best friend all hit the roads at the same time and clog things up to immense levels. In fact, according to AAA, there are going to be 43.4 million people on the highways nationwide this year -- so you can imagine that a significant portion of those are going to be messing things up here in New England.

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Time to celebrate a Sox victory -- now how do you get here?

Posted by Nichole Davis November 1, 2013 04:02 PM
Quack quack!

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(Image courtesy of boston.com)

I don't know about you, but I'm a happy woman whenever a duck boat parade is scheduled. No matter what the cause, it's always fun to see the entire city (and half of the New England area, it seems) squeezed onto the city's sidewalks to celebrate.

Now, the question is, how exactly are you going to get into the city to join us? And, well, when you're here, how can you ensure you won't get a ticket, get towed, or accidentally drive straight into the parade route? I've got some information that will hopefully help...

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Navigating your way through a busy Boston evening

Posted by Nichole Davis October 30, 2013 01:05 PM

When Boston gets busy, we don't mess around.

Not only is some sort of baseball game happening today (I kid, I kid) ... but President Obama will be coming into town to speak about the Affordable Care Act. But hold on -- that's not all -- Drake will be performing tonight at the TD Garden. All of this, combined, should make for a crazy evening traffic-wise -- especially if the weather continues to be drizzly and messy. However, it could likely not be as bad as you would think. Let's tackle these events one by one:

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Prepping for peaking Pike tolls, and the temporary fate of Amtrak

Posted by Nichole Davis October 1, 2013 12:36 AM

While the countdown most people have been talking about is the one for the government shutdown, Western Massachusetts residents who are frequent users of the Mass Pike are dreading another upcoming date: October 15th.

That's the date tolls will begin to be collected between Exits 1 and 6 -- it will now cost you $1.75 to travel between 291 and the New York state line, and $5.85 to travel the entire length of the Pike. Don't forget, though -- there's a special step you have to take if you're a Western Massachusetts resident who already uses EZ-Pass.

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Narrowing down new navigation aids, and what's in a name?

Posted by Nichole Davis September 12, 2013 04:03 PM

Voting for the MBTA's New Perspectives MBTA Map Re-design contest is well underway. As a self-described transit nerd, of course this is something that's right up my alley (and, if you're reading this blog, I'm assuming it's something that probably interests you too).

If you're not familiar with what the contest is all about, essentially the T put the call out to designers and artists (as well as other transit nerds!) to put their own spin on the well-known T map. There were dozens of entries, but a panel has narrowed it down to just a few for the public to choose from.

Here's my thoughts on the top six entries...

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"Roads and Rails" is back from summer vacation - and so are the students

Posted by Nichole Davis August 28, 2013 06:15 PM

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In the words of a very popular camel, "Uh-oh. Guess what day it is?!"
(Technically, yes, it is "hump day", but that's not what I'm going for here.)

Yes, it's that time of year again - some call it "Allston Christmas", some call it the "student exodus" ... whatever your name for it, the next week or so is going to bring a flood of new arrivals to the city. If you're one of them and have come to this blog for commuting advice, welcome and thanks for stopping by! If there's one thing you need to keep in mind, please remember this:

Do not, under any circumstances (unless being chased by raptors, and even then), bring your moving truck on the river roads. And, if you do, follow the signs! There's an example in the photo above. If you see one of these, DO NOT KEEP GOING. Otherwise, you will likely end up like one of these unfortunate souls and that's just not fun for anyone involved. (Check out the gallery - I think the Weinermobile could have made it without help.)

For more tips, here's the gallery I put together for last year's move-in that provides a general overview of the ins and outs of getting around the city. If you have any other questions, leave them in the comments and I'll be sure to answer them!

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Behind the screens of the VMS, and downtown detours

Posted by Nichole Davis August 7, 2013 01:10 AM

There's more and more of those VMS boards popping up on area highways - VMS meaning "Variable Message Signs":

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Image credit: Rhode Island Department of Transportation

My pal Emil wrote to me recently with an inquiry about the content on these boards:

"I remember a while ago, there was a big stink about "GO SOX" and "GO PATS" showing up on VMS boards on the Pike, and how the boards should only be used to motorist info. Now, I'm seeing them with messages reminding me to renew my registration, and more recently, telling me that fireworks are illegal, and I'm subject to arrest or a fine. A couple of years ago, when they were having that beetle problem in Worcester, they said we shouldn't move firewood. If they're going to put these things up, then I'm OK with "GO BRUINS!" or other such messages.

I kind of question ones like "OUI: Over the limit, under arrest/Use designated driver". I don't think I know anyone who *doesn't* know that driving under the influence is a crime, and I honestly don't think that seeing that message on the highway will make someone think "I should get Charlie to drive, so I can get plastered!" The same goes for the warnings about texting and driving. Most reasonable people know they shouldn't be doing that, regardless of whether they still do it anyway.

