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On the Trans Blog
BU Bridge Closure

On Sunday February 21, 2010 through Thursday, March 4, 2010 the Boston University Bridge over the Charles River between Cambridge and Boston, will be closed to traffic from 9 PM to 5 AM, Sunday through Thursday, each week. The upstream sidewalk will remain open during the bridge closure for bicycle and pedestrian access. Drivers are encouraged to plan ahead and seek alternative routes during the closures.

MassDOT crews will be completing demolition work as part of the first phase of construction on the Boston University Bridge Rehabilitation Project. All Cambridge-to-Boston traffic and Boston-to-Cambridge traffic will be detoured to the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge. Buses and emergency vehicles will be permitted to cross the bridge. Learn more about MassDOT road and bridge projects.

Green Line Extension Field Work Planned

Over the next six months, contractors for MassDOT will perform field work in support of the MBTA Green Line extension to Somerville and Medford. Teams will perform field surveys, noise and vibration testing, and soil borings to collect information for the Extension design. People who live and work along the right-of-way may see these professional surveyors and others, who are authorized to work within and around the MBTA right-of-way.

MassDOT sent letters about the work to abutters to the rail right-of-way based on community records. Anyone with questions may contact Green Line Extension Project Manager Kate Fichter via email, or by phone at 617-973-7342

Learn more about the Green Line Extension

Fore River Bridge Public Hearing

A public hearing for the Fore River Bridge Replacement Project has been scheduled for Wednesday, February 24, 7:30 – 9:00 PM
Hingham Town Hall, Auditorium
210 Central Street, Hingham.

The meeting will present the Fore River Bridge Replacement project and the two bridge types being evaluated as part of the 25% design process. The evaluation is being performed as part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process. The project team will also summarize comments received to date and how they are being incorporated into the environmental assessment. MassDOT staff will answer questions and gather public comments. The permanent, movable replacement of the Fore River Bridge carrying Route 3A over the Fore River between Quincy and Weymouth, is funded by Governor Patrick's historic 8-year, $3 billion Accelerated Bridge Program.

To be added to the project email or US Mail distribution lists, please contact Stephanie Boundy via email or by phone at 617-973-8049

The Road to Reform

Federal Stimulus TIGER Grants Boost 3 Key Projects

Governor Deval Patrick and the state's Congressional delegation this week announced Massachusetts has been awarded $95.5 million in major federal stimulus Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Grants to fund critical transportation improvement and economic growth projects for South Coast Rail, Revere's Wonderland transit station and Fitchburg Commuter Rail Service.

"These three grants will create jobs, spark economic growth and support critical transportation improvements in regions of our state that deserve better transit and rail service," said Governor Deval Patrick.

The three separate TIGER grant awards include:

  • $55.5 million for the Fitchburg Commuter Rail extension project which includes track improvements for freight and passenger rail, a new Wachusett commuter rail station and layover facility. The facility is expected to serve over 400 new commuter rail passengers in 2012. The project will create an estimated 306 construction jobs in the short-term and at least 855 new jobs in the long-term. The grant, a priority of Congressman John Olver, was a joint application of the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority, the City of Fitchburg, Town of Westminster, MBTA Pan Am Southern, and OMNOVA Solutions, Inc.
  • $20 million to reconstruct structurally-deficient rail bridges in New Bedford, above, that are immediately north of the planned Whale's Tooth Station for the South Coast Rail project. The bridge work is the first step in the groundbreaking "Fast Track New Bedford" project that will revitalize New Bedford's waterfront and initiate construction of a key component of South Coast Rail.
  • $20 million for multi-modal improvements to the Wonderland Station area in Revere. The original grant included a proposed multi-modal path, creation of an employment center, green design and energy efficiency components and important accessibility and state of good repair projects. The grant was a joint application of the City of Revere and Congressman Edward Markey. The nationwide list of TIGER grants and details is here. Learn more about Massachusetts federal stimulus transportation projects.

MassDOT Reform: Developers Real-Time Challenge

MassDOT thursday announced the MassDOT Developers Real-Time Challenge. The Challenge calls on developers to create both software applications and physical installations using a real-time feed of MBTA bus locations and arrival predictions with the goal of making this information available anywhere, anytime. The challenge has two categories, with a $500 cash prize for the winner in each and recognition at a March event.

  • Software Applications Challenge: This challenge calls on developers to create applications using the MBTA Real-Time XML Trial Feed accessible through the internet, mobile phones, land-line phones, text messages, software applications and any widely accessible software platform. Examples include: smartphone applications, web applications, websites, computer applications, SMS services, and phone-based IVR systems.
  • Physical Installation Challenge: This challenge calls on developers to create physical installations making information from the MBTA Real-Time XML Trial Feed accessible in public locations. These solutions must be installed along at least one of the five MBTA Routes for which the feed is available on non-MBTA property. Examples include: LED countdown signs in businesses or other locations along the route, LCD countdown signs in businesses or other locations along the routes, bus arrival indicators, physical signs informing users of the existence of real-time data through the phone or on the web, or the inclusion of the MBTA real-time bus information in existing installations along the MBTA Bus routes.

