T notes: Bus driver hit, killed at Charlestown garage

Pollack sees progress on at-grade throat option

AN MBTA DRIVER walking to his vehicle early Monday morning at the Charlestown garage was struck by a bus and killed, according to T and union officials.

Bernadin Etienne, an 18-year employee of the T, was hit at around 6 a.m. Monday morning. Few details were available on exactly what happened, but T officials said MBTA Transit Police were conducting an investigation in conjunction with Boston Police and the Suffolk County district attorney’s office.

In a joint letter to T workers, MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak and Jim Evers, the president of the Boston Carmen’s Union, said they were deeply saddened by the incident. “Safety is a top priority at the MBTA, and something we strive for individually and as an organization each day,” they said in the letter.

Etienne is the second MBTA employee to die in a bus accident this year. Kanyi Harris, a T employee from Brockton, was hit and killed by a bus at the Quincy Center Station in February.

Ronald Ester, the T’s chief safety officer, reported a week ago on the T’s overall safety efforts. He said the three-year average (2017 to 2019) for bus fatalities per million vehicle revenue miles was .04, so the two fatalities so far this year represent a major increase.

Pollack sees progress on at-grade option

 Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack on Monday said the state is making progress working with the business group A Better City and the city of Boston on developing an at-grade design for the so-called throat area of the I-90 Allston interchange that runs between Boston University and the Charles River.

Replacement of the transportation infrastructure in the throat has been a sticking point in efforts to come up with a roughly $1 billion plan for replacing and straightening the Turnpike as its runs through the area and makes way for the development of a new neighborhood by Harvard University. Three options are under consideration, including replacement of the Turnpike, Soldiers Field Road, and railroad tracks pretty much as is, with the Turnpike elevated; putting the Turnpike and the tracks at grade and elevating Soldiers Field Road; and putting everything at grade.

Key stakeholders, including A Better City, on Monday called on the MassDOT board to take an elevated Turnpike off the table and go with the at-grade option to knit the area together better. The board declined to do that, and Pollack said her staff has met with Boston and A Better City officials four times to work out details of an at-grade option that blends the best of MassDOT’s own proposal and one put forward by the city and the business group.

Pollack told the Massachusetts Department of Transportation board that she intends to name a preferred alternative for the throat next month and then send all the options for the narrow strip of land for an environmental review. She said all the options will be treated equally, but stakeholders are skeptical.

To accommodate the negotiations with the city of Boston and A Better City, and to allow more input from stakeholders, Pollack said she extended the timetable a bit for selecting a preferred option.

Pollack also reiterated that no money has been set aside for the project. She said she hopes to have a finance in place for the project by next summer.

Fenway Center paying $55m upfront

The developers of the Fenway Center, a proposed office building for biotech tenants, are expected to make an upfront lease payment of at least $55 million to the state for land and air rights over the Massachusetts Turnpike.

The final details of the project haven’t been worked out yet, but the Massachusetts Department of Transportation board gave Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack the authority to negotiate them in a bid to move the project ahead faster so its construction timetable (which results in lane closures on the Turnpike) could move in sync with a similar Pike air rights project already underway.

Scott Bosworth, MassDOT’s chief strategy officer, said the state could earn more money on the deak if the project is able to construct the platform over the Turnpike for less money than forecasted. The state and the developers have agreed to split any savings 50-50, Bosworth said.

Traffic turned upside down

Traffic is down about 20 percent across the state, and traffic patterns have also changed, shifting away from the on-peak, off-peak dynamic that existed prior to COVID-19.

Jonathan Gulliver, the state’s highway administrator, said traffic is down compared to the same time period in 2019 as much as 48 percent in Greater Boston, 28 percent in Worcester, and 25 percent in Springfield. The declines are much smaller in the southeastern part of the state, on Cape Cod, and in the Berkshires.

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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.

“As you get closer to Boston, the more the volumes are dropping off,” said Gulliver.

The highway administrator said traffic is also spread out more across the day. “There is no notable peak times in the morning and evening,” he said.