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On the Trans Blog
Safe Walk to School in North Andover

Students in North Andover were among thousands of students across the Commonwealth participating in Walk and Bicycle to School Day in May, as proclaimed by Governor Deval Patrick. MassDOT's Safe Routes to School team visited Thomson Elementary School in North Andover where students celebrated the Governor’s proclamation by walking and bicycling to school.

Through the Safe Routes to Schools program, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and MassRIDES provide students, parents, and the school community with education and training on transportation, safety, and health benefits from walking and bicycling to school. Participating schools also qualify for financial support for improvements to sidewalks and other infrastructure surrounding schools.

The Safe Routes to School program is a key component of the Healthy Transportation Compact, an initiative of the Patrick-Murray Administration's historic transportation reform that promotes collaboration between the departments of transportation and public health to adopt best practices, increase efficiency, and achieve positive health outcomes through the coordination of land use, transportation, and public health policy. Safe Routes to School is federally-funded and administered by the MassRIDES travel options program on behalf of MassDOT. To learn more visit www.commute.com.

Aeronautics Poster Contest Student Winner

Plymouth South High School senior Bridget Flaherty is this year’s winner of the MassDOT Aeronautics Division aviation art contest.

Flaherty is seen above holding her winning entry with Aeronautics Administrator Chris Willenborg during a visit to Plymouth South High earlier this month. She also finished second nationally in the 14- 17-year-old age group, National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) art contest.

Bridget’s poster depicts solar flight in keeping with the theme of this year’s competition - “Flying With the Sun.” Her poster was submitted to the Federation Aeronautique International (FAI) as one of nine U.S. entries competing with 20 more from countries all over the world.

Bridget is a past winner of the Pembroke Arts Festival “Best Young Artist" award and credits her success in the aviation contest as part of her decision to study art and business next year at the University of Maine - Farmington.

The Aeronautics Division coordinates aviation policy for the Commonwealth’s 37 public use general aviation airports and maintains and enhances safety, security, infrastructure, and economic viability for their communities.

Weekend Farmers Markets

MassDOT's annual Farmer's Market Program is underway and continues through fall 2010. Local Farmers are invited to take advantage of free vending space at the state’s eighteen highway service plazas to sell their home-grown produce and made-in-Massachusetts products.

This weekend's Farmers Markets include:

Charlton West:
Friday, Saturday & Sunday4
June 11, 12 & 13
9 AM - 4 PM

Charlton East:
Friday, Saturday & Sunday4
June 11, 12 & 13
9 AM - 4 PM

Ludlow East:
Friday, Saturday & Sunday4
June 11, 12 & 13
9 AM - 4 PM

Westboro:
Friday
10:00am-4:00 pm,
June 11
9 AM - 4 PM

The Road to Reform

RMV Opens New Lowell Branch

MassDOT and the City of Lowell this week opened a new Registry of Motor Vehicles branch located within the Jackson Appleton Middlesex urban renewal district.

The full-service RMV branch, made possible through a city-state partnership developed with the local delegation led by Senator Steven Panagiotakos, is the anchor tenant in the Edward J. Early parking facility with the goal of driving more foot traffic to the area. As part of the agreement, the city covered build-out costs as well as the first 18 months of a ten year lease for the 6,600 square foot space located at 77 Middlesex Street. “Our work in transportation is all about improving customer service,” said Governor Patrick.

The full-service RMV branch, made possible through a city-state partnership developed with the local delegation led by Senator Steven Panagiotakos, is the anchor tenant in the Edward J. Early parking facility with the goal of driving more foot traffic to the area. As part of the agreement, the city covered build-out costs as well as the first 18 months of a ten year lease for the 6,600 square foot space located at 77 Middlesex Street.

“I am glad that the delegation, the Registrar and the city were able to work together on this issue. Keeping the registry located in Lowell is a geographic win for the residents of this area and also an economic win for the city and the businesses in the downtown area,” said Senator Steven Panagiotakos.

“This is a win-win for the city because the branch will drive a lot of activity to downtown that wouldn’t otherwise be there. We expect the increase in foot traffic will also spur other private development,” said Lowell Mayor James. L. Milinazzo.

All 13 RMV positions in the former Lowell branch will relocate to the new branch which will be open from 9am to 5pm Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday and 10am to 6pm on Thursdays. In an effort to address severe budget constraints and reduce private leasing costs, last year MassDOT RMV targeted 11 branches for closure including Lowell.

DON’T WAIT IN LINE, GO ONLINE: In the last two years, MassDOT RMV has made the online branch the busiest by adding a dozen new transactions to the website which resulted in 39% more customer traffic. Recently, the RMV unveiled its latest online transaction, giving permit holders the ability to schedule road tests online. Last month, the RMV added another feature that allows drivers to cancel their license plates online rather than turning them in at a branch.


Route 146 Improvements Advance

Governor Deval Patrick this week announced the design of Route 146 improvements in Sutton is moving forward and will be completed by year's end with construction to begin in 2011. The improvements include turning lanes and traffic signal upgrades and will address the heavily-congested Route 146-Boston Road intersection just south of the Sutton-Millbury Town line. Route 146 is the major north/south link in the Blackstone Valley linking Worcester and Providence. Route 146 provides access to the Massachusetts Turnpike, Route 290, Route 9, and Route 20.

