Commonwealth Ave construction round two, the true test of success for MassDOT

You can achieve anything you set your mind to. Right, MassDOT? Starting this week, the state will kick off the replacement of the westbound side of the Commonwealth Avenue bridge, and after finishing the first phase ahead of schedule without major traffic impacts last August, we’re anticipating that MassDOT can do it again.

Similar to last year, and because the bridge is a connector to many modes of transit, there will be plenty of disruptions to thousands of Bay State commuters from Thursday, July 26, through August 11. Commonwealth Avenue will be closed to through traffic between Packard’s Corner and Kenmore Square and the B line trolley from Babcock St. to Blandford St. will be closed, with shuttle bus replacements. In addition, the BU bridge will be closed to all vehicle traffic (although pedestrians and cyclists will continue using it) and some bus lines will be detoured. And, of course, the much-dreaded lane reductions on the Mass. Pike are back for round two.

You may remember that, last year, Secretary of Transportation and CEO of MassDOT Stephanie Pollack, pointed to a large, red crane and joked, “I personally thought we should hang a giant sign from it that said, ‘Flee,’ but apparently this violates the uniform manual of traffic control devices.”

Sure, Secretary Pollack may have been exaggerating a bit, but it worked. Those warnings were key in helping the first phase of the project finish ahead of schedule, on budget, and without incident. And no “flee” sign was needed after all. Not only did MassDOT work 24 hours a day, but we Commonwealth commuters also actually listened to the warnings and followed suit. We adjusted our schedules and often chose to use alternative forms of transportation.

This summer, we anticipate once again seeing a number of commuters who choose to drop the car commute in favor of bicycling, walking or using public transit. In fact, many folks who work and live along Comm. Ave could again experience transformational commutes that they only hope could be somewhat replicated the rest of the year.

Tomorrow, let’s team up with MassDOT to do it again. They’re issuing the same warnings, they’ll have workers on-site 24 hours a day yet again, and if we do our part, we could be looking at yet another successful project.

Here’s why that matters — it proves that investing money into these projects is worth it. This bridge was built over 50 years ago and, sure enough, it is structurally deficient. But the Comm. Ave. Bridge is far from the only kid on the block who needs some special attention. Too many of our roads, bridges and railways are in dire need of upgrades, maintenance and expansion. And when our transportation systems are out-of-date, our economy is hampered. Workers show up late, miss out on important time with family and friends, and lose wages due to damaged roads, train delays and damaged vehicles.

So, when we see projects like the this one being completed on-time and on-budget, it sets a model for us to follow in future projects. It is important that commuters do their part in changing their typical commute, but it truly is on MassDOT to repeat their great display of delivering on what was promised. When the public can trust MassDOT at its word — that they can complete projects safely, efficiently and resourcefully — the possibilities for improved transportation infrastructure could be endless.

In the meantime, we can help them succeed by switching up our commute routine for just a couple of weeks of the summer.

Meagan Greene is senior director of policy and operations at the Alliance for Business Leadership