The Chelsea Soldiers’ Home has officially embarked on a new face and mission to help care for veterans and their
Gov. Charlie Baker and Speaker Bob DeLeo lead the way in breaking ground for the new Community Living Center at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home this past Monday, Oct. 29. The new Center will eventually replace the Quigley Memorial Hospital. It is a state and federal project costing $199 million.
families, breaking ground Monday on a $199 million Community Living Center (CLC) that will provide modern accommodations and replace the old Quigley Memorial Hospital.
Gov. Charlie Baker joined Secretary of Administration and Finance Michael J. Heffernan, Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders, Secretary of Veterans’ Services Francisco Ureña, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and veterans of the United States Armed Forces for the groundbreaking of the new long-term care facility at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home.
The current facility will continue to be fully operational, caring for 154 veterans, during the construction process with an anticipated project completion date in 2022.
Some 65 percent of the funding for the new facility will come from the Federal government, which approved monies for the project earlier this summer.
“The new long term care facility at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home will improve the quality of services and care provided to the Commonwealth’s men and women who have answered the call of duty and served our nation,” said Baker. “Our veterans and their families have sacrificed so much for this country, and it is our duty to care for them with honor and dignity.”
House Speaker Bob DeLeo was also on hand and has been a friend to the Home for years. Gov. Baker gave credit to DeLeo for getting funding through the Legislature so that the federal application was prepared quickly.
“Having been in the Legislature 25 years now, you, Mr. Speaker, own a big piece of that and we are all extremely grateful for this work and all the work you do for veterans in the Commonwealth,” he said. “This place will be a true testament to our investment to our veterans.”
DeLeo said the Home does have a special place in his heart, and serves veterans from his district as well.
“I am so pleased this project is underway and moving forward,” he said.
In May 2017, Governor Baker HYPERLINK “https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-releases-fiscal-year-2018-capital-budget-plan” t “_blank” announced plans for a new long-term care Community Living Center, which was included in the Baker-Polito Administration’s Fiscal Year 2018 capital investment plan, and in November 2017, HYPERLINK “https://www.mass.gov/news/governor-baker-signs-bill-to-fund-new-facility-at-chelsea-soldiers-home-and-high-speed” t “_blank” signed legislation authorizing funding needed to advance the project.
The Administration has also received funding authorization from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for the project. The federal funding was awarded through the VA’s State Home Construction Grant Program which provides reimbursement of up to 65 percent of construction costs for approved projects. The Administration, with strong support from the Legislature, plans to spend approximately $70 million net of federal reimbursement on the project.
The Home has long suffered from having open wards at the Quigley, and it was a point of contention for federal authorities – as health care payments are not allowed to go to facilities with old, open wards. With funding on the line, the Home was able to secure the project funding. This will allow the Home to now have private rooms and modern facilities for the residents there.
“This facility truly is a fitting tribute to our veterans who have served our nation,” said Supt. Cheryl Poppe. “With this building construction, we honor their sacrifice…The Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea is honored to serve Massachusetts veterans, and this groundbreaking reaffirms the Commonwealth’s commitment to veterans of yesterday, today, and for generations to come.”
HYPERLINK “https://www.mass.gov/orgs/soldiers-home-in-chelsea” t “_blank” The Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea first opened its doors to Massachusetts veterans in 1882. The first residents were Civil War veterans who were wounded or unable to care for themselves, many of whom had previously resided in the Commonwealth’s “alms houses.” Today, Chelsea carries on Massachusetts’ proud tradition of helping all veterans in need of both long term care and domiciliary / supportive services. Chelsea is surveyed annually by the Federal Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”). It is also fully accredited by The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (“Joint Commission”). Chelsea has a Board of Trustees appointed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The trustees and DVS share responsibility for the management of the home. Chelsea Soldiers’ Home currently has capacity for 136 beds for long-term care.
Airplanes apparently aren’t in the future for state Housing Secretary Jay Ash.
Ash – the former City Manager of Chelsea – told the Record this week that he has no intention right now of pursuing the soon-to-be open job of director at MassPort.
“Secretary Ash is not focused on anything other than the work of the Baker-Polito Administration right now,” read a statement from his office.
MassPort CEO Tom Glynn announced two weeks ago that he would step down from his position next year after a run of several years at the helm of the airport.
That has brought on much speculation about who the next director would be, and more than a few insiders were pitching Ash’s name around the diamond. Many believe Ash would make a good candidate for MassPort, having served in Chelsea and knowing the surrounding community’s well.
