T notes: Submerged Blue Line back online
Alert: Lane shutdowns coming on Route 1, Turnpike
STATE TRANSPORTATION OFFICIALS are hailing the efforts of transit authority staff to get the Blue Line’s Orient Heights station back online Monday morning following a Friday evening fire at an adjacent building that was put out with water that ended up flooding the track area.
Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said she was impressed that T officials were able to bring the station online even while other agency officials were busy contending with high traffic volumes on Sunday due to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
“This really demonstrates how far the different teams at the T have come,” she said.
The nine-alarm fire broke out at the New England Casket Co. on Friday night. The building was destroyed, and the firefighting effort resulted in Blue Line tracks and signal and power equipment being submerged under water.
Users of Route 1, Turnpike: Expect delays
Two major road arteries coming into Boston will start undergoing repairs this spring and summer that will shut down traffic lanes and lengthen commutes. Transportation officials are urging drivers to find alternative routes or use public transportation.
Resurfacing of the Tobin Bridge and the so-called Chelsea curves leading up to the span on Route 1 will mean two fewer lanes inbound and outbound this summer. The project is expected to take at least two years, causing delays of as much as 20 minutes on bus routes (Routes 111, 426, and 428) that already run late frequently.
“You are probably going to experience pretty significant delays at the start of this project,” said Jonathan Gulliver, the state highway administrator.
Gulliver said the state is hoping to cut road use by 15 percent during the construction period, or about 400 cars per hour, to avoid big backups.
To make public transit more attractive, the T is adding more trains to the Blue Line, allowing commuter rail travelers from Chelsea to use a CharlieCard to board trains, and offering free inbound fares on the Silver Line 3 bus at the Chelsea, Bellingham Square, Box District, and Eastern Avenue stops. Officials said the cost of the extra Blue Line trains and the free Silver Line service will be borne by highway project funds.
The other major disruption is work on the Turnpike to support air rights development near the surface intersection of Boylston Street and Massachusetts Avenue. The work will result in one fewer lane inbound and outbound this summer and two fewer lanes inbound and outbound during the summer of 2020.
State transportation officials approved a Focus 40 plan on Monday, detailing projects scheduled to be completed by 2023, next priorities through 2040, and big ideas with no set timetable. The document is wide-ranging, but here’s a sampling of the issues:
Connecting the Red and Blue Lines – A subway connection between the two lines is listed as a “next priority,” with a possibility of being included in the next capital investment plan. It was unclear whether that next revision would be in 2020 or 2021. The document says “the most studied concept” for connecting the two lines is extending the Blue Line from Bowdoin to Charles/MGH, but the plan lists as a “big idea” the possibility of extending the Blue Line to the Longwood Medical Area with a connection to the Red Line at Park Street Station. Also in the big idea category: consolidating the Park and Downtown Crossing Stations into one superstation to speed travel through the downtown core and extending the Blue Line to Lynn.
Seaport – Under projects to be completed by 2023, the T lists adjusting traffic signals to move Silver Line buses through the D Street intersection more quickly and allowing the buses to use the emergency access ramp on to I-90 “at certain times when it would be safe to do so. Physical modifications to the geometry of the merge between this ramp, the HOV lane, and the mainline of I-90 may be necessary.”
Green Line – Under big ideas, the T lists extending the Green Line extension, which is currently being constructed to College Avenue, to Mystic Valley Parkway. Also under big ideas: connecting State Street and Downtown Crossing via a pedestrian pathway.
Commuter rail – Under next priorities through 2040, the T lists replacing diesel locomotives with electric vehicles on the Providence Line, which already has the needed power systems in place for Amtrak service. The T said it is currently exploring lease options for electric locomotives. Under big ideas, the T said it is exploring electrification of the entire commuter rail system.
Commuter rail shows strong on-time performance
MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said the commuter rail system is on a roll, with the system turning in its best three-month performance (91.7 percent over December, January, and February) in the last six years.
Cape highway reconstruction
The MassDOT board approved a $17.3 million contract on Monday to redo a dangerous , crash-prone section of the so-called Cranberry Highway (Routes 6 and 28) in Wareham.Officials said the stretch of road, which is a bit longer than a mile, saw 450 crashes between 2011 and 2015, and 10 pedestrian crashes between 2011 and 2016, four of which resulted in fatalities.
The project will widen the road to include a raised concrete median, sidewalks, and five-foot shoulders that can be used as bicycle lanes. Construction will start this spring and conclude in 2023.