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On the Trans Blog
President Thanks Flood Responders

MassDOT's Robert Ward calls the moment a memory he will share forever - a handshake for a job well done by the President.

President Obama visited the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency facility in Framingham Thursday, April 2, joined by Governor Patrick, to offer his thanks to Ward and others responding to the historic floods of the past month.

MassDOT Community Forums Continue

MassDOT Community Forums continue in April as part of the You Move Massachusetts Civic Engagement Initiative.

MBTA: Orange Line Public Meetings

The MBTA has announced a series of public meetings to discuss the expansion of Single Person Train Operation to the Orange Line. Similar to Single Person Train Operation mode on the Blue Line, Orange Line motorpersons will perform all functions once shared with train attendants, including door operation and station announcements. The MBTA has successfully operated in Single Person Train Operation mode on the Blue Line since 1996 with no degradation to safety, service, or security.

Fore River Bridge Public Meeting

A Public Information Meeting for the Fore River Bridge Replacement Project is scheduled for Monday, April 12, 6:30 – 8:30 PM.

MassDOT Plans Green Line Extension Work Group

MassDOT is forming a work group to assist in the Green Line Extension project's Preliminary Engineering phase. Project managers will bring together MBTA officials, municipal representatives, business representatives and local citizens to form the GLX Design Working Group.

The Road to Reform

MassDOT Reform: Flaggers Save Millions

by Luisa Paiewonsky
Administrator, MassDOT Highway Division

MassDOT has received many inquiries about the use of traffic flaggers on state road projects, and I would like to provide an update to clarify some misconceptions about our use of flaggers and paid police details. Our first priority is safety, for everyone working at construction locations and for the people who travel in those areas.

MassDOT's Road Flagger and Police Detail Regulations which went into effect on October 3, 2008, have resulted in significant traffic mitigation savings while allowing us to continue to maintain the safest roads in the nation. The legislature passed a law in 2008 requiring regulations to provide flaggers at certain road and bridge construction sites. In nearly 18 months of using road flaggers on certain MassDOT construction sites throughout the Commonwealth, I am pleased to report that in addition to the more than $10 million that has been saved to date, there have been no safety incidents related to the presence of civilian road flaggers or the implementation of the regulations. Further, the money that has been saved has allowed us to re-invest much needed capital into additional critical road and bridge projects.

MassDOT, as the contract awarding authority, was given control over when and where to use flaggers in consultation with appropriate law enforcement. In general, the regulations call for flaggers to be used on projects located on lower speed roads and for police details on high speed roads, in high traffic intersections, and other areas of specific concern.

We have followed those regulations and implemented the law, using flaggers on certain state road and bridge projects since October 2008. Approximately 60% percent of our projects starting this spring have been identified as appropriate work sites for flagger use.

As we have safely implemented this law for the past 18 months, we have begun to see the cost savings envisioned when the law was passed, savings that can be plowed back into repairing additional roads and bridges.

We looked at the cost of police details on state road and bridge projects for the five years prior to implementation of the flagger law, and compared those costs with our traffic control costs since October 2008. We found significant savings.

In the five years prior to the flagger law, MassDOT spent more than $107 million of our road and bridge construction project dollars on police traffic control- 4.38% of the total.

Since October 2008, we have spent $39.9 million on the combination of flaggers and police details- 3.44% of the total cost of projects. The trend is clear- the percentage of our construction dollars spent on traffic management has declined 21% because of avoided costs associated with use of details on all projects. The lower percentage cost of traffic control using flaggers where safe and appropriate has saved an estimated $10.9 million in avoided costs since October 2008, based on the assumption that without the flagger law our percentage costs would have remained as they were prior to October 2008.

Why have our traffic control costs been reduced significantly?

The answer is that because MassDOT as the contract awarding authority has control over the work site, we have controlled the number of traffic control personnel needed. We are paying only for the hours worked, and not paying for additional supervisors. We are able to reassign our flagger employees immediately to other important tasks during their work day.

