A Roundup of Holdups

New development, new sidewalks, and new protected bike lanes line Washington Street in Brookline Village. The town is moving forward with a proposal to set aside one lane in each direction on the newly-reconstructed street as dedicated bus lanes for the MBTA's route 60, 65, and 66 buses.
New development, new sidewalks, and new protected bike lanes line Washington Street in Brookline Village. The town is moving forward with a proposal to set aside one lane in each direction on the newly-reconstructed street as dedicated bus lanes for the MBTA's route 60, 65, and 66 buses.

As the construction season draws to a close, we’ve been collecting updates from miscellaneous sustainable transportation projects we’ve reported on that are under construction (or were supposed to be) this fall.

Not many of these merit their own news story, but collectively there’s a theme: the notorious “supply chain issues” are affecting public works departments, too, and delaying many projects that we’d hoped to start moving bikes, pedestrians, and transit vehicles more safely and quickly before the end of this year.

Here’s a quick rundown of projects we’ve been following:

Brookline Village Bus Lanes

Earlier this year, the Town of Brookline approved a pilot project to add full-time inbound and outbound bus lanes on Washington Street between High Street and River Road in Brookline, benefiting routes 60, 65, and 66 (see Brookline Considers Bus Lanes For Its Biggest Transit Bottleneck for details).

In a June press release, the MBTA declared that Brookline’s new bus lanes would be operational before the end of the year.

But with the winter season approaching, there’s still no red paint on Washington Street in Brookline Village.

Todd Kirrane, the town’s transportation administrator, told StreetsblogMASS that “there have been several hold ups in the material procurement by the MBTA and the final approval of the permit from MassDOT,” Kirrane wrote in an email.

Because lane markings can only be installed at certain temperatures, Kirrane said that the implementation might be delayed until next spring.

Orange Line Slow Zones

Many riders on the Orange Line in Boston have noticed that trains have been running unusually slowly this summer and fall.

Data from the TransitMatters dashboard, which records real-time train location data from the T, confirms that trains are taking taking about 20 percent longer to run between downtown Boston and Green Street in Jamaica Plain:

An MBTA spokesperson told StreetsblogMASS that “out of an abundnace of caution, speed restrictions of 10 mph to 25 mph were implemented in areas where rails need to be upgraded. After workers have completed the process of fabricating new welded rail, track replacement work will be scheduled.”

The spokesperson warned that that track work, when it happens, would impose “temporary suspensions of service so that crews can work safely in the right-of-way.”

In more encouraging news, the T has been bringing more of its new trainsets into service in recent weeks, which means that your odds of catching a new train on the Orange Line has increased significantly.

Concord’s Bruce Freeman Rail Trail Bridge

In 2019, the town of Concord opened up a long segment of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, which now extends most of the way from Concord to Lowell. There is, however, one major gap in the trail at Route 2, a multi-lane expressway. For the past year, crews have been building a new bridge that will carry the Bruce Freeman over Route 2 into Acton.

A spring newsletter from the Friends of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail had expressed hopes that the bridge would be open before the end of this year. That now looks unlikely.

“Concrete has been poured on the bridge deck and a base course of asphalt is down, but the work won’t be finalized until next spring,” said Marcia Rasmussen, Concord’s Director of Planning and Land Management.

Rasmussen did note that the project is still on schedule, however: the project’s contract specifies that work must be completed by July 2022.

Everett’s Northern Strand Extension

Our recent visit to Everett to tour the progress on the city’s 0.8-mile extension of the Northern Strand Path from Tileston Street to the Mystic riverfront found that the new trail was mostly built and paved – except for a critical segment under the Revere Beach Parkway, which has remained untouched by any construction work:

The Northern Strand Trail extension in Everett, looking north towards the Revere Beach Parkway overpasses.
The Northern Strand Trail extension is under construction in Everett. Here, the trail passes over a wetland, then follows the MBTA tracks to pass under the Revere Beach Parkway overpasses (visible in the distance).

Everett transportation planner Jay Monty explained what’s going on in a recent email to StreetsblogMASS:

“When the contractor went to begin construction there a few months ago, MassDOT asked them to perform soil borings around the bridge abutments before starting work to confirm that the soil conditions matched what was on the original plans for the highway bridge from the 1950s. Unfortunately, when the boring was done, the soil conditions came back significantly different (and less suitable) than what was expected. The concern was that excavation needed to build the trail could possibly de-stabilize the bridge abutment. We’re actively working to resolve the issue and our engineering team is currently designing a system that will properly retain the soil during excavation. Once we have final approval from MassDOT, the contractor will be able to complete the section of trail under the bridge. Given the current timeline we’re on, I would expect construction to happen in the early spring. In the meantime, the remainder of the trail will be completed as much as possible, so as not to significantly delay the target completion date.”

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