State hires company to build dedicated busway for Silver Line in Chelsea

The state Department of Transportation today approved a $33-million contract with McCourt Construction Co. to start extending the Silver Line from the Airport T stop to Chelsea. Much of the route will be in a busway built along the former Grand Junction railroad:

State officials expect the initial route, from the airport to Eastern Avenue in Chelsea, to be completed in two years.

In the first stage of a multi-phased project, a 1.3-mile long dedicated Bus Rapid Transit lane will be built from just west of the Mystic Mall to Eastern Avenue. The bus-way will be comprised of two 12-foot travel lanes and two 3-foot shoulders. Under the newly approved contract, there will be three new stations built along the bus-way at Eastern Avenue, Box District, and Mystic Mall. The Silver Line stations will have inbound and outbound platforms, and include canopies, shelters, bicycle racks, lighting, signage, fare collection equipment, variable message signs, and closed circuit television cameras.

Once the busway is finished, MassDOT will solicit bids to build a new Chelsea commuter-rail station near the Mystic Mall. And after that will come a Silver Line stop in downtown Chelsea.

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Comments

And if the fix the Seaport part

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This is a pretty good project for the T, if only they (and/or the DOT, State Police and Massport) fix the inner part of the line. First is the D Street light (I've gone on about this at length) which doesn't need a grade separation (as has sometimes been suggested) but good lord it needs a transit signal priority traffic light. Then there's the circuitous routing which requires buses to go all the way back by the BCEC before getting in to the tunnel. This is a couple of minutes of operation and travel time burned in normal conditions, but when a convention lets out on a getaway afternoon, buses can sit here for fifteen minutes, infuriating airport-bound passengers (and, soon, Chelsea-bound riders as well).

What to do? Let T buses use the emergency access ramp. It's all right turns from the power switch at Silver Line Way, saves nearly a mile of travel, a couple minutes of traffic and a whole lot of schedule adherence. Sure, the merge is short, but a well-placed "watch for merging buses" sign probably keeps it from causing any issues. Improving the route back would be a much heavier lift requiring some sort of direct link in to the tunnel, but in the short term buses could turn right on to D and right in to the tunnel ramp rather than going through Silver Line Way (although this would require a power switch somewhere else).

Then there's the issue that buses have to stop while the operator goes outside the bus to put up the trolley wires for the tunnel. Considering the blue line has had on-the-fly changes from wire to third rail and the buses seem to have been designed for on-the-fly changes, the T really should figure out how to put up the poles without having the operator exist the vehicle, walk to the back, monkey with the trolley poles, and then walk back to the front.

The cost to use the emergency ramp is probably zero. The cost to fix the buses so they can switch more quickly is minimal. The cost to put an appropriate traffic signal at D Street is also minimal. These should be done yesterday.

Agreed on all points.

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Agreed on all points.

My late-night Silver Line ride from the airport last night was extra-infuriating.

The Ted must have been closed, since the bus took the Sumner. But then even though we were just a 2 minute walk from South Station when we got off 93, the bus didn't let anyone off there. It took a left on Seaport Boulevard and ran all the way east to Silver Line Way, and then backtracked west through the slow and bumpy bus tunnel.

It took so long that I was nervous about missing the last Red Line train. (Is waiting for the Silver Line part of the secret last train procedures?)

And, of course, there was no notice of this planned time-wasting detour. They could have taken 30 seconds to program an announcement into the Silver Line electronic signs at the bus stops at the airport.

Operator leaving the vehicle? That's b.s.

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What are you talking about? The operators don't need to leave the vehicle to put the poles up...the buses stop at a certain spot where the overhead wires have slanted "guides" that the poles first hit, which helps the poles maintain alignment on the wires as the bus moves forward under the electric power.

They might only need to leave the bus if they didn't drive up to the proper spot on Silver Line Way where the poles would hit these guides, but even that's doubtful (and is indeed the exception, NOT the rule).

For Imspection

I believe they are only confirming that there is a good connection from pole to wire. What you describe is indeed how it works. Sometimes the driver gets out, sometimes not.

