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STARTS & STOPS

Work underway on Route 128 widening project

Near the junction of Route 128 and Interstate 95 in Canton, amid a whir of wheels, there sits an old, unused overpass to nowhere.

"It's right at the end of the path through the Fowl Meadow part of the Blue Hills Reservation," wrote a Milton reader who politely asked to remain nameless. "And there are several cool, old stretches of abandonded highway that run into the woods there.

"One can ride a bike through Fowl Meadow and over the overpass to look at the traffic, or pedal down a hill to Green Lodge Street in Canton and ride over to the Route 128 train station.

"I often fantasized about riding my bike there and then getting on the train to New York without ever getting in a car," the reader wrote.

But the last couple of times he has driven by, "it looked like they were working on my beloved abandonded overpass. . . . I don't know what they might be planning to do with it, but it looked like an exit ramp was in the making."

The reader is referring to a little piece of history that was once the beginning of the proposed Southwest Expressway, a 1960s and 1970s gargantuan highway project that planned to shoot I-95 from Canton directly into the city.

After huge cost overruns, the potential dislocation of about 370 families, and a large public backlash, however, the road was scrapped. The Orange Line and the current configuration of Route 128/95 took its place. And the overpass and roads to nowhere were taken over by weeds, hikers, and bikers.

What the reader witnessed was another expansion of sorts -- the beginnings of a $230 million Route 128/95 project to add 13.1 miles of new lane from Route 24 in Randolph to Route 9 in Wellesley.

According to Massachusetts Highway Department spokeswoman Judith Forman, the project includes widening the on-ramp from 128 south to 95 south from one lane to two, the replacement of five bridges, and the demolition of our anonymous reader's beloved overpass.

"Work on this . . . project began in October, and is set to be completed in mid-2007," Forman wrote.

We'll reserve judgment here, but Forman said that "to provide access for wildlife and bicyclists, the interchange job also includes a 'wildlife corridor passage' underneath the bridge so two- and four-legged folks can safely cross under Route 128. People will be able to access this passage via a path connecting from Green Lodge Street in Canton."

Silver to Southie
This Friday, amid much hoopla, the second phase of the Silver Line will open, connecting South Station with the South Boston waterfront and surrounding environs.

It's a momentous occasion, even if you still aren't sold on the idea of bus rapid transit. But while Phase I of the Silver Line -- the route from Dudley to downtown -- can sometimes be challenged as a pure "dedicated" route for buses, Phase II should win more converts with its truly "dedicated" route under the Fort Point Channel and into the shiny new stations in South Boston.

It's the first major transportation project to come on line in the country since the terrorist attacks of 2001. It's what some of the undeveloped land on the South Boston waterfront has long been waiting for. But most important of all, it's a new and quick route to and from the core city for South Boston, which has been forced to rely on cars and congested bus routes to get around the burgeoning neighborhood.

The ceremony begins at 11 a.m. Friday at the new Courthouse Station. And while T officials are telling the general public that the line opens to them at 1 p.m., MBTA General Manager Michael H. Mulhern said folks can probably start riding the line around 11:45 a.m. The first route will run from South Station to the Boston Marine Industrial Park, with additional service into and around South Boston

By the end of the year, the route will include service to City Point in South Boston. In the first quarter of next year, a route along the D Street corridor will be added. By spring, Mulhern said, you will be able to take the Silver Line from South Station to Logan.

And it's all flexible. If the T sees a huge demand for service in South Boston, the routes can change, he said. Daily ridership is expected to initially be about 14,500 per day, with as many as 45,000 riders per day once the routes get firmly established and the waterfront development starts to sprout, he said.

"The Silver Line will certainly help to shape Boston's future," Mulhern said. "It's important today, but it will be even more important tomorrow for generations to follow."

H.O. glee

At 10 a.m. today, the first leg of the Central Artery's High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane system will be opened between Interstate 93 northbound, Logan Airport, and Route 1A.

Vehicles with two or more occupants can use either of two entrances to the new HOV roadways. One will be located on the left side of I-93 north, just after Exit 20 (Mass. Pike/Logan). The other will be at the intersection of Frontage Road northbound and Broadway Bridge. The HOV system will not provide access to South Boston.

By late spring, 2005, the HOV system will expand to serve downtown Boston, the South Station Transportation Center, and I-93 south.

White stripes
"So many complaints and so few kudos," wrote Mason of Lexington, "but this time kudos are deserved."

"The state is repaving and repainting part of Routes 4 & 225 in Lexington. There is a jug-handle turn in the area being worked on for which the curb on the inside curve is extremely difficult to see at night under good conditions; even worse when raining, in part due to a lack of street lighting.

