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On the Trans Blog
MBTA Charlie Card Expands to MetroWest RTA

The MBTA announced a first ever initiative to extend its automated fare collection system - the Charlie Card - to the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority (MWRTA). MWRTA customers will be able to use the Charlie Card in a seamless connection between MetroWest bus service and MBTA services including the Green Line.

Similar to MBTA CharlieCard users, MetroWest customers will be able to add stored value at all ticket selling devices and via the MBTA website.

The MBTA, in partnership with MetroWest Regional Transit Authority (MWRTA), recently introduced a program to examine the interoperability of fare collections through the use of MBTA CharlieCards on Metro West bus routes. Over the past 18 months, MBTA staff has been working with MWRTA to provide customers with a seamless connection between MetroWest bus service and the MBTA's Green Line.

MetroWest Regional Transit Authority is the first of 11 RTAs to participate in the Interoperability Program requiring the purchase and installation of MBTA CharlieCard compatible fare boxes on their vehicles.

Automated fare collections will be expanded to additional RTAs. MWRTA provides bus service on 11 routes serving Ashland, Framingham, Holliston, Hopkinton, Marlborough, Natick, Sherborn, Southborough, and Wayland.

Digital Billboard PSA Program

Drivers are now able to view important public service messages about Safe Driving and more, thanks to a new Public Service Announcement program by MassDOT's Office of Outdoor Advertising.

Outdoor advertising companies that hold permits to digital billboards approved by the Office are providing space on the billboards to assist public agencies.

The effort began in June 2010. So far, on average, more than 400 hours of PSAs have aired each month on eight boards around the State. Communities with digital billboard locations include Chicopee (I-90), Foxboro (Rt. 1), New Bedford (Rt. 195), Fall River (Rt. 195), Medford (Rt. 93), Stoneham (Rt. 93) and Lawrence (Rt. 495).

Some of the past and current PSA’s include: Seatbelts Save Lives; Move Over For Emergency Vehicles – It's the Law; and Texting While Driving Is Against the Law. For more information or to request a PSA please contact the Office of Outdoor Advertising, 617-973-8470.

The Road to Reform

Federal Rail Grants Announced

Governor Patrick and members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation this week announced more than $160 million in federal funding for rail expansion in the Commonwealth, including a $32.5 million grant to support the design phase of the Boston South Station expansion project. A design is seen above.

Awarded through a competitive process, the Federal Railroad Administration High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail grant will fund the environmental permitting and design phase of the South Station expansion project, which includes constructing seven new tracks at South Station. The expansion will support a significant increase in Amtrak Acela Express High Speed Rail service to Boston along with planned MBTA commuter rail service expansion.

"We are committed to expanding commuter rail service and improving high-speed rail in the Commonwealth, and this successful grant application will put real designs behind a visionary plan to expand South Station," said Governor Deval Patrick. "Taken together with additional awards to further plans to connect western Massachusetts and Boston rail service to other New England states, this is an exceptional day for commuters, local economies and our state's long-term strength. I am grateful to our partners in the Obama Administration and the Congressional delegation for working with my team to deliver for Massachusetts time and time again."

The Patrick-Murray Administration and the Congressional delegation also celebrated today's award of $120 million to the Connecticut Department of Transportation for the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Corridor, including restoration of double track on the line to improve travel times, to serve western Massachusetts and provide a foundation for increased service between Boston and New York via Springfield and Worcester on the Inland Route.

Additionally, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation received a $2.24 million planning grant for the Capital Corridor between Boston and Concord, New Hampshire, a 73-mile rail corridor that would connect the two state capitols. Maine and the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority received a $600,000 planning grant for improvements to the Downeaster service between Boston and Portland, Maine. The South Station Project, New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Corridor, and the New Hampshire and Maine planning studies clearly indicate the hard work New England states are doing together to advance a regionwide vision for passenger rail.

Massachusetts and eleven other states from Maine to Virginia and the District of Columbia were also awarded a $10 million multi-state planning grant to study the role that intercity and high-speed passenger rail can play in helping improve the region's transportation network, expand capacity, relieve highway and aviation congestion and stimulate sustainable economic growth along the Northeast Corridor.