On the SL1 airport route,

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On the SL1 airport route, they make sure the ropes for the poles are secured under a latch(going toward Logan) or unlatch the rope (going toward South Station).. The poles are raised/lowered through a mechanical system, latching the rope is a backup in case the spring system fails. If the trolley poles go up on their own out at Logan there are things they can hit and cause damage. It is not an issue with the buses when running on the SL2, as there are fewer things for a renegade trolley pole to smash into on that route..

The SL1 busses inbound stop

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The SL1 busses inbound stop at WTC on congress street, the driver gets out and unlatches the poles and gets back in. (Thats why there is a Drop-off only stop for WTC before SLW.) Then at SLW they raise the poles up to the lines and assuming they don't miss the driver does not have to get out. SL2 buses seem to not do this after leaving the electrified portion. I assume the issue is a safety one as you wouldn't want the poles to fly up in the tunnel and snag something (like a ceiling panel...) I always wondered why can't the whole SL be electrified with protecte/covered wires through the TW tunnel?

.

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The first step towards gentrification.

You're right

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We should stop all public transit projects so that we can keep things exactly as they are today in towns that we have decided are "authentic" or "urban."

Or we could, you know, work together as a society to get to a more equal income distribution. This would negate the whole discussion about gentrification. Unless you expect me to believe that the urban poor in this country prefer to be shut out from things like decent public transportation because they're keeping it real.

Complaining about gentrification is a complete cop out. Chelsea, Southie, Somerville, Roxbury, etc., all have the solid foundations and great locations that urban planners study when they want to design great cities. We shouldn't desire to keep these places poor so that the poor don't have to move. We shouldn't conspire to stop infrastructure investment under the guise of stopping gentrification. We should instead be working on parallel paths, simultaneously improving our cities and working to equalize incomes so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of our improvements.

Uh

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The poor generally benefit heavily from reliable mass transit. It's much easier to get to work without a car when the bus runs regularly, instead of once every 45 minutes (like some of the buses out of Lechmere.) It also saves time, because you're not getting out of work at 5 and planning on waiting 35 minutes for the bus but end up waiting 55 because the bus is late and full, and then end up on a pokey circuitous route that stops every 5 feet when a rapid transit line would take half the time.

I guess poor people have nothing better to do with their time than sit around waiting for the bus, or nothing better to do with their money than buying a craptacular car that eats up most of their wages but that they need to get around.

Rapid transit lines only cause real estate prices to rise becase there aren't enough of them, and the city's sliced into pie-wedges between "good transit" and "bad transit."

Taking the life out of the center of Chelsea?

I know traffic in Chelsea is horrible, but how about better street design along Meridian Street instead to connect Chelsea to Maverick? You know where are the people are?

Have buses run along the existing routes with better traffic management, not a faux urbanism giveaway to a Big Dig fed company.

Say what you will about Chelsea, but it is a thriving neighborhood. This takes people away from the thrive and puts them into the oil farms / airport satellite parking areas instead.

This is bad urban design.

It's probably the next move

..after Seaport and Assembly realize their imagined potential as Yankee Neo Dubai Luxury.

They really seem to think they have some Midas touch. And if you think about that piece about place name conventions that Adam posted recently, the prestige address names burst with promise.

Tank Farm Estates.

Salt Pile Manor.

Tobinview.

King Arthur Towers.

And I'm reasonably confident the rest of you will put these attempts to shame.

Chelsea is our friend , but I

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Chelsea is our friend , but I always called it Chelsea by the Sea, kinda of spiffs up the creek imagery. Salt piles used to be a Quincy Oil company terminal.

You have a future

..in real estate marketing for when you get sick of wrestling with big rigs and bad traffic.

I thought of another.

Jumbo Jet Landing.

My man , I am on pension....