The estimated $6 million Sutton Route 146 construction project at Boston Road is in addition to the $7.7 million resurfacing project supported by federal stimulus American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds currently underway on Route 146.

More than 385 road and bridge projects are ongoing across the Commonwealth this summer. The Patrick-Murray Administration's investment in roads and bridges totals more than $1 billion and will support more than 10,000 jobs. The road and bridge projects are a part of the more than $4 billion infrastructure investments being made through the Administration's Massachusetts Works initiative that will put nearly 20,000 people to work across the Commonwealth this construction season.


Fall River I-195 Interchange Public Meeting

MassDOT will hold a public information meeting on the Fall River I-195/Route 79 Interchange Improvement Study as follows:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010, 6:30–8:30 PM
City Council Hearing Room, 1st Floor, One Government Center, Fall River

The meeting will provide an overview of alternatives being considered for improving the Rte.79/I-195 Interchange near Battleship Cove.

MassDOT has been working with a Task Force of local and regional representatives and residents to study alternatives for long-term interchange improvements. The study has looked at alternatives including rehabilitation of the existing viaduct and ramps, replacing the viaduct and ramps with new structure, and reconfiguring the interchange to remove the viaduct.

The Project team will summarize the study and the project timeline, review work completed to-date examining ways to improve the interchange, and answer questions and gather public comment on the design alternatives. If you have questions or would like more information about the project, please contact Mike O’Dowd, Highway Division Project Manager, (617) 973-7475.

To be added to the Rte. 79/I-195 Interchange Improvement Study project email or US Mail distribution lists, please contact Stephanie Boundy, (617) 973-8049 or Stephanie.Boundy@state.ma.us.


Preserving Mass Wildlife: Linking Landscapes

Posted by Tim Dexter, MassDOT Environmental Analyst

Transportation infrastructure affects wildlife through direct mortality due to vehicle collisions, fragmenting and isolating habitats, and by altering natural habitats. In addition, roadway usage by wildlife causes accidents, which can result in property damage and personal injury. To address these issues, the MassDOT Highway Division has teamed up with MassWildlife, UMass Amherst, and the Vernal Pool Association to create ‘Linking Landscapes’, a long-term and multifaceted effort to minimize the impact of the existing road network on wildlife, while improving highway safety.

The Linking Landscapes research framework is simple: team up with citizen scientists to gather information on wildlife roadway mortality hotspots, to inform long term planning decisions in the context of transportation infrastructure upgrades. A critical component to the research is a user friendly online mapping interface where the general public, state highway personnel and law enforcement can document site specific wildlife mortality observations.

I was pleased to lead a discussion about turtle mortality with representatives from communities in the watersheds of the Sudbury, Assabet, Concord and Shawsheen Rivers, above. My thanks to Sylvia Willard of the Carlisle Conservation Commission for the photo.

How can you get involved? Three statewide citizen science research efforts are underway:

The Wildlife Roadway Mortality Database: Document your observations of wildlife deceased due to wildlife vehicle collisions.

The Vernal Pool Salamander Migration Study: During early spring rain events, mole salamanders migrate from their upland hibernating habitat to vernal pools to reproduce. Often, hibernating habitat and vernal pools are separated by roadways, which causes roadway mortality. Be on the look out for large ‘over the road’ salamander migrations in early spring, and record the locations within the Amphibian Roadway Crossing Database.

The Turtle Roadway Mortality Study: Turtles have existed for millions of years, but roadways are threatening the survival of local populations. Turtles in Massachusetts often cross roadways late spring to early fall. Keep your eyes peeled as you drive by wetland areas, and record your observations of turtle roadway mortality. The information gathered will be used to coordinate local turtle conservation efforts.

Get involved and find more information at http://linkinglandscapes.info/roads/home.html.


MassDOT Priority: Mobility

Mobility for all Commonwealth residents regardless of status is a MassDOT priority. In this case, MassDOT's Mobility Assistance Program representatives along with state and local officials dedicated a van for the Towns of Blackstone and Millville. MassDOT provides 80% of the vans' cost, with the local community responsible for the balance.

This van will provide local transit service for seniors and is a shared resource between the two adjoining communities, according to John Englert, MassDOT Transit Planning Manager.

The Mobility Assistance Program provides capital assistance to public agencies for the purchase of vehicles and related equipment to be used in the provision of transportation services to the elderly, persons with disabilities, and families transitioning from public assistance to employment for whom existing public and/or private mass transportation is unavailable, insufficient, or inappropriate.

Learn more about the Mobility Assistance Program.


MassDOT Board July Public Meeting

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation Board of Directors will hold its next public business meeting on Wednesday, July 14, 1:00pm, in Lowell. Going forward, the MBTA Board will meet first at 1pm, followed by the MassDOT Board. All meetings are open to the public.

The meeting schedule is available on the MassDOT website.