Anyway, would you be interested in quizzing your contacts at MassDOT about what is and isn't appropriate for messages on VMS boards, and why I'm seeing more messages that aren't related to motorist info?"

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Nasty delays on Nashua Street, and more proof we're really not terrible drivers

Posted by Nichole Davis July 29, 2013 08:00 PM

What a response I got from my last entry about the Longfellow Bridge! Thanks for all your input - and thank you to all of those who wrote in with your transportation-related questions. I've got feelers out on many of them and am working to get you answers as fast as possible. If you're curious about something transportation related around the city, drop me a line at commuting.boston@gmail.com. Can't wait to hear from you.

By the way, if you're looking for the VMS story, I'm still putting some finishing touches on it - look for it to be published by the end of the week! Here's some other tidbits for you until then...
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Katerina from Cambridge wrote in:

My commute each day takes me down Nashua Street by Spaulding Rehab and the county Jail. For the past few weeks it's been really difficult to get through there because the road is constantly being torn up. You never know when the work is going to be taking place which is equally annoying. Traffic's being rerouted a lot and the delays can be long at times. Do you know if this is going to take too much longer?

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As one bridge closes in Cambridge, another one (unexpectedly) opens

Posted by Nichole Davis July 19, 2013 01:16 AM

A reminder:

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So tonight I took a ride over the Longfellow Bridge on my way home from work. It's going to be the last time for a while that I'll be able to scoot over to Cambridge that way, as they'll be shutting down Cambridge-bound traffic starting Saturday. For up to three years.

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A breakdown of horrendous holiday traffic, and a brewing bridge closure

Posted by Nichole Davis July 10, 2013 06:00 PM

A quick note re: Cape Cod traffic this past weekend... honestly, in the past three years that I've been working as a traffic reporter here in the Boston area, I've never seen it quite this bad over the July 4th weekend. Of course, I've had plenty of people ask why it was so...

The major thing to remember is that the July 4th weekend is always tough for travel. It ranks up there as one of the top five worst travel times of the year. No matter what time you leave, which direction you're going, it's still going to be tough.

This year, the holiday being a Thursday didn't help, because many just took it upon themselves to take off for a four day vacation. While that's always fun to do, you not only had the extra traffic on-Cape (and in Maine along the coast, and in New Hampshire's Lakes Region), but combine that with vacationers that have been deciding to get away since the kids have left school for the summer... it's a recipe for traffic disaster.

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A guide to getting around for a fantastic Fourth

Posted by Nichole Davis July 3, 2013 02:00 PM

Ah, welcome to one of the busiest travel days of the year - the day before July 4th.

Many would think, "Why is the day before the holiday busiest?" Lots of people are taking off and they want to beat the traffic - but, of course, they're going to be the traffic themselves, as everyone is going at the same time. There won't be as many people this year, however. The International Business Times reports that, according to AAA, only 40.8 million people will be hopping in their cars and heading out of town (to a destination at least 50 miles away). Now, you might wonder, why is that an "only"? That number's down at least one percent from this past year for a variety of reasons - money and time, namely.

Either way, it's going to feel like all 40 million are on the road with you at once for the next few days at times. Expect gridlock through this afternoon on all of your major highways heading out of the city to the usual vacation spots.

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Mother nature thwarts construction again, and good news for Fairmount line riders

Posted by Nichole Davis June 28, 2013 02:33 PM

There's been word all week about the DOT closing down two popular ramps to the O'Neill Tunnel and Zakim Bridge northbound for work over the weekend. However, the wet weather has foiled the plans, and it looks like that won't be happening.

Michael Verseckes of the DOT says the work was going to be taking place on the ramps from Haymarket Square and the Sumner Tunnel. They were set to be closed at 8:00 PM tonight and 10:00 PM tomorrow night. There's been no word as to when the work will be rescheduled for, but of course, when I find out, I'll pass it on.

Keep in mind, though - there's more in the way of closures coming up in the next few days...

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An Alford Street bridge driver's anguish, and the Callahan closure

Posted by Nichole Davis June 22, 2013 02:24 PM

We start today's entry with a question from Sean in Chelsea:

"I saw your post about the Chelsea Street bridge, and I wonder if you could find out what the deal is on the Rte 99 bridge just outside Sullivan Square. I go over it every day and I've been tracking the "progress" or lack thereof for years. Back in November of 2010 is when the traffic was first reduced to 2 lanes from 4 and routed over the east 2 lanes of the bridge. They've had complete access to the other 2 lanes for over 2 1/2 years and they are not done yet. Best guess it looks like it could be 3 full years to do 1/2 of the work.

Again, they have complete access to that side of the bridge. What the hell is taking so long? They got the Chelsea Street bridge complete (or nearly complete) with 6 months of uninterrupted access. Is it really going to take 6 years or more to compete this work?"