"I called the Massachusetts Highway Department . . . and spoke to a supervisor about the issue. I suggested the curb be painted with reflective paint when the road striping was done. The super countered with the idea of putting a stripe 6 inches or so from the curb. And guess what? Yesterday they painted the stripe! Now is that cool, or what? And should the state get public plaudits? You bet."

Scram-meters
Phil of Milton loved the new multispace meters that were recently placed in the Liberty Square section of the Financial District. Now they're gone, and Phil wanted to know where they went.

"I thought they were a great idea," he wrote.

Seems the meters were part of a pilot program by the Boston Transportation Department to test two different types of multispace parking meters in the city, according to department spokeswoman Tracey Ganiatsos.

But like all pilot programs, it ended, and the meters were removed this past August.

"The city is in the process of evaluating the results of the test run," she said, "and recommendations will be forthcoming."

Pit stops
Structural repairs began Dec. 6 on the Alford Street Bridge between Charlestown and Everett, reducing traffic from two lanes to one in each direction. The whole thing is expected to end Dec. 30. . . . Come one, come all to a state-sponsored meeting this week to make decisions on the Big Dig's transit commitments, all geared to improve air quality as the mega-project winds down. The three projects up for discussion: the Arborway Green Line Extension, the Blue Line/Red Line connector, and the Medford Hills Green Line extension. The meeting takes place from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesday in the Gardner Auditorium at the State House. Written comments will be accepted by the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Executive Office of Transportation until 5 p.m. Jan. 14.

Can't get there...
The Rutherford Avenue on-ramp to the Tobin Bridge will be closed from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. tonight through Friday morning.

 The Sumner Tunnel on-ramp to Storrow Drive will be closed from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Friday and from 11 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday. Sumner Tunnel access to I-93 north will remain open.

 The Storrow Drive on-ramp to the Leverett Connector leading to I-93 north and the Tobin Bridge will be closed from 10 p.m. Friday to 9 a.m. Saturday.

 I-93 south over Sullivan Square will be closed from 12:01 to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Friday. The on-ramps to I-93 south from Mystic Avenue and Storrow Drive will also be closed.

 The Mass. Pike eastbound between Exit 22 (Prudential/Copley) and South Boston will be closed from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Friday and from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. Friday through next Sunday, Dec. 19. Direct access to the Ted Williams Tunnel from I-93 north, Frontage Road, and South Boston will remain open.

 The Frontage Road northbound on-ramp to the Mass. Pike westbound at the Broadway Bridge will be closed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Friday morning and from 10 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Saturday.

 The ramps at Exit 20 from I-93 north to the Mass. Pike will be closed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Friday and from 10 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Saturday. The left-hand ramp from Exit 20 to Frontage Road Northbound and South Station will remain open.

 The Mass. Pike westbound in South Boston will be closed from 12:01 to 5 a.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 12:01 to 7 a.m. Saturday. The on-ramp to the Mass. Pike westbound from D Street will also be closed.

 I-93 north at Exit 20 (Mass. Pike/Logan) will be closed from 12:01 to 5 a.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 12:01 to 6 a.m. Saturday. The ramps at Exit 20 from I-93 north to the Mass. Pike, and the ramps from Massachusetts Avenue and Broadway to I-93 north will also be closed.

 The on-ramp from Congress Street to I-93 north in South Boston and Exit 24 (I-93 north) off the Mass. Pike westbound will be closed from 12:01 to 5 a.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 12:01 to 6 a.m. Saturday.

  The Haymarket on-ramp to I-93 south and the Callahan Tunnel will be closed from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Friday and from 11 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday.

 The Storrow Drive on-ramp to I-93 south will be closed from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Friday and from 1 to 6 a.m. Saturday and next Sunday, Dec. 19.

  I-93 south over the Charles River will be closed from 1 to 6 a.m. Saturday and next Sunday, Dec. 19. The on-ramps to I-93 south from Storrow Drive, the Tobin Bridge, and City Square will also be closed.

 The ramp at Exit 22 (South Station) off I-93 south will be closed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Friday and from 11 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Saturday.

 The Atlantic Avenue on-ramp to I-93 north will be closed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Saturday.

 The Sumner Tunnel on-ramp to I-93 north will be closed from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. tomorrow through Friday.

Complain to us at starts@globe.com. Don't forget to send us your hometown. Outside the paper, the column can be found at www.boston.com/news/local/startsandstops/. Our mailing address is Starts & Stops, P.O. Box 55819, Boston, MA 02205-5819. 

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