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Thoughts on tolls for Route 3, and a Braga Bridge forum

Posted by Nichole Davis  January 7, 2013 03:22 PM

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There's plenty of opinion on a new idea to try to relieve congestion on Route 3. A full discussion on that lies under the cut. Also, if you're a commuter on the Braga Bridge, there's a meeting coming up that you can attend to get your two cents in about a second wave of construction that'll be starting up in a few months.

Later this week we'll talk about the commuter rail again - namely, how those behind the scenes prepare for winter weather. As always, if there's something you want to discuss, toss me an email at at gmail dot com.

South Shore commuters are often all too familiar with the tribulations of the daily grind on Route 3. It's well known that the stretch between the Braintree Split and Derby Street, at the very least, is often filled with horrendous congestion -- especially on weekends in the summertime. A former state official (now lawyer) from Quincy says he has a solution for those battling the stop and go from Rockland, Hanover, Weymouth and other towns each day to and from Boston.

Edward Corcoran says a single-occupancy toll lane might be the way to go to loosen up those hefty delays. Corcoran's plan would install the high-speed toll lanes on a nine-mile stretch of Route 3, between Norwell and Braintree. He says all of the profits from the tolls would go to funding the construction, which would be done solely through the private sector. By doing that, he says, already-stretched state resources at the DOT would mostly be unaffected by the project.

Corcoran says the idea's already been tested by other cities, such as Washington DC. The Beltway in Virginia (otherwise known as I-495) charges tolls for single-occupancy vehicles, but buses and carpools get through for free. It's a publicly owned road, but all the tolls go to the private construction companies that helped to construct it.

This isn't something that Corcoran's completely unfamiliar with. He's the man that helped to orchestrate the widening of Route 3 north of town between 128 and the New Hampshire state line back in the 1990's. By suggesting that private companies do all the work at once and then get paid back later - which was an idea that many considered somewhat novel at the time, and required special work in the state legislature - he was able to kickstart the widening project to achieve the three lanes in each direction we see today.

Many local lawmakers on the South Shore say they'd be up for at least talking about it, but there's a big push growing against the idea, too. Some, like John Walkey of Transportation of Massachusetts, say that adding a lane doesn't do the trick, tolls or no tolls. He told the Patriot Ledger:

“You put in a lane, it fills up with traffic. You put in another lane, it just fills up with traffic... That’s sort of what we’ve done for the last 100 years, and it’s gotten us into this fix.”

Rob Hakala, Jr. is an esteemed colleague of mine, as well as a South Shore resident. He's the morning drive host of the South Shore Morning News on WATD. I asked him what he, being very familiar with South Shore commuting trends, thought of the proposal:

Unless there is an incident, traffic on Route 3 is usually busy starting at Exit 15: Derby Street in Hingham. Often, the delay doesn't being until Exit 16: Route 18 in Weymouth. If it's a bad day, the delay starts at Exit 14: Route 228 in Rockland. On most afternoons, it's usually only busy down through Braintree on the way to Exit 16: Route 18 in Weymouth. With the opening of the breakdown lane between Hanover and Weymouth for travel during commuting times, an added lane is simply not needed. In addition, with the Expressway/I-93 being jammed most mornings into Boston, there would simply be nowhere to go. The traffic would just stack up at the top end of Route 3 trying to get onto the Expressway. Also, Route 3 is clear most hours of the day. Would a toll only be in place during drive times? I suspect not. This project is not good for commuters and is specifically not good for The South Shore.

Some other things, just off the tip of my head, to consider:

  • Let's consider roads such as 128. Has widening them really helped to alleviate as much congestion as possible?

  • Could creating a connector road between Route 3 and Route 24 be an idea? That would help to alleviate congestion for people who need to get between the two - it would also cut out the need to navigate 128 completely.

  • What about more accessibility to the T? The Greenbush, Kingston and Plymouth lines are currently under-utilized. More trips to and from the South Shore per day might help to make those lines more profitable and take more cars off the roads.

Either way, for what it's worth, Corcoran's idea isn't going to be acted on anytime soon. Officials at MassDOT say that - at least at this point - there's really no plan in place to consider the widening of Route 3 on the South Shore. It's just not on their radar. However, Frank DePaola, who's the DOT's Highway Administrator, told Eric Moskowitz of the Globe:

“They had a very interesting proposal... It’s an intriguing process to do it, to fund public construction using private money, then recover it over a period of time.”

DOT officials say they're planning on putting a coalition in place to consider private-sector collaborations in the future for other projects that are a bit higher up on their list.

Do you think a widening is necessary on Route 3? Would it really help to fix the problem? What road, if any, in the state do you think would benefit from this type of project?
As a resident of Fall River in my youth, I can tell you from first-hand experience that the Braga Bridge gets a lot of use per day. Last September we discussed a rather unsafe situation unfolding on that bridge, as residents complained that construction setups were contributing to an uptick of crashes on 195 and other roads around the bridge.

That phase of construction has finished for the winter, but the DOT now wants to hear your thoughts on their second wave of road work that will start up in the coming months. That work includes a total reconstruction of the Route 79 / I-195 interchange, along with more structural repairs and some prettying up for the Braga Bridge.

If you want to attend the public hearing, where they'll be discussing design, among other issues, it'll be taking place this coming Wednesday (January 9th) at the DCR Heritage State Park Visitor's Center Auditorium in Fall River. That's at 200 Davol Street, for those unfamiliar. The meeting will start up at 6:30 PM. For more information, check out the project website here.
You'll find slowdowns here... (Downtown Boston edition)

Mass Pike Westbound

The ramp from the Sumner Tunnel to Storrow Drive will close on Tuesday and Wednesday nights from 11:30 PM to 5:00 AM.

The ramp from Harborside Drive to the Ted Williams Tunnel will close on Wednesday from 11:30 PM to 5:00 AM.

Expressway / O'Neill Tunnel Northbound

The ramps from Cross Street and the Sumner Tunnel to 93 northbound will close Monday from 11:00 PM to 5:00 AM.

The Leverett Circle ramp to 93 northbound will close Wednesday from 11:30 PM to 5:00 AM.

Expressway / O'Neill Tunnel Southbound

The ramps from the Surface Artery at New Chardon Street to 93 and the Callahan Tunnel will close on Wednesday and Thursday from 11:00 PM to 5:00 AM.

The ramps to Government Center and the Callahan Tunnel from the O'Neill Tunnel southbound (Exit 24) will close on Thursday from 11:00 PM to 5:00 AM.

The ramp from Leverett Circle to 93 southbound will close Monday and Tuesday from 11:00 PM to 5:00 AM.

Leverett Circle Connector Tunnels

The Leverett Connector inbound ramp to Storrow Drive west will close Monday through Friday from 11:00 PM to 5:00 AM.

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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