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A guide to getting around for a fantastic Fourth

Posted by Nichole Davis  July 3, 2013 02:00 PM

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Ah, welcome to one of the busiest travel days of the year - the day before July 4th.

Many would think, "Why is the day before the holiday busiest?" Lots of people are taking off and they want to beat the traffic - but, of course, they're going to be the traffic themselves, as everyone is going at the same time. There won't be as many people this year, however. The International Business Times reports that, according to AAA, only 40.8 million people will be hopping in their cars and heading out of town (to a destination at least 50 miles away). Now, you might wonder, why is that an "only"? That number's down at least one percent from this past year for a variety of reasons - money and time, namely.

Either way, it's going to feel like all 40 million are on the road with you at once for the next few days at times. Expect gridlock through this afternoon on all of your major highways heading out of the city to the usual vacation spots.

As I type this we're already dealing with heavy delays on the Expressway southbound in pockets between the O'Neill Tunnel and the Braintree Split, and there's also a huge backup on both Cape approaches - to the tune of 3 miles on both the Bourne and Sagamore bridges. I wouldn't be surprised to see a delay building this afternoon on the Pike westbound from 290 to the 84 interchange, and also on 93 northbound getting into New Hampshire. Same on 95 north as people head into Maine and New Hampshire.

Seeing that the Fourth is pretty close to a weekend this year, I'm not expecting to see a huge resurgence in traffic tomorrow after the fireworks - in fact, the worst of the return traffic that you're likely going to see will be on Sunday afternoon. Be sure to plan ahead to leave early on Sunday or even consider leaving Saturday night if you want to beat the delays. Monday morning may be a good alternative, too, if you don't have that far to go.

Here is a guide to traffic closures and MBTA schedules for you if you're heading into the city to celebrate. Be safe and happy Fourth!

Esplanade Traffic Restriction Schedule:

12:00 PM, Wednesday: Storrow Drive closes in both directions from Charles Circle to Kenmore Square. This closure will be in effect until July 5th. Berkeley Street and Mugar Way will be closed to vehicle traffic at Beacon Street.

12:01 AM, Thursday: Parking will be restricted along both sides of Memorial Drive from Fowler Street to the Longfellow Bridge. This also includes the Cambridge Parkway, Riverside Boat Club and Magazine Beach.

7:00 AM, Thursday: Storrow Drive closure extends to Leverett Circle in both directions. Exit 26 from the O'Neill Tunnel northbound will be closed. The Leverett Downramp will only be open for access to Martha Road and the O'Brien Highway.

10:00 AM, Thursday: Watch for the right lane to be closed along Charles Dam River Road and on the Craigie Drawbridge from Leverett Circle to Museum Way.

3:00 PM, Thursday: The on-ramps to Storrow Drive westbound will be closed from the Bowker Overpass or Beacon Street by Kenmore Square.

4:00 PM, Thursday: The Mass. Ave Bridge will close completely in both directions to vehicular traffic. The Longfellow Bridge will close outbound for all traffic (including pedestrians). Bikes and pedestrians will be allowed to use the inbound side of the bridge.

Also, Memorial Drive will shut down completely between the BU Bridge and the Longfellow Bridge. All side streets along that stretch of Memorial will close as well. The DCR says these streets include:

  • Main Street from Third Street to the Longfellow Bridge
  • Ames Street from Main Street to Memorial Drive
  • Wadsworth Street
  • Amherst Street
  • Land Boulevard from Binney Street to the Longfellow Bridge
  • Hayward Street
  • Carlton Street
  • Charlotte's Way
  • Dock Street

9:15 PM, Thursday: Police will direct traffic one way from Main Street to the O'Brien Highway. Craigie Drawbridge will be in the down position until at least 11:15 - 11:30 to let vehicle traffic through - it will then open up for larger boats to pass through.

6:00 AM, Friday: All roads and bridges are expected to be open by this time. The DCR says they plan on opening everything in this order: Mass Ave Bridge, Longfellow Bridge, Memorial Drive, Storrow Drive, Bowker Overpass at Kenmore, Charles Circle. Of course this is subject to change and you can simply count on the closures being in place until, at the latest, 6:00 AM.

By the way, if you're planning on watching the fireworks from the Zakim Bridge, or anywhere on 93, don't bother -- State Police patrols will be out in force to make sure you don't stop on the bridge. (Personal anecdote: I was driving back from New Hampshire during the fireworks two years ago and tried to do exactly that - didn't work out so well. Take it from me.)

MBTA Matters

A few things to remember before we get into the schedule:

  • All fares are going to be free on the subway after 9:30 PM until the end of service. Before that, though, you will have to pay the usual rate.
  • Expect increased security on the MBTA. You can also expect, as part of this, to see random bag checks... but what you won't be seeing is an increase in plainclothes officers.(They'll be there, but you won't be able to tell!)
  • Don't forget to download the MBTA "See Say App" so you can more easily report issues and incidents you find suspicious. You can find it in the Google Play store for Android and here for iPhones through iTunes. Also don't forget, if you don't have one already, to throw an app or two for navigating the city on your phone. You can find a list of MBTA-centric apps here.
  • No bikes! At least not on the subways, at all, on the Fourth. You can take them on the commuter rail still as you normally do, but not between 10:00 AM and 6:00 PM inbound or outbound after 4:00 PM.

Here's how the schedule breaks down:

Commuter Rail will run on a Saturday schedule, but last trains will be delayed to better accomodate fireworks viewers...

Out of North Station:
Newburyport line last train will be pushed from 10:15 pm to 11:15 pm.
Rockport line last train will be delayed from 11:30 pm until 11:45 pm.
Haverhill line last train will now run at 11:45 pm instead of 11:30 pm.
Lowell line last train will be pushed from 11:30 to 11:45 pm.
Fitchburg line last train will be delayed from 11:30 pm to 11:45 pm.

Out of South Station:
Middleborough line last train will run at 11:45 pm instead of 10:35 pm.
Worcester line last train will be delayed from 11:00 pm to 11:45 pm.
Providence line last train will be pushed from 11:10 pm to 11:45 pm.
Franklin line last train will be delayed from 11:30 pm to 11:45 pm.

All subway lines will run on a Sunday schedule until 2:00 pm. Trains will then ramp up to rush hour status until the end of service.

Buses will be deployed on a Sunday schedule. The MBTA has not announced any plans to cancel any service for the Fourth.

Commuter boat schedules will be mixed. Hull and Quincy boats will be running on a weekday schedule. Charlestown boats will be running on a Saturday schedule. Hingham line boats aren't running at all.

You may also want to consider the CapeFlyer if you're heading on-Cape. The trains will be running on a Friday night schedule tonight and a Saturday schedule on the Fourth. More information is available here.

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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