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Fresh Pond Parkway frustrations, and a Friday traffic fiasco

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

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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.

I was forwarded this email yesterday from Kim, who brings up a question that several of us have been asking ourselves in the traffic center for several days:

Traffic along the Fresh Pond Parkway in Cambridge has been gridlocked the past three days and I’m trying to figure out why. I wasn’t sure if anyone on your staff has any idea what is going on.

Normally, there's a clear-cut answer for this sort of thing. It's either some sort of road work, a lane shift, a special event -- something. A few calls and we're usually able to figure it out. This one has been a bit of a doozy.

I will say that, at the beginning of the week, we noticed that traffic was starting to back up through Cambridge from Alewife station all the way back into the BU stretch of Soldiers Field Road in Boston. This was happening on days that aren't even normally that busy during the week - and that stretch of road is usually not nearly that gridlocked. So, I set out to figure out what's up.

I first called the Brighton barracks of the Massachusetts State Police. They're the ones who patrol the Fresh Pond Parkway, as well as Soldiers' Field Road. Surely, they'd have an answer, right? To paraphrase, the trooper said on the other end of the line:

"You know, we really have no idea. We're just as baffled as you. We've been trying to figure this out for a couple days now. There's nothing out of the ordinary going on there."

Oh. That's... not what I'd been expecting. All right. My next step was to email Joe Pesaturo, who's the spokesman for the MBTA. Maybe there's some sort of road work or something taking place at Alewife station that might be holding things up more than usual? His email back, paraphrased:

"It would be pretty unusual for the MBTA to be doing any road work there."

... Okay. I then called Cambridge Police. They, too, had no idea what the possible hold-up could be. There were no special events or anything scheduled during rush hour this week. Frustrated, I decided that I would take things into my own hands and try to drive around there myself.

Trouble is, I don't leave the traffic center until well toward the end of rush hour, but I managed to make it out to Alewife station yesterday around 6:45 PM coming from the Alewife Brook Parkway. I didn't see any construction or any lane shifts, or anything, really, that would hold people up. I drove the route from Route 2 past Alewife to the Eliot Bridge later on that night -- again, nothing out of the ordinary.

So, Kim, I can't tell you exactly why. I know that is a frustrating answer, and it's downright annoying to me that we can't pinpoint what's up. It could very well just be that people are trying to find another way out of town to avoid the Reid Overpass construction on Memorial Drive. They could also be trying to find an avoidance for the delays on 93 north due to the Tobin Bridge work.

If you're a driver that's recently changed course and decided to take the Fresh Pond Parkway -- or, if you're a regular Fresh Pond Parkway driver who has noticed this extra bump in delays -- I would love to hear from you in the comments below.
In case you missed it: the T announced yesterday that you're going to have to take some more steps to ensure that you continue to receive T-Alerts, should you be signed up for them. Those alerts, for those not familiar, are emails and text messages that the T sends out when there's a problem in service, whatever it may be.

This is for a good reason, of course, according to the T: officials there say the new system is going to be more reliable than the one currently in place. We're fans of reliability, especially when it comes to the T (it's something we could use a little more of, in some cases). The current system was launched back in 2007, believe it or not - and 50,000 people are already signed up for it. That system's list of users isn't going to be converted and sent to the new system, though - the whole thing's just going to be shut off on the fourth. Eek.

What's this new system all about, anyway? What makes it so different? Apparently the alerts won't be quite so vague anymore:

Direct service advisory notifications via email and text messages will receive improvements with more reliable delivery times through the MBTA's new partnership with GovDelivery, a leader in public digital communication. Service alerts and notifications will be clearer and more detailed with additional information regarding specific trip times, service schedule changes, and distinct directional, branch, and station communications.

Apparently part of the new technology that they're putting into place includes standards that Google introduced a couple of years back. The T says they're also looking for developers to start making apps for the new system - you can get more information on that here if that's something up your alley.

So how do you get on board with all of this? You'll have to head to the T Alerts page, which you can access here. You don't have to wait until June 4th to sign up for the new service. Of course, there's plenty of apps that you can check out for MBTA information. Those offer more than just alerts - you can also get arrival and departure times for trains, locations of buses, and other relevant information for your commute. There's a "showcase" of apps you can choose from here. We've also talked about apps several times here on the blog - I think another app entry's well overdue. I'll get on that for the coming weeks.

Do you use the T-Alert system right now, or do you prefer to use a third-party app?
MBTA Matters

Riders of the Red Line are dealing with another diversion due to the Columbia Junction project this weekend. Busing will be in place between North Quincy and JFK/UMass from the start of service Saturday to the end of service Sunday. The shuttles will stop at all stations. Service should be back to normal on Monday.

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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