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Parking problems on the Fitchburg Line, and another 93 closure

Posted by Nichole Davis June 17, 2013 12:15 AM

Commuters in Leominster are about to be a little more inconvenienced.

If you've been utilizing the shuttle service provided by the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority that runs from the Mall at Whitney Field to the North Leominster Intermodal Transportation Center, we're now learning that's not going to be an option come July 1st. What's going on?

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Not such an easy Sunday morning on the Mass Pike

Posted by Nichole Davis June 9, 2013 10:55 AM

UPDATE (10:55 AM): State police are reopening the Mass Pike in both directions as I type. Should be completely opened by about 11:15. Heavy delays remain in place, so give yourself lots of extra time. Storrow Drive is going to be gridlocked, too, on the westbound side because of that lane closure at the Hatch Shell for the Children's Hospital Walk.
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... at least downtown. Just passing it along that, if you were planning on taking the Pike through the Prudential Tunnel this morning, it's not going to happen.

State police have shut down the tunnel in both directions for a variety of reasons. Their Twitter account cites safety reasons - it's been pitch black in there since early this morning and the ventilation systems are down too. Plus, NStar crews likely have to access the area to get to the Scotia Street substation where this snafu started.

The Department of Transportation has reported that traffic eastbound is being detoured at Exit 18 (Allston Brighton tolls). Westbound traffic will be detoured coming out of the Ted Williams onto the Expressway southbound. Storrow Drive is going to be your best bet for an alternate but keep in mind that the right lane westbound will be closed through most of the morning into the afternoon by the Hatch Shell due to an event there.

So far there is no estimated time of reopening, but NStar has reported that the lights will hopefully be back on between 12-1 this afternoon. I'll let you know when it does.

Chelsea Street bridge setbacks explained, and another bus bites the dust

Posted by Nichole Davis June 8, 2013 12:14 PM

Stephen, a reader of the blog, wrote in to me recently. He said, in part:

"... I saw that the Mass DOT said the Chelsea Street bridge will be closed weeknights until July 1st. While this may not seem to be a big thing it is for the thousand of us that work at Logan Airport. The employee garage sits just across from this bridge and when the bridge is closed it takes a 10 minute bus ride and turns it into a 20 to 30 minute bus ride and that’s each way.

The bridge was completed (supposedly) last May at I believe the cost of over $200 million dollars to the taxpayers and there has hardly been a week in this past year that it hasn’t been closed at night for something. Do you think you could find out why this bridge never seems to be working properly and when it will finally be open and functioning as designed and paid for with our money?"

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Suspicious subway cell service, and continuous construction closures

Posted by Nichole Davis May 31, 2013 02:17 AM

So you're sitting on the Green Line, for example, at Copley Station. Your phone's not showing any sign of service, as you're used to in that stretch of tunnel. All of a sudden, you hear what you think is a ringtone. Really? Underground? Here?

Sure enough, the train starts going, and someone starts up a loud conversation. (Which, as any courteous T rider knows, is just downright rude, but that's for the Courtesy Critters to determine.) Wait a minute. There's cell phone service here? Why are they having a conversation and I'm stuck here, devoid of connectivity (as pleasant as that may be at the time)?

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The Cape escape kickoff, and a furtherance of the Fitchburg line

Posted by Nichole Davis May 26, 2013 10:26 AM

While those who care more about the weather for Memorial Day weekend wrung their hands and were worried about busted forecasts, we on the traffic side of things were sure of one thing: traffic was going to be a mess. And it was.

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Fresh Pond Parkway frustrations, and a Friday traffic fiasco

Posted by Nichole Davis May 17, 2013 05:07 PM

Kicking off the blog this afternoon, check out this crazy crash on 128/95 southbound in Dedham:

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Pardon the fuzzy obvious-cell-phone-from-my-copter-monitor shot, but I'm in here and not out there... it's taking place as I'm polishing up today's entry. What a mess! Said tractor-trailer reportedly was driving southbound on 128/95 around Route 109 in Dedham when the driver hit a box truck, causing the tractor-trailer to swerve and jack-knife.

The road has been shut down twice already today and I'm assuming this will take some time to clear. So far we're seeing heavy delays from Route 2 in Lexington to the crash scene. That's over twenty miles! Bad news for a Friday commute - which is tough enough as it is. Avoid if you're catching this before you leave the office.

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Mother's Day traffic madness, and how to best attack rush hour

Posted by Nichole Davis May 10, 2013 01:19 PM

Here in the traffic operations center, we usually see the busiest traffic days around major holidays - not that Mother's Day isn't one, we all love our moms - but more like Thanksgiving, Columbus Day, Memorial Day, etc. So upon reading the news that today could possibly be the busiest traffic day of the year, some of us were a little perplexed.

Mother's Day? Really?

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About the author

Nichole Davis is a Boston-based traffic reporter and news anchor. She’s been seen and heard on television and radio airwaves across New England since 2003, providing commuters with all the More »

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