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Parking problems on the Fitchburg Line, and another 93 closure

Posted by Nichole Davis  June 17, 2013 12:15 AM

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Commuters in Leominster are about to be a little more inconvenienced.

If you've been utilizing the shuttle service provided by the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority that runs from the Mall at Whitney Field to the North Leominster Intermodal Transportation Center, we're now learning that's not going to be an option come July 1st. What's going on?

People have been utilizing that service since early in 2012 because a new garage is being built at the North Leominster station to provide parking for commuters (specifically those who use commuter rail, although bus routes do run to and from the station). The new garage is expected to bring 280 new spaces to the station to add to the 140 in place - with a price tag of about $8 million for the project.

The problem with all of this is that the garage is still under construction - and will still be in the process of being built when this shuttle service ends, leaving commuters in a lurch. A commuter I know that frequently uses the service says he feels there's only two options:

  • Park illegally at the mall or a local business, hope they don't get towed and use one of the local bus routes (#1 or #3, specifically) to get to and from the station in North Leominster.
  • Drive further west to Fitchburg and utilize the major parking lot there, which is inconvenient and generally out of the way if a commuter wants to take a train eastbound into the city.

There seems to be some confusion as to the actual finish date of the project. MRTA's website says the project kicked off in February 2012 and will be completed in 15 months. That should, in theory, mean that it was supposed to be wrapped up back in May. I talked to MART's Deputy Administrator, Bruno Fisher, to try to get an idea as to what's up with the delay.

Fisher told me there wasn't a delay in place at all, as he says the project is on schedule to be finished in August. Wait, August? He says the project actually begin in mid-March 2012 and the contract calls for 18 months of construction. Well, okay.

An article from the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, dated May 2012, confuses the situation even more. They report that the project actually broke ground on May 4th, with a 15 to 18 month timeline for completion. Now, that would, in theory, put the project finish date somewhere between August and November of this year. Fisher says the project is on schedule to be finished sometime in August.

Clearly there's some mixed messages being sent on dates, which is irking commuters. I'm curious - what was keeping MRTA from renewing the lease with the mall or trying to extend the shuttle service if they knew they needed extra time to finish the project? Did they know this was going to be the case when putting the contract together?

Fisher says, for now, commuters can drive to either the Shirley or Ayer stations to find parking and hop on a train into the city. Good luck finding parking, though -- according to the MBTA, Shirley station offers just 25 spaces, and Ayer just 30. Fitchburg station might be the better bet, despite it being out of the way. That garage offers 400 spaces.

Are you a regular commuter on the Fitchburg line who depends on the shuttle service? What are your thoughts on the situation? Is this going to severely impact your commute?
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There's some more complete closures of 93 through Downtown Boston coming up.

The next one to look forward to (?) will be in place this coming Tuesday overnight into Wednesday morning. Crews will start to set up for the closure around 11:00 PM and all lanes will be shut down by midnight. Everything will open up around 5:00 AM.

This time, the northbound side of 93 will be affected. Sara Lavoie of the DOT says northbound traffic will be taken off the Expressway at Southampton Street (Exit 16). Crews will be out there in the O'Neill Tunnel washing walls and signs, as well as performing maintenance on various communications and electrical systems. They'll also be cleaning some drains. (I'd imagine that's important with all that rain as of late.)

There will be detours posted along surface streets and you'll be allowed to re-enter the highway in Haymarket Square. If you're trying to get over to the Tobin Bridge, you should stay on the surface streets and head over to City Square. You can get on Route 1 and the Tobin Bridge there via the loop ramp.

The DOT has released dates for upcoming complete closures, too, so you can plan ahead to avoid 93 during these times: southbound will close completely on July 2nd in the same time frame, and the next northbound closure will be in place on July 16.
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In case you missed it:

This has been all over the news for the past couple of days, but I still can't get over the fact that someone paid over half a million dollars for two parking spots. Not two parking lots, not two expensive cars on top of those parking spots - just the spots. What does that say about the parking situation here in the city of Boston? It's always been pretty scarce but now it's seemingly as scarce as an affordable apartment. Read more here.

Also, while the MBTA (I'm sure) has a specific uniform requirement, they might be able to take an unconventional tip from some Swedish train drivers when the heat picks up again.
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You'll find slowdowns here...(Downtown Boston edition)

Expressway/O'Neill Tunnel Northbound

The ramp from Atlantic Avenue to the O'Neill Tunnel will be closed on Monday from 10:00 PM to 5:00 AM.

The ramps from Frontage Road to the Expressway north will be closed on Tuesday from 10:30 PM to 5:00 AM in conjunction with the full closure of 93 north.

The off-ramp to Storrow Drive from the O'Neill Tunnel will be closed on Wednesday and Thursday from 11:30 PM to 5:00 AM.

The ramp from the Sumner Tunnel to Storrow Drive will be closed on Wednesday and Thursday from 11:30 PM to 5:00 AM.

Expressway / O'Neill Tunnel Southbound

The ramps from Haymarket Square to the Callahan Tunnel and the O'Neill Tunnel south will close Monday and Wednesday from 11:00 PM to 5:00 AM.

The ramps from Purchase and Congress Streets to the O'Neill Tunnel south and the Pike west will close on Wednesday from 11:00 PM to 5:00 AM.

The ramp from Leverett Circle to the O'Neill Tunnel south will close on Thursday from 11:00 PM to 5:00 AM.

Mass Pike eastbound

The ramps from the Expressway and Frontage Road to the Pike east will close on Wednesday from 11:50 PM to 5:00 AM.

Mass Pike westbound

The ramp from Congress Street to the I-90 connector (leads to the Expressway) will close on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10:30 PM to 5:00 AM.

The ramp from the Ted Williams Tunnel to the O'Neill Tunnel northbound will close Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10:30 PM to 5:00 AM.

Leverett Circle Connector Tunnel

The tunnel westbound will close Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10:30 PM to 5:00 AM. Follow posted detours. Consider Memorial Drive as alternate.

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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