So tonight I took a ride over the Longfellow Bridge on my way home from work. It's going to be the last time for a while that I'll be able to scoot over to Cambridge that way, as they'll be shutting down Cambridge-bound traffic starting Saturday. For up to three years.
As I talked about in my last entry, Red Line service will still be running over the bridge, and Boston-bound traffic will be able to use the bridge for now. Riders of the Red Line can expect significant bouts of shuttle-busing (mostly on weekends) as the $250+ million project is completed.
(If you're normally not a fan of rain, but are a fan of using the bridge, wish for it this weekend - DOT officials have said they'll put the detour off a week if it rains a lot over the next few days. Looking at the forecast, though, except for the occasional thunderboomer, I don't think we'll be seeing any of that.)
The DOT has released a map of detours - you can find that here. Essentially, to get over the river, you'll have to take Storrow to Leverett Circle, then cut across on the Charles River Dam road past the Museum of Science. From there, you can take a left onto Land Boulevard to connect to Memorial Drive, or you can continue on through Cambridge.
Some good news, however, comes out of this week for Cambridge drivers!
You may have remembered this entry from April where we discussed the shutdown of the Reid Overpass, which takes Memorial Drive over the BU Bridge. The shutdown was supposed to be six months in length. For the first few weeks, the closure caused massive traffic mayhem - and may have been blamed for some crazier-than-usual delays on the Alewife Brook Parkway and Storrow Drive.
So, six months or so from April is supposed to take us into October. Or is it?
Traffic Alert: Cambridge- Reid Overpass, Memorial Drive over the rotary at the BU Bridge, will reopen tomorrow, Fri, July 19, 6am.— Mass. Transportation (@MassDOT) July 18, 2013
However, work will be continuing on the bridge - it just won't be affecting traffic. So, don't be surprised if you go over the overpass in the next few weeks and still find construction crews out there. Good on the state for opening this up early, though - Cambridge-side river road drivers are going to need all the help they can get with the Longfellow closure.
There is a lot of frustration brewing for drivers on the Seacoast.
The $82+ million dollar reconstruction of the Memorial Bridge between New Hampshire and Maine has been underway for just about two years. Residents have been eagerly awaiting the reopening of the bridge - but there's been a bit of a snag.
According to the AP, New Hampshire's DOT announced recently that there will be a ribbon opening ceremony for the bridge on August 15th. That's not exactly sitting well with people, considering the bridge was supposed to be opened to all traffic by July 6. Contractor Archer Western has been given an extension from that date to today (July 19th) to finish the bridge for various reasons, including delays from weather and issues with some piers.
Thing is, chances are that the bridge isn't going to be ready to open today. And, for each day that the bridge doesn't open after today, the contractor owes the state $25,000 in fines. Ouch. Should it take until the 15th of August to open the bridge, that's a $675,000 price tag for fines.
At least it's expected to be open before the next bridge replacement between the two cities gets underway this fall - the revamping of the Sarah Mildred Long bridge, which was shut down for some time earlier this year after a tanker slammed into it.
You may have noticed some heavier-than-usual traffic this week on 128/95 northbound making your way toward the Mass Pike during the morning and evening commute. In fact, we've had reports that the delays are all the way back into Braintree. What's holding everything up?
Believe it or not, the crazy traffic is a result of the DOT putting a new traffic pattern into place to, well, relieve crazy traffic. The on ramps to 128/95 north from the Mass Pike are notoriously awful. Constantly crowded and, honestly, an accident waiting to happen as people try to merge into traffic from multiple ramps that make up the on-ramp from the Pike and Route 30. (Fun fact: the DOT says that, according to a new study by the Federal Highway Administration and others, one-third of all traffic using 128/95 exits onto the Mass Pike. Not surprising, but still interesting.)
So, the DOT is trying to close the right lane before and after the Mass Pike exit (Exit 23/24/25) for the next two weeks to see if that assists in helping the ramps clear out a bit. If it works, they're going to put this pattern in place permanently. Obviously, the best way to get around this is to stay in the left lane. I'll be curious to see if the heavy backups on 128/95 ease a little bit over the next week as drivers get used to the pattern.
Do you think this is the best approach to fixing the bottleneck on the Mass Pike ramp? If not, what approach would you take? Honestly, I think the ramp is poorly planned as it is, but I can't imagine that completely scrapping and rebuilding the ramp is their first plan of action to try to alleviate these issues.
Red Line riders are going to be stuck on buses again this weekend as work continues on the Clayton Street Bridge Project. If you're planning on travelling between the JFK/UMass station and Ashmont, you'll be on a shuttle bus from the start of service Saturday until the end of service Sunday.
Also, busing is still in place for those Blue Line riders trying to access the currently-closed Orient Heights station. You can exit at Suffolk Downs and catch the shuttle bus that's running to and from Orient Heights.
Coming up next week:
I'll have an answer to a reader question about who exactly chooses what goes on those message boards all over the highways. We'll also talk about a project that's been tearing up some roads in Downtown Boston, and I'll be discussing a reader's question about why traffic backs up so much on the lower end of 495 during the Cape Escape. You can, of course, always send me your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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