In presidential campaigns, the swing state is always Ohio.
In this year’s Democratic Primary on Sept. 4, Chelsea is Ohio.
The battleground for so many races that will be decided on Tuesday, Sept. 4, has been in Chelsea this summer. Whether it’s the congressional race, the DA’s race, or even the Secretary of State – Chelsea has figured big in the plans of many candidates as they try to stake out their territories.
There have been numerous debates, several rallies, and endless discussions about the Primary Election – particularly on the Democratic side – but this coming Tuesday, Sept. 4, the talk ends and the voting begins.
Perhaps the most prominent and far-reaching race on the Democratic ballot is between the five district attorney candidates. For the first time in more than a decade, after the retirement of DA Dan Conley, the DA’s seat is open, and the entirety of Suffolk County will be choosing the winning candidate in the Primary.
Evandro Carvalho, Linda Champion, Greg Henning, Shannon McAuliffe and Rachael Rollins are all newcomers to Suffolk County politics and have had to forge paths in areas outside their typical spheres of influence. Most have had management experience and some have worked in the prosecutor’s office. Carvalho is a sitting state representative from Dorchester.
He has received the endorsement of Chelsea State Rep. Dan Ryan.
However, Rollins – who made a good showing at a debate here earlier this summer – has made great gains in Chelsea, nabbing the support of many City Councillors here, including Councilor Leo Robinson (At-Large), Councilor Roy Avellaneda (At-Large), Councilor Joe Perlatonda (District 3), and Councilor Giovanni A. Recupero (District 6).
Rollins has also received support of the Ward 4 Democratic Committee here.
A race that has been liveliest in Chelsea is that of Congressman Michael Capuano against Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley – both of whom are running for Congress on the Democratic ticket.
Both have visited Chelsea with some frequency.
Earlier this summer, Pressley and Capuano both rolled out major visits in the span of two days to liven up the base in Chelsea.
Capuano boasts the support of elected officials like State Rep. Dan Ryan, State Sen. Sal DiDomenico and Councillor Robinson, but more than a few have been swayed by the arguments of Pressley, who has been polished and professional throughout the race.
This week, Pressley made a major score in landing the support of a dozen or more Chelsea elected officials and community leaders. Some include Council President Damali Vidot and Chelsea City Councillors Enio Lopez and Yamir Rodriguez. Also, Chelsea School Committee Chair Jeannette Velez, Vice-Chair Kelly Garcia, School Committeeman Julio Hernandez and School Committeewoman Lucia Henriquez. Former School Committee Members Robert Pereira, Melinda Vega and Diana Maldonado are also supporting Pressley.
Chelsea has been a key battleground, but it’s a big district that stretches all the way down through Boston and to Randolph on the South Shore. How that works out is anyone’s guess.
A less heralded race in Chelsea, but one that will be on the ballot and has been contentious, is the contest between Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim and long-time Secretary of State Bill Galvin.
Galvin has been a stalwart in the State House for many years, and has been very critical of Zakim.
Zakim has returned the favor.
A debate two weeks ago between the two had some very big fireworks shot off from both candidates.
Zakim has had some strong endorsements statewide, which has turned some heads, but Galvin also has the experience of years in the seat.
Gov. Charlie Baker announced last Friday that the state has secured approximately $70 million in federal funding for the new 154-bed Community Living Center at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home – federal funding that pretty much gives the green light to proceed on the project.
State leaders have made a priority of designing and funding the $199 million project, but getting the federal funding was always a crucial piece of the puzzle that had to come through.
On Friday, the Veteran’s Administration State Home Construction Grant Program announced it would provide a 65 percent reimbursement of approved construction projects, including the Soldiers’ Home.
“Our veterans have sacrificed greatly to protect our freedoms and we are proud to see this project move forward as we continue to provide them with great care and dignity,” said Baker. “We are grateful to the VA for their support of Massachusetts’ veterans and this funding allows us to construct a state of the art facility that will be a model for future veteran homes across the country.”
The Community Living Center at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home will provide 154 “home-like” rooms for veterans in accordance with VA standards of design, which promotes greater accessibility, mobility, and enhanced quality of life. Services will include physical and occupational therapy, recreational activities and greater access to the outdoors. The current facility, the Quigley Memorial Long Term Care Center, will continue to be fully operational during the construction process with an anticipated project completion date in 2021.
“We appreciate the Department of Veterans Affairs’ approval to replace the existing long-term care facility at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home Campus,” said Secretary of Veterans’ Services Francisco A. Ureña. “In addition to approving our replacement project, the VA granted the Commonwealth $129 million in matching funds.”
