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MAC DANIEL | STARTS & STOPS

2006 was far from a smooth ride

Welcome to (we think) the third sporadic attempt at the Starts & Stops' Pothole Awards, recognizing the best and the worst of getting around Boston over the last wretched year. Good riddance, 2006. Wouldn't wanna be ya.

We will go in ascending order to build this column into a crescendo that is sure to depress and delight.

A good thing (sort of) about the Big Dig
The project -- still with Matthew J. Amorello at the helm -- began the year by announcing that major construction was finishing up and, best of all, the full nighttime closures of the I-93 tunnels would end. It was one of just a few instances in which the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority kept their word, though partial closures continue to this day. A Positive Pothole to you.

Where's Joe?
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority cracked down on absenteeism this year and gets a Positive Pothole for the effort. About 35 percent of the T's roughly 6,000 employees were absent for 11 or more days in 2004, the last year for which figures are available, and 16 percent were absent 26 or more days. Good work if you can get it.

Moonscape
Back to the Turnpike Authority and the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, which will be anything but green in those spots where the soil was discovered to be too shallow to plant the planned avenue of trees. The more the project moves forward, the less appealing it seems to be. And when the authority recently said the Massachusetts Horticultural Society couldn't do their thing on the Greenway, it became quite apparent that Kermit was right. It ain't easy being green. Call this one the Shallow Pothole.

They gave us jazz?
A Good Deed Pothole to the T for loaning its 22-year-old portable electric substation to the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority, where it continues to power the Crescent City's historic streetcar lines and restore another piece of daily life to a city still recovering from one of the nation's worst natural disasters.

Representin' the people
The Always a Pol Pothole to our favorite hair, Governor Mitt Romney, who claims to be a friend of public transportation but doesn't know much about it. In July 2005, he thought a ride on the MBTA cost a buck when it cost $1.25. And in March, he said the Green Line was being extended to Malden and Melrose, both incorrect.

Sound of movement
A Ticking Pothole to the T, which decided this year to replace the old Solari board at South Station with a new electronic one that, believe it or not, will still issue the familiar "tickticktick" when the schedule changes, despite there being no moving parts. Passengers have become so used to looking up to see arrivals and changes when they hear the ticking that T officials plan to keep the old sound in the new board.

Wake up!
A Most Fun Thing We Covered all Year Pothole to the students from Berklee College of Music who took over the New England Medical Center's Orange Line stop and turned the rushing masses into musical instruments as a way to snap people out of the commuting doldrums, interact with them, maybe even get some smiles. It worked.

Boffo bouffant
A Hair-Free Pothole to MBTA repair foreman Tom McHale and his ingenious use of a 50-cent hairnet, which he placed over the air intake on Orange Line motors to prevent snow build up and, in turn, saved the cash-strapped authority hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Lights!!
Five years. Five years. Five years. For five years, we've been trying to get the Massachusetts Highway Department to fix the streetlamps on Interstate 93 north of the Zakim Bridge, where New England winter nights (heck, late afternoons) can make things very, very dark. As we've mentioned before, if this were your neighbor's house and the lights were out for this long, you'd call the police. They're still out. Pothole. Pothole Pothole Pothole.

Can the new guy do something about this? And oh, by the way, by the time you're in charge, Governor Patrick, a subway ride on the T will cost $1.70. Just in case you're asked.

!!!
I-90 ceiling collapse. Say no more.

Fare hike
Remember the fare increase, which starts tomorrow. CharlieCard offers the cheapest fare. CharlieTicket and cash do not. If you don't know what a CharlieCard is by now, skip to the comics.

Subway one-way = $1.70 and free transfer to bus with CharlieCard. Without? $2.

Bus? $1.25 with CharlieCard and $1.50 without.

Seniors or T.A.P. holders? 40 cents for bus. 60 cents for subway.

Children under 11 ride free.

Commuter rail gets CharlieCards later this year.