Some have also raised the issue of flagger wages as compared to police detail hourly rates. MassDOT is obligated to pay prevailing wage on all construction projects, wage rates set at varying levels across the state by the state Division of Occupational Safety. However, when comparing wage rates, it is important to note that the stated wage paid for flaggers includes benefits- an entire employee package, and these employees are assigned additional tasks during their regular work schedule. Police detail members are paid hourly wage rates separate from the benefit packages already provided by their employer.

Others have suggested that MassDOT change the classification of flaggers to something other than laborers to save additional costs. U.S. Department of Labor guidance makes it clear that flaggers perform physical work on the job site and are classified properly.

MassDOT pledges to continue working with our employees, law enforcement, project contractors and other concerned parties in the implementation of the flagger law and regulations in a way that puts safety first while continuing to achieve cost savings that redirect taxpayer dollars to future road and bridge projects.

MassDOT Reform: Debt Refinance Cost Savings

The Patrick-Murray Administration this week announced that MassDOT executed the first in a series of bond refinancings that will save the Commonwealth more than $30 million annually. In addition, MassDOT has received significant ratings upgrades on the former Massachusetts Turnpike Authority bonds, allowing access to capital markets for the first time in years.

Last week's bond sale refinanced $325.7 million of former Turnpike debt at lower interest rates, saving tollpayers $13 million on a present value basis, or more than $20 million over the next 25 years. This sale would not have been possible without bond rating upgrades announced recently by Moody's, Standard and Poor's, and Fitch. The bond rating upgrades are a direct result of the Administration's Transportation Reform, which eliminated the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, overhauled the state's transportation bureaucracy and will allow the Commonwealth and MassDOT to refund $800 million of decade old swaption-related bonds related to the Big Dig, saving taxpayer funds. No new funds are being borrowed during this refinance.

Learn more about the reform savings. Governor Patrick's transportation reform plan is here.

MassDOT Customer Service: A Job Well Done

Rick Lord, left, is President and Chief Executive Officer of Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM). AIM is an employer service organization of more than 7,000 member companies.

This week, Rick shared an experience with MassDOT Secretary and CEO Jeff Mullan in the note below about the prompt and courteous response to his roadside problem. Thank you, Rick, for the kind words. And to Sal and the responders, congratulations on a job well done!

Hi Jeff
I want to share an experience I had last evening that hopefully will make you proud of your employees at MassDOT.

About 8pm I was returning from a wake for a good friend's mother in Braintree and was traveling northbound on the Southeast Expressway when some debris appeared in the road. Not having any way to avoid it, I ran over it and immediately had a flat tire. I pulled over to the side of the road and found myself sandwiched between the Expressway on the left and the Frontage Road on ramp to my right – a pretty frightening place with cars and trucks zooming by on both sides.

I called the roadside assistance service I have for my car and was told by the attendant that the state provided assistance for that part of the Expressway and that he would notify them immediately. He also suggested that I call 911 so that a state police officer could respond as well. The state policeman was there in less than 10 minutes, parked behind me with lights flashing, stepped out of his cruiser to make sure I was okay and said he would stay with me until help arrived.

About 10 minutes later, your employee and my new hero, Sal Talluto drove up in his tow truck. I hopped in the truck and he towed my car to your facility in Somerville where he could safely change my tire. He was so calming, friendly and helpful – I can't say enough about the great service he provided to me!!!

When you were at our office a few weeks ago, you talked a lot about the importance of customer service so I want to let you know that, in my book, you have definitely succeeded!!!! Please pass along my sincere appreciation to Sal again – you have a gem there and a terrific ambassador for MassDOT.

