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A Sumner shutdown, and an MBTA waiting game

Posted by Nichole Davis  December 28, 2012 01:55 PM

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A few tidbits for you today about the Sumner tunnel and the general state of the T. With 2013 fast approaching, don't forget that the MBTA holiday schedule will be in effect on Monday and Tuesday for all services. The T will be suspending fare collection on Monday night after 8:00 PM, and they'll also be extending service until 2:00 AM on many lines. Check out my holiday schedule post here to see if the revised schedule will fit in with your revelry.

I'll be back on Friday the 4th with more -- until then, have a happy and healthy New Year!

You may remember that, this past weekend, the Callahan Tunnel was shut down through the Sunday-into-Monday overnight for panel inspection. Apparently, a very large and not-easily-avoided panel had come down off the wall and crashed into the travel lanes of the 51-year-old tunnel. That, of course, provoked an investigation into the safety of the remaining tiles on the sides of the tunnel.

Out of those overnight "pull tests", 117 of the 20-year-old decorative panels were found to be unsafe and were removed from the tunnel. Officials said that their structural supports had rusted right through. Kind of disconcerting.

While a new system of keeping the tiles on the walls is being devised, highway officials are pressing the message that the tunnel is safe to drive through. Frank DePaola is a spokesman for MassHighway. He says whatever possible problem may have been apparent has been taken care of with the removal of those unsafe tiles - and that crews will now do quarterly inspections of the tunnels.

Speaking of, this Sunday we'll see a similar shutdown for the Sumner Tunnel so the 2800 panels in there can be inspected. The tunnel will close from 9:00 PM to 5:00 AM. Detours will be in place - consider the Ted Williams Tunnel to come into the city from Logan and East Boston.

Also, some good news -- apparently there is a renovation scheduled for the Callahan Tunnel to start in 2014. And, yes - re-doing the panels are on the to-do list.
A reprieve for your wallet -- at least for now

It's not really news that the MBTA needs some cash. According to the latest budget reports that came out this past Wednesday, it looks like that's to the tune of something near $132 million for the coming fiscal year. Yipes.

MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott says that, while she realizes there's a problem, she knows she has to tread carefully in the first few months of her time here.

“These first 60 days are going to be very, very critical,” Scott said. “The last thing I want to have to do is start off the year scaring people.”

That's probably for the best.
In a new article for, Scott says she's hoping that lawmakers can come together to find new sources for funding for the T, because she really doesn't want to resort to fare hikes and service cuts -- but she'll open that discussion if she has to.

The legislature's been up and down with the T. Ever since they decided to quit filling in the cracks in the agency's budgets back in the start of the millenium, the T's been struggling to find ways to make ends meet. It didn't help, either, as Eric Moskowitz mentions in his article, that significant costs from the Big Dig were tossed onto an already-struggling transit system. Needless to say, real reform is required, and soon.

So far, the T is operating with some emergency funding that was approved back in June by the state legislature, but now the agency's waiting on a report that's due from Governor Patrick here in the next fortnight or so. It's supposed to detail (close to) exactly how much cash the agency will need to get the T all caught up with its backlogs... which, by the way:

Past estimates suggest the state has a roughly $1 billion annual gap between how much it raises to fund transportation and what it should actually spend on highway and transit operations and upkeep, a problem partly masked through heavy borrowing.

That report will also, hopefully, include some quotes on how much the T will have to shell out to finish the expansion projects that are currently on the burner.

Some good news out of all of this? More of you are ditching the keys and taking the T. Ridership was up again in November. Almost one and a half million people choose to ride the MBTA system in one way or another to get to where they have to go each day. That's a plus, considering analysts had been expecting the ridership to fall flat after the fare hikes this past summer. Scott says there's a number of reasons why ridership continues to rise - these include high gas prices, more people back to work, and new innovations for ticketing and other services from the T.

It will be interesting to see if that trend continues. If another fare hike is in the cards, I'm not so sure it will...

You can check out the full article from here.
You'll find slowdowns here...

24 northbound between Route 139, Stoughton (Exit 20) and 128, Randolph: expect lane closures and a rough road surface due to ongoing paving work in place until mid-January 2013.

128 in both directions between Route 135, Dedham (Exit 17) and Highland Avenue, Needham (Exit 19): continuous lane closures are in effect until further notice as part of the 128 widening project. Expect extra slowdowns, especially during mid-days, for work.

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.

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.

This blog is not written or edited by 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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