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On the Trans Blog
Bridge Boosts Northampton Rail Trail

The Manhan Rail Trail took a major step forward Sunday as MassDOT contractors used a crane to lift into place a new bridge for cyclists and pedestrians. The bridge 180 feet in length over Routes 5 and 10 is a key piece of the $3.8 million extension of the Manham Trail in Northampton and Easthampton that will connect with the Norwottuck Rail Trail.

The 2.6 mile trail project under construction begins at Ferry Street in Easthampton and ends at Earle Street in Northampton. Linking the Manhan Rail Trail with the Norwattuck will expand the existing regional trail network that serves Northampton, Hadley, Amherst and the UMass campus, and Belchertown.

Army Corps: Bourne Bridge Travel Restrictions

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced lane restrictions for the Bourne Bridge over the Cape Cod Canal in Bourne beginning next week and continuing through early December 2010. The restrictions will be in place to allow bridge deck repairs and paving.

Message boards, located at both approaches to the Bourne Bridge, will keep motorists advised of work efforts. Also, fixed signage will be installed at all approach roads to the Bourne Bridge, alerting motorists to the bridge work and associated travel restrictions. Check the Army Corps Cape Cod Canal website for the work status, lane shifts, and other schedule changes.

Weekend Farmers Markets

MassDOT's annual Farmer's Market Program continues through fall 2010.

This weekend's Farmers Markets include:

  • Lee East on Saturday & Sunday from 9:30 AM - 5:30 PM.
  • Charlton West on Friday, Saturday & Sunday 9 AM - 4 PM.
  • Charlton East on Friday, Saturday & Sunday from 9 AM - 4 PM.
  • Framingham on Friday, Saturday & Sunday from 10 AM - 4 PM.

Local farmers or customers who want more information are asked to contact program coordinator Dave Fenton at dave.fenton@state.ma.us or 413-572-3171.

The Road to Reform

Safe Driving Law Takes Effect

MassDOT and Public Safety officials remind Massachusetts drivers that new laws banning texting while driving and cell phone use while driving by 16 and 17 year old drivers went into effect at midnight Thursday, September 30.

MassDOT and Executive Office of Public Safety officials joined law enforcement, legislators and safety and injury prevention organizations and advocates in Weymouth today for a demonstration of the dangers of texting while driving and heard moving testimonials from victims of distracted driving.

"Driving while texting or using a cell phone carelessly is seriously unsafe," said Governor Deval Patrick. "This law means police are going to take it seriously."

Governor Patrick signed legislation 90 days ago that makes it illegal for all drivers to send or read an electronic message or access the Internet while operating a vehicle even while stopped in traffic. Junior operators 16 and 17 years old are also prohibited from using a cell phone, including those with hands free capabilities, at any time while driving. Teen drivers can make calls in an emergency but are urged to pull over and park first.

Under the new safe driving laws, law enforcement will be able to pull over any driver suspected of using a mobile electronic devise for texting or accessing the Internet. First time offenders are subject to a $100 fine. Junior operators observed using a cell phone can also be cited and subject to a $100 fine and the loss of their license for 60 days. Teen offenders will also be required to take a driver retraining course through the National Safety Council.

MassDOT Registry of Motor Vehicles is implementing the new laws and collaborating with the Highway Safety Division to inform drivers. Watch for distracted driving messages posted on digital billboards, variable electronic message highway and turnpike signs; on posters and flyers for RMV branches, municipal airports, MBTA buses and trolleys, AAA of Southern New England offices, school nurses, pediatricians and injury prevention programs, along with MBTA platform announcements. Visit www.mass.gov/rmv for a summary of the new law.


Holyoke Bridge Reopens Well Ahead of Schedule

The Lyman Street Bridge over the Second Level Canal in Holyoke reopened to traffic Monday, on budget and nearly two years earlier than originally scheduled.

The $4.8 million project by MassDOT-hired contractor Daniel O'Connell & Sons of Holyoke began in spring 2009. The work included a new reinforced concrete deck and steel beam superstructure, along with new sidewalks, guardrail, traffic signals, and approaching roadway.

