Thursday, December 29, 2011

BU Bridge Traffic Pattern in Context

1. Archie Mazmanian, 11/17/11.
2. Archie, update, 12/29/11

Archie Mazmanian has provided two astute analyses of the BU Bridge traffic pattern in context with neighboring roads. Regrettably, I seem to have either not gotten or misplaced the first until he sent it along on December 28.

Google Maps would likely be helpful to understand the analysis.

1. Archie Mazmanian, 11/17/11.

At a recent meeting on the Boston side of the Charles River, I learned that the work on the BU Bridge may be completed in December; that the traffic configuration may be tested in three different ways to determine which may work best. The roadbed on the bridge is 40' wide. There are to be two five foot bike lanes on each side (not on the sidewalks), leaving 30' for motor vehicles. This could provide three lanes for motor vehicles, each 10' wide (which may be narrow, especia lly for buses). The experiments may involve variations on travel directions depending upon traffic conditions during various commuting times. At each end of the bridge extra lanes may be available for entering/exiting the bridge. It sounds very complicated, especially for the winter months. I don't know if the MA Dept. of Transportation has spelled out the different configurations. But it would seem wise for a disclosure of DOT's plans in order to prepare motorists/bicyclists.

Archie Mazmanian

[Note: This information was provided at a meeting last night of the BU Community Task Force on which I serve as a member representing the Cottage Farm Neighborhood Association in Brookline. There were discussions at the meeting concerning proposed infrastructure changes involvi ng replacement of the deck of Commonwealth Avenue over the MA Turnpike Extension, repairs to the Carlton Street bridge (Brookline) and "improvements" of the Mountfort/St. Mary's Streets area (also in Brookline), all of which will result in major traffic/transportation issues for the BU Bridge, impacting both Boston/Brookline and Cambridge.]

2. Archie, update, 12/29/11

My observations on this subject are based not only on my on the ground observations but also a briefing provided at a Boston University Neighborhood Task Force meeting in November by BU's transportation consultant for its Charles River Campus. Even before the bridge project, when there were four (4) motor vehicle travel lanes, I had observed MBTA regular buses taking up an entire lane. Now with the modified three (3) lanes, and the visible stripings of lanes and their changes, with experience motorists can figure it out. Will it work well with the three (3) lanes? Only time will tell. But imagine erosion or snow/ice making the stripings less visible. At least pre-bridge project, motorists could readily understand the concept of two (2) lanes in each direction. Thus, my point that shifting lanes may b e problems. And the bike lanes may add to the problems, especially if bike riders fail to observe the rules.

BU's Dec. 21, 2011 "Institutional Master Plan Notification Form" submitted to the Boston Redevelopment Authority includes an extensive section on Transportation and Parking regarding BU's Campus. Of particular interest is Section 7.4 "Expected Changes to the Transportation Network (2012-2020)" several of which will impact the Boston side of the BU Bridge:

1. Commonwealth Avenue Turnpike Bridge Deck Replacement Project. This Deck is over the MA Turnpike Extension and is integral with vehicles entering/exiting the BU Bridge on the Boston side. According to the BU submission: "MassDOT is responsible for the design, which they expect to complete by the fall of 2012. Construction would begin in 2013 and last for two construction seasons through 2014."

2. St. Mary's Street Bridge Rehabilitation Project. This is also integral to the BU Bridge in exiting/entering on the Boston side. According to BU: "This project will repair the bridge deck, sidewalks, and railings on this critical thoroughfare. MassDOT is overseeing the project and anticipates redesign to be complete in late 2011. Construction will begin in 2012 and conclude within one season."

3. Commonwealth Avenue Reconstruction Project - Phases 2A and 2B. This relates primarily to Comm. Ave. west of the BU Bridge on the Boston side. These are in the design stage and BU offers no dates for conclusion of the project. MassDOT will be involved with design review.

What happens on the Boston side of the BU Bridge impacts the Cambridge side and vice versa. The rotary on the Cambridge side is not addressed in BU's submission but questions have been raised about the efficacy of rotaries in general and this one in particular. So there are known unknowns to be dealt with for at least several constructions seasons following the BU Bridge Project Completion. And then there's also the anticipated rising like the Phoenix from the ashes of the Phase 2 Urban Ring Project that may be on hold until 2020. If only foresight were 20-20.