In May 2017, the Baker-Polito Administration announced state funding for the new long-term care facility as part of the Fiscal Year 2018 capital budget plan, and in November, Governor Baker signed legislation to fund the project.
“I am thrilled that the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home will be receiving federal funding for its new Community Living Center,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. “The House has been a longtime supporter of this project and, as a neighbor of the Soldiers’ Home, I have been proud to support the residents and their needs throughout my tenure in the House. This financing will allow the Soldiers’ Home to further improve and enhance the vital care that they provide our veterans.”
Governor Baker was joined at his 2018 State of the Commonwealth Address by U.S. Navy Veteran Tom Miller, who lives at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, Director of Nursing Debbie Antonelli and Superintendent Cheryl Poppe to celebrate the Administration’s commitment to this necessary funding.
“This funding will allow us to provide our veterans with a long-awaited updated home that will enhance their quality of life with increased privacy and greater access to services,” said Chelsea Soldiers’ Home Superintendent Cheryl Lussier Poppe. “Our veterans deserve the very best, and this home will complement the quality care our veterans receive here at the Soldiers’ Home. We are grateful for the support of the Baker-Polito Administration for this opportunity.”
The Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea first opened its doors to Massachusetts veterans in 1882. The first residents were Civil War veterans who were wounded or unable to care for themselves, many of whom had previously resided in the Commonwealth’s “alms houses.” Today, Chelsea carries on Massachusetts’ proud tradition of helping all veterans in need of both long term care and domiciliary / supportive services. Chelsea is surveyed annually by the Federal Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”). It is also fully accredited by The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (“Joint Commission”). Chelsea has a Board of Trustees appointed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The trustees and DVS share responsibility for the management of the home.
Jeanette (Weiner) Lee, of Wayland, formerly of Chelsea, matriarch of a longtime and well-known Chelsea family and a, died on January 23, 2018.
Jeanette Weiner Lee.
She was the beloved wife of the late Charles L. Lee. and the devoted and loving mother of Donald Charles Lee and wife Nancy of Holbrook, JoAnne D. Lee-Nieves and husband Carlos Juan of Mattapan, Michele L. (Lee) LaCosta and husband Charles of Holbrook and Brian R. Lee and wife Jodi Pages-Lee of Wayland. She was the loving daughter of the late Morris Paul Weiner and Anne (Babner) Weiner. She was the dear sister of Esther Wexler of Norton, Irving D. Weiner of Norton, and the late Lily Celata, Evelyn Sweeney and Rae Cummings. She was the loving grandmother of 12 and great-grandmother of 3.
Mrs. Lee was born and raised in Chelsea and educated in the Chelsea School System. In her later years, Jeanette influenced and impacted many young lives in Chelsea. She taught Sunday school at the People’s Baptist Church Chelsea for 25 years. She was the Past President of the PTA at the Williams School, Chelsea, Secretary of the Women’s’ Progressive Club in Everett, a member of the Wayland Women’s Club, Secretary of the Greater Boston Baptist Association, Secretary of the Sister International and most recently a member of the Women’s Ministry of Ebenezer Baptist Church but her greatest love of all time was her family.
Mrs. Lee regularly attended her children’s school activities and took considerable pride in their accomplishments on the athletic field and in the classroom.
Throughout their lives, the Lee children exhibited the kindness, generosity, warmth, and personable manner of their parents, reaching out to those less fortunate and mentoring young people through their exemplary actions and uplifting words.
The Lee family was admired in Chelsea.
Longtime Chelsea softball fans will fondly remember Mrs. Lee’s husband, the late Charles Lee, who made umpiring in the Chelsea Fast Pitch Softball League a work of art. Players, coaches, and fans admired the charismatic umpire who called balls and strikes with aplomb and grace and was always impeccably dressed in his official uniform. Mr. Lee sponsored the Charles Lee Disposal team in the Chelsea Men’s Basketball League, reuniting Donald Lee with his former high school teammates, including his cousin, Leo Robinson, Bobby Long, Dale Johnson and Donald Wolcott.
Joanne Lee-Nieves became a highly successful women’s basketball coach, receiving state Hall of Fame honors. She was a role model to the inner-city women whom she coached and mentored.
Councillor-at-Large Leo Robinson said his aunt, Jeanette, was “a big influence on many young people in Chelsea who grew up to lead very positive lives.”
“She was a beautiful, wonderful person – a great lady,” said Robinson. “She was a very sensitive human being who really loved people.”