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My man , I am on pension.... I can still recall the stench from the Chelsea Fire. I have been up and down that creek beaucoup times.Sometimes , even over to Day Square, to the best chicken parm sangwich , the best , Jerry , at Spinelli's ......... East Boston , as well as Chelsea by the Sea , are our friends.
With respect to the jets landing ,get over to rte 145 Saratoga street on the little bridge by Belle Isle And the Winthrop line, park there and get an aviation experience!!! Be warned , might have a bit of cell phone trouble in that general area if you have the need to text and tweet and lol ect......

It is a step in the right direction...

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I do think you have a point, there are lots or changes that should be made everywhere. The entire Boston area seems to be in need of infrastructure improvements.

This one will also connect Chelsea with the seaport and financial districts (halving commuting times). Silver Line Gateway was probably more feasible politically, with better news headlines and less red tape. MassDot owns the right-of-way. NIMBY is especially relevant because Chelsea residents voiced street parking as a major issue at SLG meetings, this route takes away none.

Meridian Street has a lot of stakeholders... =/

It Still Depends On The Traffic-Clogged, Frozen Head Tunnel

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The circuitious route through South Boston and around the airport; with neither a dedicated bus lane nor direct entrance and exit connections to the Frozen Head tunnel; will add frustrating delays. This kind of bus service just doesn't sound practical for very many riders, especially when there are so many other areas with much greater transit improvement needs.

Fix What's Broke First

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My simple request would be for them to figure out how to run the #111 bus on a schedule, instead of the current method of having customers wait 45 minutes for a cluster of 3 #111 buses to arrive together.

This fixes what is broken

Capacity appears to be the problem with schedule and bunching, if you note Cybah's commentary. You can't fix that by spacing buses. You fix that by adding capacity in a limited access corridor.

The best way to fix bunching

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The best way to fix bunching is to investigate and eliminating delays.

It doesn't matter how many buses you add to the route if they're all stuck in a jam caused by a mistimed traffic light.

It's a brand-new extra-tall

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It's a brand-new extra-tall bridge that's extra-slow to open. And they have a rule saying they have to open it all the way, even for a ship that is short enough to fit while it's partially lifted.

far better

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Its far better than what was there before, which got stuck open half the time :) I'll take a slow moving bridge than being stuck.

$33 million dollars for 1.3

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$33 million dollars for 1.3 miles?

With that kind of money, how much more frequently could they run the Chelsea buses that people actually ride?

Boo. I missed this!

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Of course I've missed this post (too damn busy at work).. and this is in my own backyard AND I've attended almost all the planning meetings.

I'll try to answer some folks questions/comments from above at the bottom.

First off, I'd like to direct folks to the Silver Line Gateway website, which has all the plans and presentations from all the meetings. It's at:

http://www.massdot.state.ma.us/silverlinegateway/Home.aspx

Secondly, the main idea of this project is connect Chelsea with the blue line and the waterfront using a MassDOT owned ROW. While yes I agree I'd like to see something more, such as a Blue Line Branch OR a something along meridian street OR a complete LRV arc from Wellington to Airport (a la Urban Ring), this is a very good start.

The current buses that run thru Chelsea (except for the 112) are always jammed packed. *always* Anytime of day. Jammed. Like today I had to wait for almost a 1/2 an hour because the buses (116/117) from Maverick are so filled. And the 111, forget it. If one is late because of traffic, the next one is like sardines in a can.

The problem is they can't just add more buses to these routes. Between the the difference variants (111C, 116/117, etc) and the regular bus schedule, its just not possible to add MORE buses. Some routes, like the 111 during rush every 5 minutes or less or the 116/117 which are every 10 minutes or less. The schedule is already crammed full, and adding more buses just won't help once you factor in issues like traffic (the bridge, meridian street, or Chelsea center), high ridership, and all the stops these buses have to make (which makes them late), it's just not feasible to do so and won't make much of a difference.

We just need another mode of transportation to offload many of these current bus routes, by adding new service but not putting it on existing streets (mostly). And the Silver Line Gateway is the plan that will accomplish this.

