By Seth Daniel
The upcoming Chelsea Viaduct state highway project may include plans to eliminate the 5th Street onramp next to the Williams School, and Councillor Roy Avellaneda said he wants answers about the plan.
Avellaneda said at the Nov. 20 Council meeting that he has learned that MassDOT is considering closing down the onramp, which he said is critical for making sure the downtown and Everett Avenue are not flooded with vehicle traffic at certain times of the day.
“There is a proposal by MassDOT to close the 5th Street onramp to the Tobin Bridge at Arlington Street adjacent to the MITC Building,” he said. “They are talking…about doing away with it and eliminating it. It jumps off the page to me. I am wondering what impact that will have to the other two off-ramps and what kind of drastic impact it will have on our downtown.”
The MITC (Massachusetts Information Technology Center) Building is a state-owned building that houses computer technology and electronic records for the state. It has several hundreds employees.
A spokesman for MassDOT would not confirm or deny that there is a plan to take away the on-ramp. He said the plans are still in design for the overall viaduct project, and a public process with members of the community is underway.
A meeting took place earlier this month in Chelsea to discuss the project, which will begin in 2016.
“The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is continuing to move forward with the design of the Chelsea Viaduct Rehabilitation Project and is committed to rehabilitating this important structure to ensure long term reliability throughout this area,” said the spokesman in a statement. “MassDOT has developed a comprehensive public participation plan that will engage local civic leaders and elected officials, area businesses and members of the community as well as commuters.”
The land where the onramp is located was actually taken by the Highway Department decades ago when the Tobin/Mystic Bridge was being constructed. That particular piece of land was the home to Union Park – a park that housed the Civil War statue now across the street from City Hall. The park was laid out in a “spoke” formation with all paths leading to the Civil War monument in the center. However, during the Bridge construction, it was part of a massive land-taking in Chelsea and was designated for highway use.
It’s on that basis where Avellaneda said he wants more information. He said he wants to know what the plan is for that land if the onramp is taken away. He said since it was taken by eminent domain for highway use, it should be returned to the City if it is no longer a highway use.
He said he has suspicions that the state just wants to use the land to create more parking for the MITC employees.
“Do they want to expand parking for the MITC?” he asked. “That land was taken by eminent domain for one purpose and that was for a highway. If the highway is no longer using it for a highway, that land should go back to the City. That land was taken away from Chelsea and should not go to the MITC for parking and for them to continue their spread. The plan for 5th Street needs to be found and any hidden agenda out there needs to be found.”
The Chelsea Viaduct is a structure which runs between the Tobin Bridge to where Route 1 crosses above County Road and the Viaduct carries traffic through the area known as the “Chelsea Curves.”
The Chelsea Viaduct is structurally deficient and in need of repair and rehabilitation in order to ensure the reliability of this important connection.
Working with the City of Chelsea, residents living near the Viaduct, roadway users, and other stakeholders, the project team is currently designing a plan for construction that minimizes and mitigates temporary construction impacts. MassDOT’s current schedule includes reaching the 25 percent design milestone before the end of this year, continuing design and related work throughout the winter, and then advertising the project to potential construction bidders in the spring of 2018.
When completed, the Viaduct Rehabilitation project will provide repairs to the structure’s supports and a new travel surface for vehicles traveling on it. Work on the viaduct will be coordinated with construction activities occurring as part of the separate Tobin Bridge Deck Rehabilitation Project.
By Seth Daniel
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.”
Movie crews have once again descended upon Chelsea to begin shooting scenes from ‘Black Mass,’ an upcoming movie about the early days of ‘Whitey’ Bulger’s activities in Boston and surrounding areas.
Trucks arrived and signs were placed on Chestnut and Williams Streets this week, near Fernandez Liquors store. Likely, the crews are looking to film under the Mystic/Tobin Bridge, which is an ever-popular shot for movie makers. Last summer, movie crews filmed for several weeks under the Tobin for fight scenes and in the Chelsea Floor Covering store – which was turned into a coffee shop temporarily. The main character in that movie – which was based on the 1980s television series ‘The Equalizer’ – was Denzel Washington, who made several appearances in Chelsea during filming.
There was no word on how long and where movie crews would be for ‘Black Mass.’
However, the filming was also said to be taking place on Revere Beach as well as Chelsea.
The movie features Johnny Depp as Whitey and Guy Pearce as former Sen. President Billy Bulger.
If things work out as well as they did last year, there might be some pretty major Hollywood stars in Chelsea again this summer.
MassDOT is reminding drivers that steel preservation/repair work and painting on the Tobin Bridge is set to resume in April.
The beginning stages of work will require daily lane closures on the upper and lower decks of the bridge during off-peak hours.
