T notes: New bridge to feature bus lane

No repeat of St. Patrick’s Day vandalism on commuter rail

THE STATE TRANSPORTATION BOARD approved a nearly $177 million contract on Monday to replace the rundown North Washington Street Bridge in Boston with a new span featuring four lanes for vehicles, a dedicated southbound lane for buses, bike lanes, and wider sidewalks.

The bridge currently carries 44,000 vehicles a day between Charlestown and Boston’s North End. The decision to add a dedicated bus lane is another sign of how both the city and the state, with prodding from transit advocates, are starting to give preference to buses in heavily congested areas. The dedicated bus lane was not in early designs of the bridge.

The work on the bridge, which has been considered structurally deficient since 2002, will take 5.25 years to complete, in part because three lanes for cars (two inbound and one outbound) plus a sidewalk and bike lane will be maintained throughout the construction period.

“This is a very complicated project,” said Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack.

Under terms of the deal, the total cost of the project with contingencies will be $205 million. The federal government is picking up 80 percent of the tab and the state 20 percent. The city of Boston, which owns the bridge, is supplying nearly $15 million for the construction work, plus another $7 million to incentivize the contractor to finish in 5.25 years instead of the original timetable of six years. Any cost overruns in excess of $205 million will be paid by the city of Boston.

JF White Contracting won the contract with a bid that was 9.1 percent above what the state estimated the job would cost. The same contractor recently won a contract to overhaul the Mystic Bridge, despite incurring cost overruns on another project to replace the bridge spanning the Fore River between Braintree and Weymouth.

Joseph Sullivan, a member of the MassDOT board and the mayor of Braintree, pressed officials on how a contractor’s past performance figures into contract award decisions. Officials said as long as a contractor is prequalified, meaning the firm meets general standards, the state is required to go with the lowest bidder.

Pollack: At least nine months for I-90 study

Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said it will take about nine months for state officials to decide how to proceed with a wide-ranging plan to rebuild and reshape the Massachusetts Turnpike as it runs through Allston.

Members of the public and members of the MassDOT board urged quick action, but Pollack said it would take at least nine months to the come up with the best approach and arrange financing. “I certainly hope it doesn’t take a year,” she said.

Former transportation secretary Fred Salvucci urged the state transportation board to move quickly on the project because an elevated section of the Turnpike near Boston University is “structurally deficient.”

Harry Mattison, an Allston resident and chair of the advocacy committee of the Charles River Conservancy, said public comments on the state’s original proposal showed unusual consensus for building the proposed West Station early in the construction process, providing a transit connection between Cambridge Street and Commonwealth Avenue, replacing the elevated section of the Turnpike with an at-grade road, and expanding public paths along the Charles River.

No repeat of St. Patrick’s Day vandalism

With an added police presence, MBTA officials said there was no repeat this year of the extensive vandalism that occurred last year on commuter rail trains on St. Patrick’s Day.

Jeffrey Gonneville, the deputy general manager, said transit police officers were stationed on many inbound trains coming into the city Sunday between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. As a result, there was little or no vandalism on board the trains, he said.

By contrast, Gonneville said damage was extensive last year when parade-goers were flooding into the city on commuter rail trains. “We had windows broken. We had light fixtures broken on several coaches. There were other forms of vandalism as well, such as fights on board trains. This was on the way in,” he said.

Gonneville declined to say which train lines suffered the most damage last year.

Brian Lang, a member of the T’s Fiscal and Management Control Board, said he was glad to see transit officials prevented violence this year.  “I’m glad that we’ve been able to contain the rowdiness of the suburbanites that come into the city,” he said.

New Green Line cars on way

MBTA officials said they took delivery on Friday of the first of 24 new vehicles that will eventually operate on the Green Line extension into Somerville and Medford.

Jeffrey Gonneville, the deputy general manager, said he intends to begin using the new Green Line cars as they come in so older rail cars can be taken out of service for maintenance. “It will give us a little bit of a buffer,” he said.

T board gives preliminary OK to budget

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.

The MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board gave preliminary approval to a fiscal 2018 budget on Monday that counts on $25 million in new revenues and $36 million in cost savings from initiatives for which few details have been provided.

The budget proposal assumes $8 million from higher sales of corporate T passes, $7 million from new parking fees, $6 million from increased advertising revenue, and a $4 million boost in investment income. It also calls for $30 million in cost savings from unspecified productivity programs.