T notes: S. Coast Rail subsidy $9m to $12m a year
Highway chief comes under fire for eliminating HOV lane
STATE TRANSPORTATION OFFICIALS estimate South Coast Rail will require an annual operating subsidy of between $9 million and $12 million a year.
At Monday’s joint meeting of the Department of Transportation board and the Fiscal and Management Control Board, officials estimated the annual cost to operate and maintain the proposed rail line between South Station and Fall River and New Bedford would be $18 to $20 million. Fare revenue is forecast to be $8 to $9 million. Both estimates are expressed in 2024 dollars.
Joe Sullivan, the mayor of Braintree who serves on the MassDOT board, predicted the return on investment from building South Coast Rail would be far higher than the roughly $10 million annual net cost. He urged MBTA officials to develop some way of estimating the economic impact of the project and publicize that number along with the net cost.
Joseph Aiello and Brian Lang, two members of the control board, said they supported Sullivan’s point of view and urged T officials to research the economic impact of the projecyt.
State Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver said the temporary shutdown of the high occupancy vehicle lane running southbound on I-93 from Medford to near the Zakim Bridge so far appears to be working as planned – easing congestion created by traffic looking to avoid repair work on Route 1 in Chelsea and on the Tobin Bridge.
The lane was shut down a week ago, Gulliver said, because it had excess capacity that transportation officials felt could be used to handle traffic diverting from the Route 1 roadwork.
“It is much, much too early to reach any conclusions,” Gulliver said, but “so far things are lining up pretty much as we expected.”
A large number of transportation advocates testified at the joint board meeting that shutting down the HOV lane, which operates from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., was a mistake and possibly illegal. They noted the decision was made without board approval and against the advice of the Lower Mystic Regional Working Group.
Chris Dempsey, director of Transportation for Massachusetts, said during peak rush hour 2,250 people per hour use the HOV lane, compared to 1,500 using the regular lanes. He said the 2.6 mile HOV trip takes three to four minutes, compared to 9 to 13 minutes using the regular lanes.
“The HOV lane is not perfect, but until last week it was working,” he said.
Staci Rubin, a senior attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation, said the HOV lane was implemented with EPA blessing and shutting it down – even temporarily – without any public comment may be illegal.
New college passes
The MBTA is offering Boston college students two new ways to ride – a semester pass with more flexible timing and a university pass that allows students to use subways and buses whenever they want and be billed afterwards by their school.
The semester pass offers an 11 percent discount to students who sign up for three to four months of unlimited service; previously that pass required students to sign up for an entire semester before school even started.
The university pass offers the same transit access, but students are billed on a per-trip basis by their school.
Redesign of Charles River Dam Road
The road that runs in front of the Museum of Science is being redesigned to cut down on the number of crashes that occur there.
Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver said the roadway will be redesigned this summer, going from six lanes (three in each direction) to five lanes (two in each direction plus a turning lane) with the extra space devoted to bike lanes on both sides of the roadway.
“It’s a high crash area,” Gulliver said, noting one person died in an accident over the last year.
Comings and goingsPaul Brandley, the T’s chief financial officer, is leaving the agency to take a job with the same title at Neighborly, a company that offers investors “tax-advantaged returns by funding the world-positive projects they care about.”
Brandley is one of several young executives at the T who have left after a couple years on the job, creating a brain drain. MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak wished Brandley well on Monday, and noted two recent hires – Jay Neider, chief of capital programs, and John Glennon, chief information officer. Glennon comes to the T from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.