Category: Transportation

Worsening BU Bridge, rotary traffic causes headaches in Cambridgeport

By Diane McLaughlin / Cambridge@wickedlocal.com

Since August, traffic on the Boston University Bridge has worsened, leading to congestion in the Cambridge rotary, adjacent intersection and Cambridgeport streets. Because of a network of one-way streets, many residents say they have found themselves trapped in the neighborhood.

“I’m just trying to get out of my street,” said Nancy Wei, a Rockingham Street resident.

City and state officials have met twice this fall with the Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association (CNA) to address traffic problems. While some issues have been identified, neighbors at the most recent meeting stressed the need for further improvements.

Multiple agencies involved

More than 70 residents have emailed complaints to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation [MassDOT] since the completion of the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge project in August, according to CNA members Walter McDonald and Carol O’Hare, who have reviewed the correspondence.

″[Traffic has] never been great in anyone’s memory, but it seems to be worse starting after the summer 2018,” said Joe Barr, director of the city of Cambridge’s Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department.

Barr was one of several city and state officials who met with the CNA in September and again on Nov. 1 to address residents’ concerns. More than 40 people attended the latest meeting at the LBJ Apartments.

Along with the BU Bridge, neighbors are concerned about the lack of signs, traffic lights and lane markers for the rotary; drivers from Waverly Street who block the intersection; and a tree on Granite Street affecting cars approaching the intersection.

State Rep. Jay Livingstone, D-Boston, who represents Cambridgeport, told the CNA that multiple government agencies have jurisdiction over the areas experiencing these problems. These include: MassDOT, which operates the BU Bridge; city of Boston, which manages the traffic lights at the end of the bridge on Commonwealth Avenue; the state Department of Conservation and Recreation [DCR], which controls the rotary and traffic signals in Cambridge before the bridge; and the city of Cambridge, which manages the roads adjacent to the rotary – Brookline, Granite and Waverly streets.

“When there are multiple agencies that butt up against each other, like here, you often have all of the agencies running away,” Livingstone said. “But here … every agency is really invested in working together in trying to solve the problem.”

Traffic backup from BU Bridge

A key issue affecting Cambridgeport is the traffic backup on the BU Bridge, often extending around the rotary and blocking the intersection at Granite, Brookline and Waverly streets.

During the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge project, lane adjustments were made to the BU Bridge. Now, most of the road from Cambridge to Boston is a single lane, with two lanes in the other direction.

Hamilton Street resident Stephen Kaiser said extending the single lane has made it more difficult for cars to access the adjacent lanes at Commonwealth Avenue, causing traffic to stretch into Cambridge.

Neil Boudreau, a traffic engineer with MassDOT, has worked since September to identify causes for the increased traffic congestion. He said adjusting the lanes again would cause more gridlock.

One problem on the BU Bridge has already been identified. In speaking with city of Boston officials, Boudreau learned that a traffic detection system was damaged during the bridge project. The system, which recognizes cars waiting at the traffic light, was fixed by the city of Boston Oct. 29, Boudreau said. He did not yet know the impact on bridge traffic.

The rotary and intersection

Another problem involves the rotary itself. The cars backed up into the intersection of Brookline, Granite and Waverly streets also affect drivers who want to head away from the bridge.

Wei, the Rockingham Street resident, said with the intersection blocked, cars cannot turn left from Granite Street onto Brookline Street, causing the Granite Street traffic to back up.

The network of one-way streets means Granite Street is the only way out for some neighbors. Several people at the CNA meeting said cars drive the wrong way on one-way streets to avoid the congestion.

Neighbors would like to see lane markings, signs and traffic lights for cars entering the rotary from Memorial Drive. For traffic approaching the rotary from Waverly Street, neighbors suggested signs advising cars not to block the intersection, with fines for offending drivers.

DCR could look at short-term solutions, including painting lines and putting up signs, Livingstone said. Long-term solutions for the rotary will be included in the third phase of DCR’s Memorial Drive project.

