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To accommodate up to 200 shuttle buses to ferry would-be Orange Line and Green Line riders on Boston streets over the next month, city officials said several roadways will be off-limits to general traffic to allow the public transit buses to flow freely.
The closures, outlined by Mayor Michelle Wu and other city leaders on Thursday, are among several tweaks to city roads residents can expect as the MBTA readies for a 30-day shutdown of the Orange Line for repairs beginning on Friday at 9 p.m.
The agency is also closing the Green Line between Union Square and Government Center stations beginning on Aug. 22 for 28 days.
“We have been working hard to ensure that the shuttle buses have enough space to load and unload particularly in key spots….There will be some significant changes,” Wu told reporters at a press conference.
When the shutdown takes hold, the T will offer free shuttle buses for the lack of a functioning Orange Line between Oak Grove and Haymarket/Government Center and between Forest Hills and Back Bay/Copley.
On the Green Line, free shuttle service will run between the Union Square and Government Center stations.
According to Jascha Franklin-Hodge, the city’s chief of streets, there will be two transit hubs to help ease transfers between the Orange Line and the Green Line: one in Copley Square and one in Government Center.
Franklin-Hodge said the two locations are where officials expect “to see the highest volume of passengers and shuttle buses.”
“So we’ve set aside an extensive amount of curb space in these locations to allow for efficient shuttle bus loading,” he said. “We’ve created temporary bus lanes and restricted access along certain segments of street to make sure that the shuttle buses have the space that they need to move.”
In Copley Square, shuttle buses that serve the southern branch of the Orange Line will travel down Columbus Avenue and loop around the square to make connections to the Back Bay.
Dedicated bus lanes have been added on Columbus Avenue and on Dartmouth, Boylston, and Clarendon streets.
Shuttle buses serving the northern branch of the Orange Line and the Union Square branch of the Green Line will all board at Government Center, according to Franklin-Hodge.
Dedicated bus lanes have been added on Congress, State, Court, and Cambridge streets, he said.
There will be “extensive” parking restrictions on all streets that have the bus lanes, he said.
“At both locations (Government Center and Copley), we will ensure that there’s adequate sidewalk space for people to wait, and the city is in the process of procuring tents that help make sure that there is shelter available to people in the event of inclement weather,” Franklin-Hodge said.
According to Wu’s office, the city has partnered with MassDOT to provide dedicated bus lanes on the Gillmore Bridge between Cambridge and Charlestown, on Rutherford Avenue, and in Sullivan Square.
Several streets will be closed to general traffic to allow shuttle buses to run more efficiently.
Those streets are:
Franklin-Hodge said shuttles in Jamaica Plain will be traveling on streets that typically do not have a large amount of bus traffic, including Lamartine, Amory, and William streets.
“We’re making various small changes at intersections along these streets to make sure that these 45-foot long-shuttles can safely make turns and don’t get blocked by parked cars or other obstructions,” he said. “To make this possible, we will be temporarily removing some parking spaces.”
The city is even trimming trees on some routes so buses do not get caught by low-hanging branches, he said.
“In some spots, there may be turn restrictions added to reduce the amount of general traffic that may interfere with the shuttle buses,” he said. “We may be diverting cars onto alternate routes to stay out of the way of the shuttles.”
The city is also evaluating some areas for the possible installation of school bus priority lanes, Franklin-Hodge said.
During the shutdown, Boston will provide free 30-day Bluebikes passes, allowing pass holders to complete unlimited, 45-minute or less trips without charge.
“Passes will be available on bluebikes.com and in the Bluebikes app beginning Friday, August 19th,” Wu’s office said in a news release. “Additionally, the City will be providing more bike storage racks downtown and installing temporary bike lanes along Columbus Ave. in the South End and along Boylston Street in Back Bay.”
Franklin-Hodge also noted that despite reports on Wednesday, the Southwest Corridor Park bike path will be open during the shutdown for cyclists.
The state Department of Conservation and Recreation initially planned to close the path for two weeks for repairs beginning on Friday, but later amended the closure — which entails “rolling detours” — to last only from Thursday through Saturday.
“I was riding on it this morning and DCR was already making repairs and smoothing out pavement,” Franklin-Hodge said.
Would-be Orange Line riders can also ride the commuter rail in Zones 1A, 1, and 2 at no charge by showing their CharlieCard or CharlieTicket to conductors. Trains operating parallel the Orange Line will be making stops at Forest Hills, Ruggles, Back Bay, North Station, Malden Center, and Oak Grove.
The MBTA has also announced it will add an outbound stop on the Silver Line 4 route to provide service in the Chinatown area during the shutdown. Wu and other city leaders earlier this week called for a shuttle bus stop after learning the MBTA did not plan to place one in the neighborhood.
“We know that this month is going to be challenging, but if there’s one thing that I want everyone in Boston to hear, it’s that we have your back,” Franklin-Hodge said. “We will get through this.”
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