There were several other options presented to us at the meetings, and yes there were some parking issues brought up, but it more about the traffic in the center of town. It does back up and we just didn't think that adding MORE buses to local city streets was the answer. (and yes even I agreed, even though a SLG stop would be less than 200yards from my front door vs a much longer walk as it will be now).

Plus this project is an easy win for MassDOT and the MBTA. It'll have quick turn around (I hope) because MassDOT already owns most of the ROW. It's relatively cheap and shovel ready. We also have full buy in for this project from the Fed, the State, MassDOT, Local City Politicians, and the community in general. We're actually excited about this project.

Not only are we getting the busway, but a greenway/bikeway/community path, a new commuter rail station behind Market Basket, a new Washington ave bridge, and connecting ramps/stairs/paths from existing bus routes to the new SLG BRT stations. Plus there's alot of other good things to come as a side effect of this project, and yes one of them is the start of gentrification.

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Now on to a few posts from above..

Someone mentioned Meridian Street, while I agree with you that the Hawthorne/Broadway/Pearl/Meridian Streets corridor would yield far more passengers, but again the idea of the SLG is to offload current bus routes and not add additional service to existing streets(see above). A rail line (LRV or subway) along meridian would just be too expensive and too much NIMBYisms. (SLG is cheap by comparison to rail projects).

Ron asked about the bridge. This is has been heavily discussed at the meetings. From what I understand (and not sure if this made it into the final plans), there will be signs at Airport station to alert passengers if the bridge is going up so they can switch to the blue line. Remember, MassDOT controls the Chelsea Street Bridge and the McArdle/Meridian Street Bridge, so they have 100% control when it goes up. They would work out schedules, and alert passengers. (realistically they only go up one or two of times a day, mostly during high tide)

And Elmer, you've mentioned this not being practical for very many riders? Not so. Within 3 years completion, the T estimates that the SLG will service about 9,000 riders daily, most of these riders will be migrated from existing services (I think they estimated 2,000 of that would new T riders due to the proximity to new condo/apartment complexes going up here in town). (and for comparison the 111 currently services around 12,000 passengers daily btw).

And also keep in mind that this will connect to Airport station and provide another connection to the blue line (again to offload passengers, so not all passengers will be using the SL Transitway in South Boston, some may switch at Airport)

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Anyhow I've babbled too much. But yes I've been to all the meetings and know far too much about the project. Overall, I'm excited. No more sardines in a can! This is a very good thing for Chelsea.

PS - This will be pitched, designed, and built in less time than the GLX!

Then It Should Use Separate Bus Route Loops

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I'm all for adding new feeder bus lines that terminate at rapid transit and commuter rail stations, but to provide efficient service they need to be relatively short, well-planned routes. Undoubtedly, a new bus connecting the Chelsea Market Basket to the Blue Line will be useful for many people. It also makes sense to have the existing busses from Boston continue to the Blue Line station after going through the airport.

However, making it all one single, miserably long bus route; that not only mingles with heavily congested traffic on I-90, but also follows a maddeningly winding path through South Boston; is where the idea becomes impractical. Inevitably, the busses will clog and bunch up getting through the airport. Meanwhile, passengers will wait forever in Chelsea, only to have several busses arrive all at once.

Keep the bus lines separate, with each route looping around the Blue Line Airport station on its own schedule. I've actually tried traveling from the Blue Line Airport station to South Station via the (airport shuttle and) SL bus. It takes more than twice as long as it does to get there via Blue-Orange-Red (or by simply walking from Aquarium station). People in Chelsea will love an easy way to get to the Blue Line, but few will use the busses for through service to Boston.

Other than perhaps Iris Soares, who would tolerate such an arduous "one seat ride" from Dudley Square to the Chelsea Market Basket?

Crickets.

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You contradict yourself

In one breath you say

It also makes sense to have the existing busses from Boston continue to the Blue Line station after going through the airport.

then you say

However, making it all one single, miserably long bus route

So what you're saying, let's take a miserable bus route and make it even longer by making it even longer by having it go thru the airport to the airport station.