Tree preservation leads to reduced space

The blocked intersection is not the only problem affecting Granite Street.

To preserve a tree affecting sidewalk accessibility, the city of Cambridge routed the sidewalk into the street near the intersection, reducing the lane available for cars taking a right toward the rotary and contributing to congestion on Granite Street.

As a temporary solution, seven parking spaces on Granite Street have been eliminated starting Oct. 29, Barr said, allowing drivers to start lining up sooner for the left turn onto Brookline Street.

Barr said the city would continue to look at other solutions to address the intersection and surrounding streets.

MBTA Update: Touring the New Orange Line Cars

Earlier this week, I was able to see the benefits realized from my first vote.  My first vote in the legislature increased the gas tax by 6 cents and directed the money to the transportation fund.  Governor Patrick, as anticipated, immediately used the money to sign contracts to purchase new orange and red line trains (as well as green line trains and buses).  The current administration continued this program, which is finally bearing fruit.

I toured one of the first new orange line trains that has been delivered to the MBTA.  The MBTA has received six phototypes that it is currently testing.  The inside of the train is pictured.  (The bags are filled with sand to represent the weight of people for testing.)  The MBTA currently is on pace to start adding the new trains to its fleet in January 2019.  In December 2018, it will start receiving four new trains a month, which it will test and, if they pass, add to the fleet as well.  The pace will continue until it received 150 new orange line trains.

Currently, the orange line runs 96 cars each morning and night. The MBTA hopes in the near term to increase that to between 102-108 with the addition of the new cars. Over time, as the entire fleet is replaced, the MBTA will also replace the signaling system for the trains. The new signaling system will allow it to run more trains at one time, maybe as many as 120 at a time. Each train can hold 1500 passengers, which is the same as the current trains, so additional trains are the way we will add capacity.

The MBTA anticipates delivery of the first red line trains next April and the introduction of them to the fleet by November 2019. The MBTA has a similar plan to add four new trains each month until the fleet is all new. The red line trains will have more capacity than the current ones (they are larger). In addition, the MBTA is purchasing new signaling systems for the red line to allow more trains to run at a time. Again, this will greatly increase the capacity of the red line.

The MBTA also required the manufacturer to use the same components for the red and orange line trains. This will help in the future with repairs. Currently, there is one type of orange line train and several models of red line trains – each differs from each other as well as from the orange line. The MBTA needs to hand-make many replacement components because it cannot place large enough orders for anyone to manufacture them as the parts are specialized for the different types of trains it has. Having two fleets will the same parts will help to avoid this situation in the future.

It is great to finally start to see the results I anticipated when I took this vote so many years ago.

MBTA Focus 40 Comment Letter

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority unveiled a 35-page drafted investment plan, called “Focus40,” which mapped potential improvements and plans for the T. You can read the report here.

I was disappointed that the MBTA had yet again failed to address the possibility of connecting the Grand Junction Rail to Kendall Square via West Station. I was also disappointed that a connection of the Red and Blue lines were not prioritized either. Both connections would be a fantastic boon to the economy of Kendall square by increasing access to the hub. During the comment period, I submitted a letter to this effect, which you can read below:

MBTA_Focus40_Comment_Final

MASSDOT Reminder: Longfellow Bridge Closures and Shuttles Replace Red Line Trains between Park Street and Kendall/MIT over a Series of Weekends Beginning September 29

Reminder: Longfellow Bridge Closures and Shuttles Replace Red Line Trains between
Park Street and Kendall/MIT over a Series of Weekends Beginning September 29

Bridge Access Maintained for Bus Shuttles, Emergency Vehicles,
Bicyclists and Pedestrians

Project work is weather dependent

Due to the Longfellow Bridge Rehabilitation Project, shuttle buses will replace Red Line trains in both directions between Park Street and Kendall/MIT Stations, with a stop at Charles/MGH Station, on weekends beginning Saturday, September 30, through Sunday, December 17. The bus route and stops are shown on this map.

