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.

OP-ED: Update on Repairs to the MBTA’s Red Line

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

Please see also 7/26 update further below. MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak called me this morning to brief me about the Red Line’s troubles and his response. Below is a summary of our conversation. The Timeline for Service Restoration

Normally during rush hour, there are approximately 14 trains per hour. Unfortunately, at least through Labor Day, there will only be 10 trains per hour.

Overnight Closures on Mass. Pike Begin Soon

The following information was provided by MassDOT:

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has announced that there will be various overnight impacts including lane closures on I-90 east and westbound as well as short-term detours of Commonwealth Avenue east and westbound in the area of the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge and the Boston University Bridge from Monday, July 22 through Saturday, August 10. These impacts will take place during overnight hours only and will allow crews to safely and effectively conduct scheduled construction operations on the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge. The impacts will vary depending upon the work being conducted, but in general, the I-90 lane closures will take place from approximately 9 p.m., through 4:30 a.m., and the Commonwealth Avenue detours will take place from 1:30 a.m., to 4:30 a.m.

As always, work is being conducted in ways that minimize impacts on the traveling public and local community. For example, operations are being conducted during overnight hours to prevent travel disruptions. These impacts are associated with the larger bridge replacement project and are necessary to conduct final scheduled construction activities per project plans.

OP-ED: MBTA Behind on Climate Change Adaptation

State Sen. Will Brownsberger

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

At a recent MBTA board meeting, it became alarmingly clear that the MBTA is behind in its planning for climate resiliency.  Add that challenge to the challenges of catching up on maintenance, assuring safety, and expanding service. Andrew Brennan, Senior Director for Energy and Environment, explained to the board that the MBTA completed a “high-level” vulnerability assessment of the system in 2017.  His presentation materials are here and his talk begins at 2:55 in this livestream of the June 10 board meeting. The 2017 high level assessment revealed the obvious: Namely, that the most exposed asset is the Blue Line and that the greatest risk to the Blue line comes from flooding due to sea level rise. Only months after the assessment, the winter high tide of 2018 flooded Aquarium station. As to the lowest lying assets on the Blue line (Aquarium station and the Orient Heights Maintenance Facility), more detailed engineering studies have been completed to identify just how they would be flooded and what can be done to protect them: for example, raising openings like vent shafts and raising the most water sensitive components like transformers.

MassDOT Seeks Input on Mass. Bicycle Transportation Plan

The following information was provided sent out by MassDOT:

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) urges members of the public to comment on the Draft Massachusetts Bicycle Transportation Plan through January 31. The draft plan can be found online here. MassDOT is focused on making the Commonwealth’s transportation system more sustainable – to make it safe for people to choose to walk, bike, and take transit for more of their daily trips. The Plan is important because residents, members of the business community and visitors choose to use a bicycle for daily trips, choosing bike to work, to school, to run errands, for recreation or to reach transit locations. The Draft Plan defines a vision for Massachusetts in which all people have a safe and comfortable cycling option for short trips. The goal is to have a plan which presents an action-oriented strategy which will lead to increased use of trails for short trips made by bicycling. Travel on designated bike and pedestrian thoroughfares will also lead to safer conditions, helping to prevent injuries and fatalities.

Watertown Shuttle Will Have to Wait Until More Businesses, Apartment Complexes Sign On

Those hoping to ride a shuttle down Pleasant Street to Watertown Square, or anywhere else in town, will have to wait. 

The proposed shuttle would be largely funded by private businesses and residential developments, with the Town also contributing. The Council’s Economic Development and Planning subcommittee heard from Transportation Planner Laura Wiener Tuesday night, who said that not enough organizations have committed to funding a shuttle to launch a viable pilot program. The current plan is to run a shuttle along Pleasant Street, Wiener said, because the street does not really have any public transportation. The estimated cost for running a shuttle for a year is $150,000, Wiener said. The Watertown Transportation Management Association (TMA) has committed $25,000, and the Town has volunteered in-kind donations of a vehicle and fuel equivalent to about $50,000.

OP-ED: How Will Climate Change Impact Transportation in Massachusetts?

The following piece was submitted by State Sen. Will Brownsberger (D – Belmont) who represents Watertown:

I spent Wednesday morning at a Rappapport Institute forum on climate change and transportation infrastructure. When I think about the local impacts of climate change, what I worry about most is water — flooding due to sea level rise. Increased precipitation is also an issue, but for the coastal region that I represent, the big issue is sea level rise. The areas I serve are sheltered from direct coastal flooding and do not face immediate inundation risks, but every legislator has to be concerned about the vulnerabilities of the transportation system that the region depends on. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has lead the region’s efforts to understand climate change — making the initial investment in the Boston Harbor Flood Risk Model to better understand the risks to the central artery and harbor tunnels.

See the Latest Designs for Mt. Auburn Street at Meeting Hosted by DPW

The latest plans for how Mt. Auburn Street will be renovated will be on display at a Department of Public Works meeting on May 14, 2018. The Town of Watertown is redesigning Mt. Auburn Street with a “Complete Streets” approach, which seeks to to improve safety and better accommodate all users: vehicles, transit, bicycles, and pedestrians. The meeting will be similar to the one held in February, but while that meeting focused on Coolidge Square, this one will encompass the entire length of the Mt.