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An Expressway inquiry, and recognition of the hurricane

Posted by Nichole Davis  October 26, 2012 02:21 PM

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Heading into the pre-Sandy weekend, I have a question from a loyal reader, Brian, about a situation that he (and plenty of others) encounter on the Expressway. Also, we'll talk about preliminary Hurricane Sandy info, and I've got your usual weekend MBTA diversions and out of town construction planned for the week ahead.

Now, keep in mind that, because of Sandy, some of this construction might not actually go on as planned, especially Monday through Wednesday. You could still see some work areas set up, though, and that could slow you down a bit.

(Soggily) back next week with a gripe about the Tobin Bridge and more transportation fun, along with more Sandy details, if I can get them in before she shows up. Stay safe!

I think it was just about last year at this time that the crisis of the week announcement from the DOT dealt with the Expressway car pool lane between Braintree and the yacht club. Is any news/update available regarding that? At the time, the story was mostly around the fact that the truck and barriers were both past their expected lifetimes and the carpool lane was supposedly considered just a temporary Big Dig traffic "fix."
Brian, Abington

While the Expressway during rush hour (especially on a Monday morning or Friday afternoon!) is the bane of any sane person's existence, the HOV lanes are there to at least try to help ease the mind-numbing, road-rage-inducing traffic. Oftentimes, though, the six mile spans between Quincy and Dorchester can be just as frustrating.

With the expansion of 128 (a heralded or idiotic decision, depending on who you talk to) well underway, we have to wonder if plans to revamp the Expressway are brewing. The road is so consistently jam-packed, there has to be another solution... right? I talked to Sara Lavoie, Press Secretary for MassDOT, about Brian's question. She says:

There are no plans to change HOV Zipper Truck operations any time soon. The BTV (barrier transport vehicles) are well maintained with few breakdowns. MassDOT is considering options for replacing the vehicles in the future.

So, I guess not. Although, I will say, even though the HOV situation isn't exactly prime, it's good to know people are out there working to keep it going, even if that involves rescuing sweet baby animals that happen to lose their way.

Still, a new solution needs to be considered, as a report from the Patriot Ledger last year mentions that, at least then, the zipper lane wasn't seeing nearly the amount of use that it could be. The report mentions that only five percent of Expressway riders per day - that's five percent out of 180,000 cars - use the zipper lanes. 9,000 cars. That's it! No wonder you're still dealing with gridlock.

Believe it or not, as low as that number is, it's still about average with most of the other major highways across the country. Still, carpooling obviously hasn't caught on, the bumper-to-bumper madness continues, and something's got to give.

I'm an advocate for charging a small toll to use the HOV lanes in a single-occupancy situation. 50 cents, one dollar, something to that effect. I think the revenue the state could stand to receive from that alone would be pretty significant. Red Line ridership continues to grow, so with any luck, that will start to ease the burden. Of course, promoting carpooling is important, but I'm not sure there's much more the state can do to enforce that. Expanding the Expressway just isn't an option at this point, especially by Savin Hill where the Red Line practically borders the highway.

What are your thoughts on plans that could be put in place sooner than later to fix the Expressway problem? Let me know in the comments.
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Yarrr, thar be a storm comin'

Yes, of course I had to talk about Hurricane Sandy. Yes, I know you've been seeing reports on it everywhere else. It's a big deal and should be taken seriously!

Anyway, I'm just passing on word from the MBTA that, essentially, they (like everyone else) know the storm is coming, and:

While forecasts change almost hourly, the MBTA is preparing for the impact of the storm beginning Monday into Tuesday morning. As conditions require, the MBTA will deploy extra personnel and equipment throughout the system, the limit any disruptions in service. Work crews are ready to respond to any storm-related issues that may emerge
.

By the way, if you're concerned about knowing if there's a problem on the T, you can always check their website for service advisories... if you're a Tweeter, you can follow the T's official feed at @MBTAGM.

MassDOT officials say that crews are doing prep work to try to keep the roads as clear as possible while Sandy's in town. They say they're also in contact with emergency contractor crews to jump on any problems that may arise.

We're still not sure, of course, when or where Sandy will make landfall, but if you can avoid travel during the height of the storm, that would be the best option. I have a feeling a lot of people are going to try to take the day off, but your trusty traffic reporters in town (including me!) will be on duty, monitoring the roads and pushing along anything you need to know. Be sure to stay tuned to the local media outlets, both TV and radio, for emergency instructions and travel restrictions.
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MBTA Matters

The perils of Red Line busing continue this weekend on the Ashmont span. This is the last weekend that we'll be seeing this work, at least for a little while, so keep that in mind. Busing will be in place this weekend from the start of service Saturday until the end of service Sunday between JFK/UMass and Ashmont. Buses will make all stops. Service is being suspended so crews can get work done on the Columbia Junction signal replacement project.

Nothing new for Orange Line riders and the weekday busing for the Assembly Square project, Service is still being shuttled between Oak Grove and Sullivan Square each Sunday through Thursday night until December 28. Diversions start up at 9:00 each evening and last until the end of service that night. The shuttle buses will make all stops.
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You'll find slowdowns here...

128 southbound at University Avenue (Exit 13), Canton: two left lanes will be closed for road work from 7:00 p.m. Saturday to noon on Sunday.

95 northbound at Route 1 (Exit 50), Danvers: two right lanes will be closed for road work on Thursday and Friday from 8:00 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. Two right lanes will be closed southbound in the same area on Wednesday and Thursday nights, same times.

95 southbound at Centre Street (Exit 48), Danvers: two right lanes will be closed for road work Tuesday and Wednesday from 8:00 p.m. to 4:30 a.m.

Route 1 southbound after the Lynn Fells Parkway, Saugus: right lane will be closed for utility work Monday through Friday from 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m.

Mass Pike eastbound over 391, Chicopee: the median and shoulder will be closed for ongoing bridge work until further notice.

Route 9 eastbound at the Hammond Pond Parkway, Newton: expect heavy delays due to ongoing paving work Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

93 northbound between Dascomb Road (Exit 42) and Route 133 (Exit 43), Andover: a continuous construction project blocks the right shoulder until November 5th. Crews will be working from 5:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. weekdays and some weekend days. Expect minor delays.

128 northbound at Washington Street (Exit 36), Woburn: continuous road work blocks the right shoulder 24-7 Monday through Friday. Expect slowdowns.

Route 128 in both directions, between Route 109 (Exit 16) and Great Plain Avenue (Exit 18), Dedham - Needham: ongoing road widening project blocks the left lane through most weekday middays and overnights. Expect significant delays and possible blockages of the active breakdown lane.

Route 128 in both directions, between Route 38, Woburn (Exit 35) and Route 3, Burlington (Exits 32 A/B): left lane is closed for ongoing median work. Lane restrictions and shifts are in place. Expect heavy delays.

Route 1 Northbound between Main Street and Noah's Motors, Saugus: right lanes are closed weekday nights between 10:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. for water main installation.

North Harvard Street over the Larz Anderson Bridge: Continual lane closures are in effect in both directions for bridge reconstruction work. No left turn onto Memorial Drive from JFK Street.

Tobin Bridge in both directions: Watch for continual lane closures as DOT crews continue to paint the bridge. These will be in effect until November.

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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