The Longfellow Bridge will also be closed to all private and commercial vehicular traffic on these weekends when work is taking place, with access maintained for bus shuttles, emergency vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians. The bridge will reopen to inbound vehicles and Red Line trains for Columbus Day beginning at 4:30 AM on Monday, October 9.The bridge is currently scheduled to be open and Red Line trains will be in use for the Head of the Charles weekend (October 21-22) and Thanksgiving weekend (November 25-26). 

On each weekend, bus shuttles will be used from the start of service each Saturday to the end of service each Sunday, and the Longfellow Bridge will be closed to all vehicular traffic from 11:00 PM each Friday to 5:00 AM the following Monday.

Bus shuttles and emergency responders will be the only motor vehicles permitted on the bridge. Bicyclists, both inbound and outbound, and pedestrians will use the shared upstream sidewalk during the work. All other motor vehicles, including passenger vehicles and trucks, will need to use one of two Boston-bound routes to reach Charles River Dam Road (Monsignor O’Brien Highway/Route 28) and Leverett Circle.

Inbound Detour Routes: Height restrictions are in place for Memorial Drive, so all buses and trucks must use the 3rd Street to Binney Street detour described below.

  • From Main Street, turn right onto Memorial Drive westbound, and make a U-turn at Ames Street to access Memorial Drive eastbound. Follow Memorial Drive eastbound to Land Boulevard and turn right onto Charles River Dam Road (Monsignor O’Brien Highway/Route 28) to reach Leverett Circle.
  • From Broadway, turn left onto 3rd Street, turn right on Binney Street, turn left onto Land Boulevard, and then turn right onto Charles River Dam Road (Monsignor O’Brien Highway/Route 28) to reach Leverett Circle.

The Cambridge-bound detour remains in place using a signed route from Charles Circle following Charles Street to Leverett Circle, Monsignor O’Brien Highway/Charles River Dam Road, and Edwin H. Land Boulevard.

During these weekends, elements below the Red Line’s right of way will be replaced, which requires the removal and replacement of all Red Line track systems near Charles/MGH Station. The replacement of the track may also require some speed restrictions in this area of the Red Line for the days immediately following each weekend.

For more information on the project, visit the website at www.mass.gov/massdot/longfellowbridge. View construction progress photos on MassDOT’s Longfellow Bridge Flickr Album. For questions or to report issues related to construction, please call the project hotline at 617-519-9892 or email longfellowbridge@state.ma.us.

MassDOT encourages drivers to avoid the area and seek alternate routes to minimize delays. Those traveling through the area should expect delays, reduce speed, and use caution. The schedule for this major infrastructure project is weather dependent and subject to change without notice

 

Rep. Livingstone’s 2017-18 Legislative Agenda

Filed Legislation

2017-2018 Legislative Session

I am so thrilled to share some of the bills that I have filed this legislative session. Our team hit the ground running with bills spanning topics like criminal justice reform, protecting civil liberties, encouraging social justice, and promoting education. Here are some bills that I am particularly excited about this session:

HD2550 – An Act relative to criminal forfeiture
This bill repeals and replaces the Commonwealth’s existing forfeiture law, which received an F grade from the Institute of Justice in a recent 50-state survey. Currently property owners in Massachusetts do not have to be convicted of a crime or even charged with one to permanently lose their money, cars, businesses, or even their homes.  This bill would make three critical reforms to change that situation and align Massachusetts law with the laws of most other states:

  • Require a criminal conviction before a person’s property can be forfeited,
  • Require the state to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the property is subject to forfeiture, and
  • Eliminate a profit-motive for seizing personal property by directing forfeited property to the General Fund instead of the law enforcement agency.