The South Station High Speed Rail Project will construct seven new station tracks, expanding South Station capacity from 13 to 20 tracks and reconfigure three critical track interlockings.

In the long term, the South Station project will provide for excess capacity to allow further service expansion beyond those currently planned for Amtrak and commuter rail. The project has received strong support from Amtrak and the U.S. Postal Service.


New Bedford Rail Bridges Groundbreaking

Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray joined state and local officials to celebrate the groundbreaking for the historic $20 million project to reconstruct three structurally-deficient rail bridges in New Bedford, funded by the federal stimulus Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Grant program. This is the first TIGER grant agreement approved by the Federal Railroad Administration that is moving forward and also the first phase of construction that will advance the South Coast Rail project.

"By partnering with our congressional delegation and local officials, our administration continues to make significant progress towards making commuter rail expansion a reality in the Commonwealth," said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray. "In addition to the historic agreement with CSX and the recently awarded funding to support design for South Station's expansion, today marks another milestone as we stay on course to enhance freight and passenger rail in the Southcoast region."

The three structurally-deficient freight rail bridges are more than 100 years old allowing maximum train speeds of only 5 miles per hour. Currently, these bridges are only used for freight operations, but the reconstruction of the bridges will also support the South Coast Rail project. By rebuilding the Deane Street, Sawyer Street, and CoggeshallStreetBridges and widening roads below, traffic flow will be improved and freight operations will be enhanced while also supporting future passenger rail for the region. This project represents the first construction that will directly advance the South Coast Rail project. Construction is underway with completion in early 2012.


Craigie Drawbridge Road Restrictions

Effective November 6, MassDOT will close all inbound travel lanes on Route 28 southbound at the intersection of Land Boulevard as part of the Craigie Drawbridge Rehabilitation Project Phase I. The Craigie Drawbridge carries McGrath O’Brien Highway (Route 28) between Land Blvd. in Cambridge and Leverett Circle in Boston.

Traffic trying to access I-93 and Storrow Drive will be detoured east over the Gilmore (Prison Point) Bridge towards Bunker Hill Community College/City Square. Traffic heading to I-93 Northbound will be directed left through Sullivan Square, while traffic trying to access I-93 Southbound and Route 1 via the Tobin Bridge will be directed to turn right. Traffic traveling to the Charles Circle Area will be detoured westbound down Land Boulevard to the Longfellow Bridge to cross the Charles River. Outbound traffic leaving Boston through Leverett Circle will be unaffected during this period.

For more information on the Craigie Drawbridge Rehabilitation project, visit MassDOT's Charles River Bridges website: www.mass.gov/massdot/charlesriverbridges.


Whittier Bridge to Include Shared Use Path

The Patrick-Murray Administration announced that the Whittier Bridge Project on Interstate 95 in Salisbury, Newburyport and Amesbury will include bicycle and pedestrian access. The agreement marks the first time in the history of the Commonwealth that a bicycle/pedestrian path has been located on an interstate highway bridge.

The agreement to include a bicycle and pedestrian path was the product of a Massachusetts Department of Transportation community-based working group with members appointed by the mayors of Amesbury and Newburyport and the town administrator of Salisbury.

MassDOT will replace the existing six-lane bridge with a new eight-lane structure. A minimum of three lanes in each direction will be maintained at all times during the peak traffic hours. The project will be designed to minimize right-of-way and environmental impacts. MassDOT is proceeding with an extensive public outreach process to ensure there are no significant impacts to navigation, land use and community resources.

The current number of highway lanes will be maintained during the peak construction hours. MassDOT will ensure that signage during construction will alert drivers that businesses remain open. The project is scheduled for advertisement in April 2012. The $285 million design-build project is one of the largest in Governor Patrick’s $3 billion, eight-year Accelerated Bridge Program to repair or replace structurally deficient bridges. The program has reduced the number of structurally-deficient bridges by 11 percent.


MassDOT Board November Public Meeting

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation Board of Directors will hold its next public business meeting on Wednesday, November 3, 1:00pm, MBTA Board Room, Suite 3910, State Transportation Building, Boston.

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.