The permanent lane restrictions will take effect in approximately two weeks – weather permitting – for the setup of the work site.
As in the previous two years of the project, the lane restrictions will remain in effect through the fall of 2014.
This is the third year of a three-year, $44.8 million bridge preservation project.
MassDOT’s contractor is Liberty-Alpha Joint Venture.
For more information, visit MassDOT at our website: www.mass.gov/massdot blog: http://blog.mass.gov/transportation/ , or follow MassDOT on twitter at https://twitter.com/MassDOT and Facebook at www.facebook.com/massdotinfo .
Rain fell and the snow continued to melt earlier this week, including on this steel support
under the Tobin Bridge on Broadway. However, the relief of spring-like weather was
squashed by the return of winter weather mid-week. Not to fear, more drips appear to be
on tap for the coming week.
The adage goes that the only certainty in life is death and taxes. This seems to be ringing true for local drivers. There is a plan afoot from the bureaucrats at the Department of Transportation to install new toll gates at both the entrances of the Sumner and Callahan Tunnel as well as the entrance and exit of the City Square tunnel for the Tobin Bridge. Need we not forget that they want to do the same thing north and southbound for the Ted Williams Tunnel.
Today, these same officials are mum on whether the reduced toll for residents of Chelsea , Charlestown and East Boston will stay in effect and what the new toll charge would be for users of these public roads .
About 40 years ago, the toll booths were eliminated from the North bound roadways of both the Tobin Bridge and Callahan Tunnel. The reasoning behind this was that it would be a win for the commuter as traffic at rush hour would be improved while paying only one toll that would be equal to what was being paid at the two toll booths. State leaders expounded that this was also a win for the taxpayer in that only half the number of toll collectors were then needed.
For the last 40 years, this system has worked very well.
Today, DOT officials want to change a system that is not broken. And in this process, they are not telling anyone the following facts :
Will the toll discount for local commuters still be honored?
What the new toll will be at both gates?
Today’s state officials are unable to find a new tax or fee that they do not like. The additional state gas tax will be going into effect this week. We fear that the toll discount for Charlestown residents will be eliminated and the new combined toll fare will be much greater than what we are paying for today. In addition if teh new tolls prove to be as high as it is rumored, we can exspec increased traffic on Rutherford Ave.
The message from state leaders seems to be clear.
If you live in the affluent communities like Winchester, Reading and as far north as Concord New Hampshire, you have a toll free road into Boston, but if you live in Chelsea or East Boston or Charelstown, just keep forking over more of your money in tolls and gas taxes. In a time when the discussion between the Governor’s office and the State House is about making the Mass Pike toll free in western Massachusetts, is this fair to impose these new toll gate fees on us in the very near future?
Major repair work and lane closures will return to the Mystic Tobin Bridge next week as the second-year in a three-year rehabilitation project begins anew.
The contract for the work includes painting, maintenance and preservation work, and focuses on caring for the steel that has held the bridge up since 1950.
This week, the contractor on the project has already begun initiating daytime and nighttime lane closures to install the platforms on the upper and lower side of the bridge – the same platforms that dominated the bridge during last summer’s work.
Nevertheless, permanent lane restrictions will begin on the week of April 8th.
On April 8th, the state Department of Transportation (DOT) will have a public meeting at 6 p.m. in Chelsea City Hall. Planners will detail lane closures on the upper and lower side of the bridge, and the schedule of work – which is slated to end in November.
The final year of work will begin in the spring of 2014.
None of Chelsea’s on-ramps or off-ramps are expected to be disrupted, with the lone exception of the Everett Avenue on-ramp – which will be reduced in size so as to merge with the reduced traffic lanes on the bridge.
Below is a run-down of the work schedule for April.
• Week of April 8
The contractor will begin to set up barrels to get motorists accustomed to the lane restrictions that will reduce the roadway from three lanes to two on both decks of the bridge. The restriction will allow the contractor to complete the installation of rigging and shielding
• Week of April 15
The contractor will begin installing barriers along both sides of the bridge and install side shielding around the two travel lanes to provide additional safety for the public. Work to install the shielding will continue. Shielding will be installed throughout the length of the project to limit any possible inconvenience to the public. The contractor will begin setting up a fully encapsulating containment system inside the existing shielding providing redundancy to ensure none of the removed paint escapes.
• Week of April 22
Once the containment has been fully installed, tested and approved, the contractor may begin sandblasting off the existing paint, repairing necessary steel bridge appurtenances, and painting.
Motorists may wish to stay informed by visiting the project’s website, www.massdot.state.ma.us/highway/TobinBridge.aspx, or by following
MassDOT’s Twitter feed for project photos and details @MassDOT.