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Expansion answers, and an end to bumpy rides?

Posted by Nichole Davis  July 22, 2012 12:20 AM

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Greetings, and happy Monday to you... I'm back with another question answered, and another cool app that could help the city of Boston solve a seemingly ages-old problem... (well, by "ages", I mean "as long as we've had paved roads")

Thanks for the questions I received over the weekend... keep them coming!

Here we go...

I commute from Quincy to Concord and was wondering if you could update your readers on the status of the land widening project on 128.
Eric, Quincy

This project's a doozy when it comes to causing traffic, but it's definitely desperately needed. 128 simply can't handle the volume that it carries now without this extra lane. I asked Sara Lavoie over at the Department of Transportation to give us a heads up as to where the project's at.

The construction is taking place in three stages. Crews will be working on various sections on and near 128 until 2016. There's the widening of the highway, then bridge replacement that's already underway, and then design of other bridges to replace.

Stage 1:
Sara tells me that the finish line for widening between Route 24 and Route 109 will be this fall. There's some stretches already finished - between 95 and University Avenue, as well as between Route 1 and Route 109. DOT work crews are in the process now of widening the gaps that haven't been tackled.

When everything's complete, you won't have an active breakdown lane to use, because you'll have four new lanes to work with at that point -- except between 95 and 138, where you'll end up with five lanes. Why's that? Sara says the fifth lane will help spread out some of that nasty backup you see at the on and off ramps for 95. However, that section of the project reportedly could take a bit longer as the DOT's still in discussions about funding.

Stage 2
You'll see bridge work through Westwood, Dedham and Needham until the summer of 2015, according to Sara:

Bridge replacement at Route 109, Route135, Charles River and Great Plain Avenue ... [this] phase of the project includes the addition of a new travel lane and shoulder north & southbound from Rt. 109 to the Needham Railroad Bridge, about 4.5 miles.
Stage 3: There's still bridges that are in the process of being designed for this stage. These bridges to be rebuilt are scattered through Wellesley and Needham. You'll find them at Highland Avenue, Kendrick Street, Central Avenue and Route 9. There's a railroad bridge just north of Kendrick Street which will be taken out completely and not replaced.

According to Sara, they hope to start construction on these by next spring with a completion by end of year 2016. The finish date on these is up in the air, however:

The construction duration will depend highly on what accelerated bridge techniques can be added to the project for bridge construction. Also, utility relocations on Highland Avenue and Kendrick Street are quite complex and will certainly have impacts to the construction schedule.

Good news through this period - you'll have an active breakdown lane to work with, and since the widening will be essentially complete at this point, traffic will be moving a little easier, at least.

Do you normally travel 128? What are your thoughts on the widening project?

Bumps in the road

They are everywhere.

Bumps, cracks, potholes, frost heaves, whatever you want to call them. The city's roads have an abundance of these undercarriage-killers - and now the city wants to do something about it. You'll need your phone for this, though.

CBS Boston reports city officials have an app under development called "Street Bump". The app allegedly determines where potholes are in the road as you drive over it - and, if it detects an affected stretch of road, it will send a message to a server. All of the GPS points will, over time, create a real-time map of offending roads that need some TLC by the DPW.

So how does it work?

Before they even start their trip, drivers using Street Bump fire up the app, then set their smartphones either on the dashboard or in a cup holder. The app takes care of the rest, using the phone’s accelerometer — a motion-detector — to sense when a bump is hit... The system filters out things like manhole covers and speed bump using a series of algorithms — including one that can tell if the initial motion is up over a speed bump, as opposed to down into a pothole.

According to the source, the app originally carried a price tag of about $45k for the city and the insurer, Liberty Mutual Group. The first go-round had trouble determining what kind of bump was the right bump. So, the city went back to the drawing board with the help of Waltham crowdsourcing firm InnoCentive - this time, offering a prize for anyone who could fix that pretty-big-bug:

In the end, ideas were incorporated from three places — a group of hackers in Somerville, Mass., that promotes community education and research; the head of the mathematics department at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich.; and a software engineer who did not want to be identified.

City officials say all this new information will help to cut down on unnecessary crews and assist in streamlining patch crews, which will hopefully save the city money. The technology is already being considered in other cities for uses that have nothing to do with traffic, including earthquake tracking.

You can already download the app on the iTunes store, but city officials say they're still working on a version for Android. I'll let you know when it comes out. Full article here.

What's the worst road in your town when it comes to potholes, sinkholes, or cracks? Do you think this app will solve the city's problems? Will you use it?

I'll be back later this week with some more transportation headlines, so stick around!

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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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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