The original completion date of June 2012 was set to allow for bridge reconstruction in two phases to maintain pedestrian access. However, MassDOT working with the City of Holyoke, contractors, and other partners designed a plan to use an already-planned utility bridge for pedestrian access. This allowed the bridge to close during construction, speeding the work. The Lyman Street Bridge opened this week, 21 months ahead of schedule.

The Holyoke bridge is another example of MassDOT completing more road and bridge projects safely and faster than ever. The number of projects completed on time this year is up 53%, while the average time for advertising a project to the Notice to proceed from 422 days in 2007 to just 124 days this year.

The positive outcomes are happening even as at least 385 separate projects representing $1.085 billion in investment are repairing roads and deficient bridges and putting thousands of people to work across the Commonwealth in 2010.


South Coast Rail Assistance to Communities

Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray in Taunton this week joined state and community leaders to announce the latest round of technical assistance awards to cities and towns to plan for train stations and economic development related to South Coast Rail, one year following Governor Deval Patrick's release of the South Coast Rail Economic Development and Land Use Corridor Plan.

Lieutenant Governor Murray also announced a new Executive Order to direct state investments toward the priority development and natural preservation areas identified in the plan.

Over the past two years, $300,000 in annual technical assistance grants have helped communities plan for development around stations, create housing plans and draft zoning changes to maximize the smart growth potential of commuter rail service. This year, fifteen communities are receiving awards worth a total of $320,000. The fifteen communities include: Acushnet, Berkley, Easton, Fall River, Freetown, New Bedford, North Attleboro, Norton, Rehoboth, Rochester, Sharon, Somerset, Stoughton, Taunton, and Lakeville.

Recognizing that this potential can best be reached through smart growth, the Governor signed a new Executive Order directing his agencies to invest in the priority areas identified in the Corridor Plan. These investments will support the clustering of jobs and homes around stations and in downtowns and the permanent protection of the SouthCoast's forests, farms and habitat areas.

The Executive Order calls for the state to align its investments in infrastructure and land preservation with the Corridor Map, which was developed through an extensive civic engagement process involving over 100 community meetings. The map identifies 33 places that are priorities for new job and housing growth and 72 places that are priorities for the protection of natural lands. State investments affected by the Executive Order include water, wastewater, transportation, housing and economic development, and land preservation, as well as the construction and leasing of state facilities.

According to the Plan, commuter rail service to the South Coast would create at least 3,500 net new jobs by 2030, with two-thirds of those jobs in the region. Construction of the rail project would generate 7,000 to 8,000 new jobs.

View the South Coast Rail Economic Development and Land Use Corridor Plan and project background information.


Longfellow Bridge Public Meeting

A Public Information Meeting for the Longfellow Bridge Rehabilitation Project is set for:

Wednesday, October 6, 6:30-8:30 PM
Shriners Hospitals for Children, Auditorium
51 Blossom Street, Boston


MassDOT staff will provide a project update and answer questions.

MassDOT has been working with the Longfellow Bridge Rehabilitation Task Force since June 2010 to ensure stakeholders are given an equal opportunity to comment on the final approach and roadway cross-section of the bridge, with particular focus on serving transit, roadway, bicycle and pedestrian needs effectively and safely. Upon completion of the series of Task Force meetings in October 2010, MassDOT will amend the Environmental Assessment and file with the Federal Highway Administration in November 2010.

The Longfellow Bridge Rehabilitation is a signature project funded by Governor Patrick's eight-year, $3 billion Accelerated Bridge Program to repair deficient and obsolete bridges across the Commonwealth.

The Longfellow project is the largest of several investments totaling more than $300 million in rebuilding the bridges along the Charles River Basin, including the BU Bridge, Craigie Drawbridge, and the Western Avenue, River Street, and Anderson Memorial Bridges. If you have questions or would like more information about the project, please contact Mike ODowd, MassDOT Project Manager, at 617-973-7475. To be added to the project distribution list, please contact Stephanie Boundy at 617-973-8049 or stephanie.boundy@state.ma.us.


MassDOT Board October Public Meeting

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation Board of Directors will hold its next public business meeting on Wednesday, October 6, 1:00pm, at the Brockton City Hall, in the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) Room, 45 School Street, Brockton. 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.