DOT notes: Get ready for Pike delays

Sumner Tunnel traffic way, way up

NEW DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS over the Massachusetts Turnpike near where Boylston Street and Massachusetts Avenue intersect will result in lane closures starting later this year and last for a total of 16 months, state transportation officials said on Monday.

Looming in the future is an even more disruptive project on the Turnpike. The state is replacing the elevated section of the Turnpike between Boston University and the Charles River as part of a massive overhaul of the highway in the Allston area. That work is expected to start in 2020 and last eight to 10 years.

Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said she wants to avoid turning the Turnpike into a construction zone for 10 years.

“That’s why we are developing a sequencing plan because we do not want to have folks who are driving the Turnpike from the west be in contiguous traffic caused by the work. We really do need to integrate the timing of the work on Allston with the work at the Prudential tunnel and make sure that we don’t have that,” she said.

State officials are planning to extend the Turnpike’s so-called Prudential tunnel by 900 feet to a total distance of 4,085 feet to accommodate three different projects at the western end of the tunnel. The developers of the three projects will be responsible for the deck that their buildings will sit on, but the state and other tenants above the existing tunnel will pay for ventilation and fire code improvements that are expected to cost $70 million.

The first project, called 1000 Boylston Street, would build a tower with 108 residential condominiums and 45,000 square feet of retail. The developer expects to make payments with a net present value of $17.5 million to the MBTA for a 198-year lease. State officials said the developer plans to begin construction late this spring or in the summer.

The other two projects in the works would be a condo-retail project and an office-hotel complex. The T hopes to receive $30.5 million from one developer to renovate the Hynes Station on the Green Line while the other project would come with lease payments with a net present value of $15 million.

Jonathan Gulliver, the state’s highway administrator, said tentative plans call for the inbound and outbound sides of the Turnpike to lose a lane of traffic for 14 months and 11 months, respectively, with the closures overlapping for about nine months.  “These are proposals. These are not set in stone,” Gulliver said.

Scott Bosworth, chief strategy officer of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, said existing tenants with air rights above the Turnpike will chip in the money for the ventilation and fire code improvements. He said some of that money, under terms of a previous agreement, will be directed to the MBTA, leaving a balance of $18 million that needs to be covered. He said lease payments to the state will far exceed the state’s costs.

Sumner traffic explodes

Over the last five years, traffic volume in the Sumner Tunnel going from East Boston into the city has risen 46 percent, nearly 18 times what state officials had forecasted.

Jonathan Gulliver, the state highway administrator, said the daily traffic volume in the Sumner Tunnel has gone from 26,000 cars a day in 2013 to 38,000 cars a day in 2018. “That is an unheard of amount of growth,” said Jonathan Gulliver, the state’s highway administrator.

No one knows for sure what’s causing the increase in traffic, but ride-sharing apps going to and from the airport figure prominently in most explanations. Gulliver said it appears a lot of people are cutting through East Boston to avoid backups on 1A. He said a new traffic configuration on Storrow Drive is easing congestion at the other end of the Sumner Tunnel and appears to be helping on the East Boston side, but the huge traffic increase is making congestion unavoidable.

State getting snow break

It’s still only February and a snowstorm is in the forecast for Tuesday afternoon, but the state’s snow and ice budget is running way below estimates so far this fiscal year.

The state budgeted $118 million, but it has spent only $47 million so far. Snowfall typically averages 24 inches by this time of year in Boston, but the city’s accumulation has been only 2.3 inches. Even snow-heavy Worcester is way down — 21.5 inches instead of the usual 40 inches by this time of year.

Turnpike repair estimate

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

A new study indicates the portion of the Massachusetts Turnpike system extending from Weston into Boston requires $1.4 billion of work over the next 10 years, not including a massive reconstruction of the highway in the Allston area.

According to the study, the biggest need is a rehab of the Sumner Tunnel, which is expected to cost $118 million. The Callahan Tunnel needs its ceiling replaced, at an estimated cost of $40 million. And the lights in the Central Artery Tunnel need to be replaced at an estimated cost of $157.5 million.