The city of Chelsea has lost a wonderful woman who brought much love and joy to her proud family and to all who had the honor of being in her company.
A Funeral Service will be at the Torf Funeral Chapel, 151 Washington Avenue, Cary Sq, Chelsea on Monday, January 29th at 11AM. Relatives and friends invited to attend. Interment in North Cemetery, Wayland. A Memorial Service will be held in Jeanette’s honor on Saturday, February 3rd at 11AM in the Ebenezer Baptist Church-157 West Springfield St., South End, Boston, MA. In lieu of flowers donations in Jeanette’s memory may be made to the Animal Rescue League of Boston-10 Chandler St., Boston, MA 02116 or to the American Kidney Fund-11921 Rockville Pike, Suite 300, Rockville, MD 20852. Visit www.torffuneralservice.com for guestbook and directions.
Gov. Charlie Baker signed a capital bond bill on Tuesday that increases bond authorization by $244 million to support initiatives across the Commonwealth, including construction of a new long-term care facility at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home.
“This bill funds critical projects across the Commonwealth, including the Last Mile broadband project and money for the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home renovation project,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “We thank the Legislature for bringing us one step closer to updating the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home for our veterans.”
The bond legislation signed Tuesday includes $199 million to replace the long-term care facility at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, which is expected to be partially reimbursed by the federal government pending final approval from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The bill also directs the administration to study the long-term needs of the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke.
“The Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea provides comprehensive, quality health care and residential services with honor, dignity and respect to the Commonwealth’s veterans,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “The upgrades to the Soldiers’ Home ensure that the physical plant meets modern health care requirements commensurate with the needs of our veterans.”
On May 31, Gov. Baker filed egislation to address immediate capital needs statewide, including $950 million for higher education projects, $880 million for construction, renovations, and accessibility improvements at state office buildings, $700 million for health and human services facilities, $550 million for public safety facilities and $375 million for court facilities. While the legislation signed Tuesday includes authorization for the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, several items from this bill remain pending.
“We are pleased to see authorization for the replacement of the Quigley Hospital at Chelsea Soldiers’ Home passed, which was proposed in our capital budget plan,” said Administration and Finance Secretary Michael J. Heffernan. “By leveraging the use of significant federal resources to build the new facility, we optimize the value of the Commonwealth’s capital investment in this project.”
Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack announced today that Highway Administrator Thomas J. Tinlin has decided to resign from MassDOT.
“From grueling snowstorms to toll demolitions, Tom Tinlin was there to see our highway projects through on time and on budget and he always brought his sense of humor and kindness to the job,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “He worked tirelessly to support the Commonwealth’s commuters to ensure everyone got to their destinations quickly and safely in every corner of the state. On behalf of the entire Administration, I thank him for his service and wish him the best of luck toward future endeavors.”
Jonathan Gulliver will continue in the role of Acting Highway Administrator through September. Gulliver was named Acting Administrator in May after it was announced that Mr. Tinlin would take time off to address a medical issue. Prior to being named Acting Administrator, Gulliver had served as Director of Highway Division District 3.
Tinlin was scheduled to return to his work as Highway Administrator this week after being off the job since May 1. In announcing his resignation today, he said, “I am grateful for the excellent care I received after suffering from a subarachnoid brain aneurysm rupture and would like to publicly thank Dr. Ajith Thomas and all of the doctors and nurses at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for returning me to 100 percent so I can start the next chapter of my life as a healthy husband and father.”
Tinlin added, “While I am excited about what lies ahead, this has been a difficult decision. I have truly loved serving the people of the Commonwealth, and the City of Boston, and have taken pride in my public service roles for decades. And I am grateful for all the mentors I have had along the way.”
Tinlin joined MassDOT in January 2014 as its Chief of Operations and Maintenance and in March 2015 was promoted to Highway Administrator.
“Tom has led the Highway Division with integrity and pride and this state’s transportation system is better because of his management,” said Secretary Pollack. “Tom’s strong work ethic, organizational skills, and collaborative style motivated employees, engaged the public and created partnerships benefitting everyone in the Commonwealth. Tom never wavered in making decisions in the best interest of public safety and leaves MassDOT with a reputation he is deserving of, as a responsive and dedicated public servant.”
