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Planning group warns of gridlock on Route 128

Posted by Leslie Anderson  June 27, 2011 03:48 PM

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A potential traffic meltdown looms on a key stretch of Route 128 west of Boston unless steps are taken to get more commuters out of their cars and onto trains and buses, a new report warns.

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council projects a 77 percent increase in traffic over the next decade or two along highway from the intersection with Route 3 to the Massachusetts Turnpike.

In order to make way for the surge in traffic as new development and new jobs are created along the corridor, state and local officials need to look at a mix of short-term and long-term solutions, according to MAPC.

These range from coordinating the schedules of private shuttle buses to building a regional multi-modal transportation center along 128 to ferry workers from commuter rail stops to office parks along the highway.

The traffic congestion, in turn, is mainly due to the expansion of companies with offices and labs along 128. All told, 80 percent of those who work on along Route 128’s central corridor commute from other parts of the state and region, according to the study.

“The point here is that this area certainly has a lot of growth potential, but the question is how can we have that economic development without completely strangling the corridor with traffic congestion,” said Eric Bourassa, transportation manager at MAPC.

All told, Route 128’s central corridor could see another traffic increase by 150,000 cars and trucks per day over the next number of years.

That’s on top of the current 200,000 vehicles that currently use the highway now on a daily basis, a number that is already considered well above capacity, according to the MAPC.

Driving the increase is an expected surge in jobs and new office construction along the 12.6 mile stretch of highway. Roughly 47 new development projects have either been recently completed, are in construction or are in planning along Route 128’s central corridor.

In order to cope with the influx, the report highlights a series of recommendations by the Route 128 Central Corridor Coalition, a local planning organization made up of elected leaders and highway advocacy groups.

Among the ideas proposed:

-- Better coordinate private shuttle buses to both enhance service and to avoid schedule overlap.

-- Investigate possibilities for express bus service to the corridor from public transportation hubs.

-- Explore a dedicated bus lane on the shoulder of the highway.

-- Study building a potential multi-modal transportation hub at a commuter rail station near the highway.

Scott Van Voorhis can be reached at sbvanvoorhis@hotmail.com.

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