OP-ED: Raising Our Rate of Investment in Transportation

Buses like this one on the 71 bus will get priority heading toward Harvard Square on Mt. Auburn Street in the new Cambridge-Watertown Bus Priority Pilot program. The following piece was provided by State Sen. Will Brownsberger, D – Belmont, who also represents Watertown and parts of Boston:

The MBTA’s Board heard a presentation last week from leaders of Toronto’s regional rail system. What was really stunning was how rapidly Toronto has been investing in all forms of transit improvement and expansion. 

Since 2008, Toronto’s regional leadership has been engaged in a series of transit expansions which will add up to a total investment of approximately $60 billion by 2028. Annual spending has reached a level over $4 billion in some years. Four billion dollars in well-managed transit investments within one year represents staggering progress. In Massachusetts, we have struggled to raise our annual investment to $1 billion per year on transit. In private and public meetings officials ask constantly whether we can move more quickly, but again and again the answer has been that we don’t have the planning and management capacity to do so.

Reconstruction of Belmont Street to be Discussed at Meeting

A meeting will be held to discuss the plans to reconstruct Belmont Street and the sidewalks in the area on Tuesday, Oct. 15 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The meeting will he held at the Buckingham Browne & Nichols Administration Building at 46 Belmont St. (rear of the Sacred Heart Parish, 770 Mt. Auburn St.)

This is the second in a series of meetings to view and discuss conceptual plans for the reconstruction of Belmont Street, and abutting sidewalks, by the City of Cambridge. The sidewalks on the south side, from the area of Watertown’s Brimmer and Francis Streets, to the intersection with Mt. Auburn St., are located in Watertown and will be reconstructed as part of the project. 

Information on the project is available on the Town of Watertown and City of Cambridge websites as follows:

https://www.watertown-ma.gov/Calendar.aspx?EID=21694

https://www.cambridgema.gov/Departments/PublicWorks/CityProjects/2019/belmontstreetreconstructionproject

OP-ED: Improving Rail Service Can Reduce Congestion at Rush Hour

The following piece was provided by State Sen. Will Brownsberger, D – Belmont, who also represents Watertown and parts of Boston:

A closer look at recently-reported traffic numbers offers hope that expansions of rail service can make a real difference in rush hour congestion. I was discouraged by two analyses that came out over the summer. MassDOT’s report, Congestion in the Commonwealth, showed that daily vehicle volume dwarfs daily commuter rail ridership along the major radial commuting paths into the core of the Boston area. Around the same time, preliminary results from the Rail Vision model showed that even major expansions of commuter rail service outside 128 would garner ridership increases apparently too small to make a dent in vehicle volume. For example, the Congestion report shows at page 89 that on I-90 (the Massachusetts Turnpike), there are roughly 150,000 vehicles per day as compared to only 18,000 daily riders on the parallel Worcester line.

Residents Say Traffic, Speed is Rising on Their Street; Officials Say the Problem is Townwide

Residents of Lincoln Street went to the Traffic Commission to try to change the increasing traffic and speeding during rush hour on their street. Officials said the problem goes well beyond their block. Residents of a street off of one of Watertown’s main thoroughfares have seen an increase in traffic during rush hour, and say people are driving at dangerous speeds. They took their case to the Traffic Commission, which said the issue cannot be solved by making changes on one street and would push the problem to another road. Lincoln Street comes off Mt.

Town Rebidding 2019 Road Projects, Announces Roads Being Repaired in 2020

A road being repaired in Watertown. A higher than expected bid delayed the road repairs in Watertown in 2019, but they Town will seek to do both those roads and another eight in 2020. Tuesday night, the Town Council approved funding for construction of the 2019 projects, and also heard the recommended roads to be reconstructed in 2020. When the Town went to bid on the 2019 roads repair projects in May, only one firm bid on the work and it came in $693,000 (33.1 percent) over the $2.5 million budget, said Department of Public Works Superintendent Gerry Mee. This time, the bids will go out in December, ahead of other municipal road projects, and the work will be split up.

Changes to Bus Routes in Watertown Begin Sept. 1

The Express Buses going to and from Watertown Yard will be impacted by changes made by the MBTA beginning in September. Planned changes to improve some of the MBTA’s bus routes will take effect on Sept. 1, 2019, including some that go to Watertown. The changes are part of the Better Bus program, and on Sept. 1 the express bus routes to Watertown Yard will see some changes.

Gas Line Replacements Will Impact Streets in and Around Watertown

National Grid will be replacing natural gas lines to service a new development just over the town line in Belmont, but the project will impact users of two main roads in Watertown. A representative from the utility appeared before the Town Council earlier this month to discuss the portion of the project in Watertown, which will go down Lexington Street. Then the project continues to Belmont Street. In Watertown, the work will replace 350 feet of 12 inch gas line from Lexington Street at Warren Street to the island at Lexington and Belmont streets. A representative for National Grid at the meeting said the new gas line is needed to allow capacity for a new development in Belmont.

Labor Day Travel Tips for Drivers, MBTA & More

The following information was provided by MassDOT:

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is advising Labor Day travelers to make informed decisions, utilize all the available technology tools including www.mass511.com, and consider public transportation if possible to reach destinations. MassDOT is taking several steps to ensure reliable travel for members of the public who utilize transportation systems across the Commonwealth and will be shutting down construction outside of fixed work zones for the Labor Day travel period effective at 5 a.m., Friday, August 30. Scheduled road work will then resume at the start of normal business hours on Tuesday, September 3. “We know there typically are higher volumes on some state highways during Labor Day weekend, and we advise everyone to make smart decisions before getting behind the wheel and heading to their holiday travel destinations,” said Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver. “Everyone should utilize the appropriate technology tools and wayfinding resources, consider the best route and time to travel, remain sober or use a designated driver, and exercise safe driving behavior at all times.”

The High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane on I-93 between Boston and Quincy will have normal morning hours this week and open early for the afternoon commute at 2 p.m., on Thursday, August 29, and 1 p.m., on Friday, August 30.  The HOV lane will be closed on Monday, September 2, and will then re-open for regularly scheduled hours on Tuesday, September 3.