Since Mr. Tinlin joined MassDOT, new initiatives were launched by the Highway Division, including Complete Streets which provides money to communities for street infrastructure work, and the Municipal Small Bridge Program, a several year $50 million program to aid towns and cities in replacing or renovating small municipally-owned bridges. Under his leadership, in October 2016, the state transitioned from manual to all-electronic toll collections, a project which involved, in part, having specific design, management and road reconstruction plans in 23 work zones from the New York border to Boston. In addition, Mr. Tinlin oversaw the introduction by MassDOT of technology to modernize highway operations and provide new tools to the public to use for travel, including “real-time” travel to destination highway signs and the 511 system. In managing the Highway Division staff of more than 2,500, Mr. Tinlin embraced a multi-modal approach to roadway design and led the implementation of transportation plans for countless planned and unplanned events for the Commonwealth.
Tinlin has spent nearly three decades in public service, working first for the City of Boston in a variety of roles and leaving the Menino Administration as Boston Transportation Commissioner. Tinlin holds a Master of Public Administration from Suffolk University and is active in many Boston organizations, participating in particular in many non-profit causes, many in the neighborhood of South Boston where he has grown up and raised his family.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Board acted Monday to move ahead with plans to completely demolish Interstate 90 toll plazas by the end of 2017 as a milestone in the state’s progress toward All Electronic Tolling (AET) along Interstate 90 (the Massachusetts Turnpike), the Tobin Bridge, and Boston tunnels.
For Chelsea purposes, State Rep. Dan Ryan said there would be no alteration or changes to the Bridge Discount Program offered to Chelsea residents, whereby they pay $.30 instead of $3 for being a host community.
At Monday’s Board meeting, MassDOT announced that AET will “go live” on October 28.
A series of seven public hearings has been scheduled for public input, with the only meetings in the Boston area being at North Shore Community College in Lynn on Sept. 7 at 6:30 p.m., and another at the Jackson Mann School in Allston on Sept. 14 at 6:30 p.m.
The Board approved toll demolition contracts, reviewed data security and retention proposals and instructed MassDOT to proceed with public hearings on proposed toll rates designed to be revenue neutral and minimize changes in toll charges for current commuters.
“The AET system will improve driver convenience and safety and reduce greenhouse gas-causing vehicle emissions,” said MassDOT Highway Administrator Thomas J. Tinlin. “When toll booths have been removed, AET will allow drivers to maintain regular highway speed as they pass under AET gantries, eliminating the need for drivers to sharply reduce speed and idle in toll booth lines.”
The Board-approved contracts provide that tolls booths will begin to be demolished as soon as AET goes live and all work to remove toll plazas and reconstruct roadways is to be completed by the end of 2017.
While the decision on gantry locations was based on a 2012 study and the decision to implement AET was made in 2014, MassDOT officials have been working with the predetermined gantry locations to make sure rates at the new gantries remain “revenue neutral,” meaning that total revenue generated both on the Western Turnpike (I-90 from the New York border to Weston) and the Metropolitan Highway System will be approximately the same as with current tolls.
Proposed rates will extend discounts for users of Commonwealth of Massachusetts-issued E-ZPass transponders, currently available only at the Weston and Allston/Brighton tolls, to every gantry location including the Tobin Bridge and airport tunnels. The rates being proposed for public review provide that the cost of driving from one end of I-90 to the other for E-ZPassMA users will drop from the current rate of $6.60 to $6.15.
“In developing proposed AET rates and policies, we worked with the gantries’ predetermined locations and considered a series of plans and models to develop a revenue neutral toll strategy in an effort to keep changes in the cost of specific commuting trips modest, within five or ten cents of current rates,” said Massachusetts Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack. “We look forward to the public’s input on toll charges before the Board votes to finalize rates on October 6.”
Point-to-point tolls may change because of the location of gantries selected by the previous Administration and because there will be 16 gantries with the AET system compared with 26 toll plaza locations now. Under the proposed gantry toll rates presented today, just over half of all drivers would see their tolls either decrease or remain the same and another 20 percent of drivers would see an increase of five or ten cents per trip. Under proposed rates, higher increases would occur on trips that are currently un-tolled, for example, for travel in tunnels headed to the airport or for those drivers in the Newton area where a toll had been removed. The proposed gantry rates will be the subject of seven public hearings and a public comment period beginning after Labor Day.
The Board was also briefed about existing and proposed policies to restrict the usage and retention of data collected by gantries. Current law requires subpoenas for authorities to access driver data, mirroring the existing policies for the Massachusetts E-ZPass system. MassDOT is working with the Executive Office of Public Safety to establish clear policies for the use and retention of AET data. MassDOT is in discussions with public safety officials about the very limited circumstances in which AET-generated “Hot List” or other information could be used in the case of public safety emergencies.