View the Rules & FAQ's

The Challenge begins today, and applications and installations can be submitted through March 19, 2010.

The challenge requires that developers use real-time information provided through the MassDOT Developers page. Pilot MBTA bus routes with real-time information included bus route 39, which serves Jamaica Plain, the Longwood Medical Area and Back Bay in Boston; and bus routes 111, 114, 116 and 117, which serve Haymarket Station, East Boston, Chelsea and Revere. Access the feed here.

The Real-Time Challenge builds on MassDOT's 2009 Developer Challenge and Conference which spurred the creation of more than six applications using the MBTA's trip planning data. Together, the efforts further MassDOT's historic step toward openness and transparency through creation of the MassDOT Developers Page in the summer of 2009.

Rail Accessibility A Win in Winchester

Posted by Gary Talbot, MBTA Assistant General Manager, System-Wide Accessibility

I am pleased to report the Patrick Administration has committed $2 million in federal stimulus funds to make the Wedgemere Commuter Rail Station in Winchester accessible. While improved access benefits all customers—from families with strollers to passengers with luggage—it can make a world of difference to people like Jean Batty and her 5 year-old son, Theo, who uses a wheelchair. The Batty family lives just steps from the station, and Theo looks forward to the day when he can ride the train to see the Sox play at Fenway, watch the fireworks on the 4th or someday attend college in Boston. The Batty family joined several dozen others including state legislators and Town Selectman at this month's regional Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting, testifying in favor of the project.

Ms. Batty first contacted the MBTA Department of System-Wide Accessibility back in 2008 to find out if there were any plans to make the Winchester or Wedgemere Stations accessible.

Presently the only way to board a train at Winchester or Wedgemere is to climb a set of on-board steps. At the time, we explained to Ms. Batty that, because Winchester and Wedgemere were not considered key stations and because they were not undergoing significant alterations, there was no legal requirement for the MBTA to make either station accessible. This was not what we wanted to tell Ms. Batty or what she expected to hear from the MBTA. Additionally, if the MBTA elected to make either station accessible, the FTA would require us to install full-high platforms (platforms that allow for level boarding at all train doors and that run the entire length of the platform) as are required at all newly constructed stations and stations that are undergoing significant alteration. Full-high platforms typically cost 8-10 million dollars and are not technically feasible at all stations.

This information did not deter Ms. Batty as she decided to focus her efforts on the Wedgemere station. With support from local politicians and the MBTA, she lobbied for an alternate solution to the full-high platform requirement. As a result, in July of 2009, the FTA granted the MBTA permission to install mini-high platforms at Wedgemere station. Mini-high platforms are an accessibility solution that were popular in the 1990s. Like full-high platforms, they provide ramped access to a platform that is level with the vehicle floor. Unlike full-highs, however, they are significantly smaller and only service two coaches of the train. As such, they are much simpler to construct and significantly less expensive than full-high platforms.

With the FTA's approval in hand, Ms. Batty continued her work with local politicians and the MBTA, this time to secure funding. With support from the Representative Ed Markey, MA Secretary of Transportation, Jeffrey Mullan and Governor Patrick, funds were identified and reallocated by the MPO. The design for mini-high platforms at Wedgemere will begin very soon, with a construction completion date that could be set in the next few months.

After Wedgemere is complete, 36 inaccessible Commuter Rail stations with remain. Calls and letters from local residents to improve accessibility at Concord's station are already flooding in. With continued collaboration between residents and local, state and federal government, we will continue improve accessibility system-wide. Thank you again to Ms. Batty for her tireless efforts to help make this accessibility win a reality. The impact of her efforts is best said by our Secretary Jeff Mullan, "please know that this is exactly what the Governor keeps talking about – doing things to help real people live their lives. Let's make sure that the story is told again and again". Wow, what an incredible statement of support, are we going to have fun or what! Learn more about the MBTA commitment to accessibility.

FAST LANE Transponder Numbers Rising

transponders became free of charge, the number of customers has risen dramatically. A total of more than 318,000 transponders have been distributed in the past year. The overall transponder total now exceeds 1.38 million. A FAST LANE free transponder sign up in West Springfield netted 55 new customers.

If you travel I-90 and are still paying cash, sign up today, online.

MassDOT Board March Public Meeting

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation Board of Directors will hold its next public business meeting on Wednesday, March 3, in the MBTA Board Room, Boston. During 2010, meetings will be held in Springfield, Lowell, and Brockton, along with Boston. All meetings are open to the public.

The meeting schedule is available on the MassDOT website.

Winter Storms: Plan Ahead, Use Public Transportation

MassDOT encourages drivers to plan ahead and drive safely and commuters to use public transportation if possible during winter storms.

MassDOT encourages driving commuters to leave plenty of time for travel in order to help keep the roads clear for local plowing crews.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: MassDOT encourages residents to use public transportation whenever possible. Visit MBTA on the web. Locate Regional Transit Authorities here.

MassDOT winter driving tips are online.

If you must drive during a storm, prior to departure view MassDOT's live online traffic cameras here.