HD 655 – An Act creating a common application for core food, health, and safety-net programs
This bill works to address the disparity commonly known as the “SNAP Gap.” Currently, there are about 680,000 people who are receiving Mass Health benefits and are likely eligible for SNAP but are not receiving SNAP benefits, for which the State is currently reimbursed by the federal government. MassHealth and SNAP have separate application processes that ask for the same basic information, duplicating efforts and creating more work for both the state and applicants. This legislation would create a common application portal to let low income households apply for MassHealth and SNAP at the same time. This would lay a foundation for a comprehensive common application portal for safety-net benefits which would reduce duplicate data collection and increase the efficiency of State Government while helping our State’s low-income population.


HD 3502 – An Act for uniform fiduciary access to digital assets
As we increasingly use online services, it becomes more important to consider our digital afterlife. This bill would address the accessibility and privacy of a person’s digital information in the event that they pass away. This privacy-centric legislation accomplishes these important goals by balancing the interests of all parties – the privacy of the deceased user; the privacy of the people with whom the deceased corresponded; the needs of the fiduciary; and existing federal law (Electronic Communications Protection Act). The legislation would empower the user to decide if and how their communications and digital content are accessed via user level controls.


HD 400 – An Act Authorizing the establishment of a commission to evaluate student health
Creates a legislative commission to address and evaluate the growing health needs of students across the Commonwealth, including exploring the need for more school nurses in each school.  Currently, class room teachers spend too much time addressing the health needs of their students, instead of teaching, because of a lack of school nurses.


HD 2131 – An Act protecting sunlight in certain public parks
Builds on the existing State Legislative Protection on the Boston Common and Public Garden by including the Charles River Esplanade, Commonwealth Avenue Mall, Copley Square Park, and Magazine Beach Park.  This bill does not weaken any current protections or allow any new exceptions.


HD 401 –  An Act to clarify the meal break law and to establish private enforcement
Massachusetts employees are legally entitled to meal breaks after six hours of employment.  Courts may punish employers who violate this law with a fine of $300 to $600 dollars, but at present, only the Attorney General has the authority to prosecute such offenders.  This legislation would allow employees to go to court without being accompanied by the Attorney General, thereby alleviating the burden on state resources while providing employees with a more effective remedy.  Ultimately, this bill seeks to treat meal break requirements in the same legal manner as wage payments and enact the same remedy for violators.


HD 664 – An Act expanding eligibility for diversion to treatment for criminal offenders
Current law allows 18-22 year old individuals who are charged with a crime but have never been convicted of a crime to avoid a criminal record by successfully completing a drug treatment program. This bill would expand eligibility to defendants of any age that are facing district court charges, pending a judge and probation’s approval.


HD 1681 – An Act to establish transparency with respect to government surveillance
Current state law does not provide criteria for the use of video recording devices by government entities. While there are some regulations at the state and local level, government entities often have wide discretion to install recording devices without any public input, record and keep for long periods of time the data collected, and give broad access to that data. This situation has the potential to infringe on the civil liberties of the law-abiding citizens unnecessarily. The bill attempts to address this situation by providing the public more information about what is happening and create standard rules for the use of recording devices.


HD 654 – An Act for fairness regarding line of duty benefits
Under current law, a $300,000 payment is given to the family any public safety employee who was killed or sustained injuries in the line of duty. This bill expands that eligibility to include the family of any public employee who dies while on the job. It also expands eligibility for the Public Service Scholarship Program.


HD 2955  – An Act to increase fair housing protections for survivors of domestic violence
This legislation will add survivors of domestic violence as a protected class under fair housing laws. This bill will protect domestic violence survivors against unfair evictions, different rental agreement terms, and denial of lease/sale. These protections currently apply to public housing but not private housing.


 

To learn more about the legislation that I have filed, you can check out my public legislative page here, or reach out to my Legislative Aide, Caitlin Duffy, by email (Caitlin.Duffy@mahouse.gov) or by telephone (617-722-2396)