MassDOT officials estimate that the agency will save about $5 million in annual operating costs with AET. The cost of designing and building the physical AET system is about $130 million and toll plaza removal and reconstruction, excluding the Sumner Tunnel, will cost about $133 million.
Numerous media outlets reported on Wednesday that State Housing Secretary Jay Ash – the former Chelsea City Manager – has made an application to become the next city manager of Cambridge, possibly leaving the cabinet post on Beacon Hill for the confines of Cambridge.
Ash confirmed to the Globe on Wednesday that he has applied and is pursuing the job.
Ash did not return a request for comment from the Record in time for publication.
He was one of the first to join Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration in January 2015 and was credited with luring in and ushering in General Electric to Massachusetts earlier this year. He also concentrated on getting homeless families out of motels an into long-term housing situations – something that he worked on also while in Chelsea.
Ash also told the Globe that his current job requires a lot of travel across the state and prevents him from focusing in on one community. Rather, he said, he is constantly rushing from one place to another listening to the needs of various locales.
His expertise in drilling down on problems, as he did in Chelsea one by one, is not particularly as useful in his current position.
The city manager position in Cambridge would also nearly double his salary, the Globe reported.
Ash’s current salary is approximately $160,000, while the salary for the Cambridge city manager exceeds $300,000.
A decision on the position is expected by the City Council in Cambridge this fall.
A top state transportation official apologized to drivers this week after a Boston media outlet reported that tolling in both directions on the Mystic/Tobin Bridge is set to roll out this year – a plan that has been reported in the Record since 2013.
Tom Tinlin of the state Department of Transportation (DOT) told the i-Team in Boston on Tuesday that several meetings were held three years ago, but a reminder should have gone out earlier before the state began installing equipment – which was done on northbound Tobin lanes last Friday – and preparing for tolling in the northbound direction.
“At the end of the day, we have to be more in tune with our customers, the people that we serve,” Tinlin told the i Team. “Surprises are never a good thing.”
Two-way tolling was in place many years ago on the Tobin Bridge, but was discontinued in favor of charging only those coming into Charlestown from Chelsea one larger fee. The two-way plan made a comeback three years ago when the state Department of Transportation (DOT) began an All Electronic Tolling (AET) program. That program went into place more than a year ago in the southbound Tobin lanes.
The new program would split the difference on tolls, meaning drivers would pay $1.25 either way at the regular price. The discount program for Charlestown and Chelsea residents, however, would remain in place and also be split in half, the DOT previously reported.
The plan for two-way tolling was reported almost three years ago in the Record and its sister paper, the Charlestown Patriot Bridge, when a state environmental filing revealed the plans deep within a 52-page document. At the time, the plan included the Harbor tunnels in Eastie as well, but those have been pulled from the AET program until a later date.
“Starting with public meetings in 2013, MassDOT officials have stated that the Tobin Bridge would have a toll in one direction only as long as cash payments were being taken but then would return to having tolls in each direction after All Electronic Tolling is activated state-wide,” said Jacquelyn Goddard, spokesperson for the DOT. “As stated publicly, the tolls will be revenue-neutral, so a driver crossing on the Tobin and paying $2.50 now to travel southbound and traveling for free northbound, will, after electronic tolling goes ‘live,’ pay $1.25 to travel southbound and $1.25 to travel northbound. Several days ago, gantry infrastructure was installed by MassDOT on the Tobin Bridge over northbound lanes but northbound tolls are not scheduled to be ‘live’ until the end of the year, at such time as All Electronic Tolling is scheduled to go ‘live’ state-wide.”
The DOT anticipates testing the software on the new equipment installed in the northbound lanes this summer, even if they don’t officially start charging until later in the year.
State Rep. Dan Ryan, who represents both Chelsea and Charlestown, said he is actually in favor of two-way tolling as a way to make traffic jams in his district more predictable. He actually called for the idea in a letter to Environmental Secretary Matthew Beaton last summer regarding the Wynn Boston Harbor casino permit.
“I don’t think two-way should come as a big surprise,” he said. “New technology has allowed us to go back to a more fair and equitable collection system for the communities surrounding the Tobin. I would like some data in the first six months to see if the change affected driver behavior. I mentioned two-way tolling in last year’s letter to Secretary Beaton regarding the Wynn casino. The way I look at it, Chelsea and Charlestown are as impacted by traffic on Route 99 as well as on Route 1. My hope is that consistent tolling at least makes the traffic predictable.”