It doesn't make sense to do that, There's already existing service that massport provides (the Airport shuttle buses), and would add more time since Airport station is really nowhere near the terminals.

And then you say

People in Chelsea will love an easy way to get to the Blue Line, but few will use the busses for through service to Boston.

Maybe but did you stop to think that the additional service between Airport and South Boston will add additional service to an already over crowded Silver Line waterfront? Maybe that will help there (a few folks on here a while back complained about how crowded the service is)

And as far as

I'm all for adding new feeder bus lines that terminate at rapid transit and commuter rail stations, but to provide efficient service they need to be relatively short, well-planned routes.

So do you have a better idea? Do you have a better idea that is cost effective and not going to be a big dig part II? How about an option that is going to be up and going in as little as 2 years? How about an option that can be added to existing infastructure? And an option not add any more traffic onto existing streets. And where you were you at these meetings that I attended to express such concern?

Yeah you weren't there and you don't have any other solutions that don't cost an arm and a leg to be built. Everyone wants to share their opinion and be an armchair consultant but when it comes to actually going to the planning meetings or having a better idea, it's crickets.

Look, As I said above, I'm not thrilled its a bus going thru South Boston Transitway. And I'm not thrilled its not going to be near my house, but SLG was an option given to us, to aliviate over crowding on the existing bus network. Its better than the alternative, which is zilch. So we're going to take it.

And now I am off to work and get on a jammed packed 116/117 to work.

You're welcome

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I actually paid attention and gave input at all the meetings. ;)

You think this is good.. read my yelp reviews sometime.

Hold On There, I Think We Basically Agree ...

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... and you made my point. All right; I'll concede that it's not a good idea to extend the busses from Boston to the Airport station, but doesn't that mean the busses from Chelsea should terminate there?

I think it's a great idea to use the existing abandoned rail right-of-way for busses to Chelsea; the path is direct and the limited bus stops should make it fast and efficient. Situating a new Commuter Rain station on the bus line is also a good idea that makes the bus a useful intermodal link from the Commuter Rail to the Blue Line. I've often suggested a similar express bus connecting Wonderland with Lynn Central Square, taking advantage of the abandoned "Narrow Gauge" railroad along that route.

What I don't like is the connection of this new and efficient bus route with the very inefficient existing bus route from South Station to the airport. Besides the "bunching" that always occurs on long, traffic-clogged routes, the dual-mode busses required for the South Boston transitway are troublesome and expensive. Unless the new Chelsea bus line will be electrified, it makes no sense to purchase and maintain more dual-mode busses for it.

As someone who loves mass transit, I don't wish to sound negative about this project. If I've come across that way, it probably stems from my general disdain of the so-called Silver Line busses. The notion the puts forth that it's a "Bus Rapid Transit" system is a cruel joke. All of that pretense; the wildly expensive bus stops, among other things; takes away from resources that could be used to just run more busses more often, which is the one thing that passengers really want.

The new Chelsea bus line has the potential to be a true BRT system that stands by itself; I just think it will be a shame if it is constrained by saddling it onto the existing dysfunctional South Boston bus route.

Will they finally repave the bus tunnel?

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Or do we have to take up a collection to get it done? The thing lasted about 10 minutes after the line opened.

Hope they get a decent warranty on the new busway, or else riders will be stuck on a gravel road for the next decade+.

New Busway

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I am not sure if this is true or not but I believe part of the issue why the existing transit way hasn't been re done is because its underground and repaving with asphalt (like the SLG will be) would not be possible due to not enough ventilation to do so. They would have to shut the entire tunnel down for months to do that, like they did for the east boston tunnels. Its just not possible.

The good news is that the SLG will be asphalt from end to end so it will be easier to repair in the future.

I agree with your comment, the transitway tunnel feels like I am on a Class 8 road in New Hampshire.

Why asphalt?

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Decent concrete - not garbage Home Depot reject crap - would last for decades.

Asphalt is simply going to end up rutted and crumbling within a few years - just like the make believe Silver Line "bus lane" on Washington St.