MassDOT Bridge Investments Pay Off

MassDOT has made historic investments in the Commonwealth's bridges. These investments are already paying off. Thanks to Governor Patrick's historic Accelerated Bridge Program (ABP), the Statewide Road and Bridge Program, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, MassDOT has reduced the backlog of structurally deficient bridges by nearly 50 bridges, or 9%, in just 20 months, shown below. Read the Governor's news release on ABP progress here.

When Governor Patrick filed the ABP legislation in 2008, there were 543 structurally deficient bridges held by MassHighway and the Department of Conservation and Recreation. Of the same inventory, only 494 bridges are currently structurally deficient— the lowest number in 10 years.

The $3 billion Accelerated Bridge Program signed into law in August 2008 exemplifies Governor Patrick's commitment to improving the condition of the Commonwealth's bridges. During its initial years, the program has focused on starting projects quickly and ensuring that projects will be delivered on time and on budget by utilizing stringent project controls, innovative materials and techniques, and a specialized oversight structure. The program is proactive, working aggressively to identify and resolve structural issues through preservation and maintenance before they become major problems requiring structural rehabilitation or even replacement.

The fast pace is already paying dividends, reversing the Commonwealth's trend of rapid bridge deterioration. With 99 projects currently being designed, more bridge improvements will be seen across the Commonwealth.

RMV: No-Wait Appointments

Four months after launching the first interactive web licensing service, MassDOT officials are expanding its function so customers can schedule appointments and not have to wait in line to apply for a driver or motorcycle learner's permit or convert an out of state license or permit. The initiative is one of many steps the Patrick-Murray Administration has taken to deliver more efficient and improved customer service to residents of the Commonwealth.

MassDOT's Registry of Motor Vehicles has piloted the licensing appointment service at the Springfield branch since February and beginning this month will roll out the service to select full service RMV branches.

First introduced last November, the interactive web service guides first time drivers and those converting licenses through the steps and documents required to prove identity and residency.

Customers apply online at and receive a pre-printed application and check-list of documents they'll need to complete the transaction at a branch.

RMV dedicated two counters in Springfield to process 16 to 24 appointments a day between 10:00am and 2:00pm. So far 89 customers used the interactive service and scheduled appointments. Service hours for appointments and the number of appointment slots may increase as more data is collected once the program expands to other branches.

In an effort to reduce wait times for customers, the RMV has added more than a dozen transactions to increasing customer traffic by 39% in the last 18 months. Customers can also return and cancel their registration plates at kiosks set up inside four of the busiest branches without waiting in line. The RMV has built a strong network with more than 600 vehicle dealerships and insurance companies to provide customers with registration services through a secure electronic connection to RMV operations which processed more than 372 thousand registrations last year.

MBTA: Customer Service Campaign

Newly appointed MBTA General Manager Richard Davey announced he will kick off a "Join the GM" campaign, a back-to-basics approach that will include regular visits to MBTA station to listen and interact with daily commuters in person. On Thursdays, beginning yesterday in North Quincy and continuing for eight weeks, GM Davey along with the T's top managers will convene at a selected station or bus depot to listen to customers concerns, and promote public transportation.

Each week, MBTA managers will be available at the stations prepared to listen, respond, and follow up with customer concerns and recommendations. Upon completion of eight weekly sessions, "Join the GM" will continue on a monthly basis system-wide. Below are the dates and locations for future sessions.

Dudley Square Station Thursday, April 15 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.
Kenmore Station Thursday, April 22 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.
Maverick Station Thursday, April 29 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.
Forest Hills Station Thursday, May 6 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.
North Station Thursday, May 13 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Haymarket Station Thursday, May 20 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Ruggles Thursday, May 27 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Dudley Square Station Thursday, April 15, 7:00 am – 9:00 am

Visit MBTA on the web for news and updates.

MassDOT Board May Public Meeting

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation Board of Directors will hold its next public business meeting on Wednesday, May 5, 1:00pm, State Transportation Building in Boston. All meetings are open to the public.

The meeting schedule is available on the MassDOT website.