2007?
It's New Year's Eve, and the T is taking the keys. Don't drink and drive. It's stupid. So stupid.

Remember, free service after 8 p.m. and the trains should be running through 2 a.m. Here's the schedule:

On schedule
Tonight (New Year's Eve), the Blue, Orange, Green and Red line trains will operate on a Sunday schedule with the following additions:

Service will increase during the afternoon leading to rush-hour service levels from approximately 7 p.m. to the end of First Night.

Buses will operate on a Sunday schedule with the following additions:

Extra service on route #57 (Watertown to Kenmore) from 6 p.m. until the end of the fireworks.

Extra service on route #39 (Forest Hills to Back Bay) from 6 p.m. until the end of the fireworks.

Extra service operating out of Government Center to Riverside until end of fireworks.

Extra service in the Cambridge area operating out of Harvard, Central and Lechmere stations as needed.

Extra service operating out of Sullivan, Wellington, and Haymarket stations as needed.

Extra service operating from Wonderland Station to Revere.

Extra service in the Quincy area until the completion of Quincy's First Night.

Commuter rail service on New Year's Eve will operate on a Sunday schedule with additional train service provided to accommodate passengers participating in Boston's First Night. See mbta.com for details.

Tomorrow (New Year's Day), Blue, Orange, Green and Red line trains will operate on a Sunday schedule.

Buses and trackless trolleys will operate on a Sunday schedule.

Commuter rail trains will operate on a Sunday schedule. Please note: Fairmount Line, Needham Line and Stoughton Line will not operate.

All Inner Harbor ferry and commuter boat services will not operate.

THE RIDE will operate on a Sunday schedule.

Can't get there. . .
A reminder that the I-90 westbound connector tunnel, connecting the Ted Williams Tunnel with the westbound Mass. Turnpike, reopened on Saturday, Dec. 23. A section of the roadway at the start of the tunnel is down to a single lane and a 35 mph speed limit. Motorists from the South Boston Waterfront can access the westbound tunnel via the reopened onramp at D Street and the Massport Haul Road.

The single lane segment of I-90 east in South Boston will close 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday morning.

I-93 south will close at Exit 23 (Purchase Street) 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday morning.

The Essex Street onramp to I-93 south will close 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday morning.

Two lanes of I-93 south approaching and through downtown will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday morning.

The Storrow Drive onramp to I-93 south will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday morning.

Two lanes of I-93 north will close from South Bay through downtown and Charlestown 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Tuesday to Saturday morning.

The Sumner Tunnel onramp to I-93 north will close 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday and 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday morning.

The Haymarket onramp to I-93 north will close 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday and 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday morning.

Exit 26 (Storrow Drive) off I-93 north will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Thursday to Saturday morning.

The Essex Street onramp to I-93 north will close 11 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday morning.

Exit 27 (Tobin Bridge/Route 1) off I-93 north will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Thursday through Saturday morning.

I-93 north will close at Exit 16 (Southampton Street) 11:30 p.m. Wednesday to 5 a.m. Thursday.

Exit 23 (Government Center) off I-93 north will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Tuesday to Thursday morning.

The Mass. Pike east between Exit 22 (Prudential/Copley) and South Boston will close 11 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Saturday. Direct access to the Ted Williams Tunnel from South Boston will remain open.

One lane of the Pike west around Logan Airport will close 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Friday.

A lane in the Ted Williams Tunnel westbound will close 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Thursday through Saturday morning.

The Congress Street onramp to I-93 south and the Pike west will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday morning.

The Sumner Tunnel onramp to Storrow Drive will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Thursday through Saturday morning. Sumner Tunnel access to Haymarket will remain open.

Route 1A north near Logan will close 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday 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 boston.com/starts with daily updates on the Starts & Stops Blog at boston.com/starts/blog. Our mailing address is Starts & Stops, P.O. Box 55819, Boston, MA 02205-5819.

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