Rt 128 N Merge at Rt 2 W – Commuters North – There’s got to be a better way….

Dear Will – it was nice getting to meet you at Town Day – also great to get a chance to discuss the library.

Unfortunately, I’m writing on another topic — like many Belmonters, I commute out to 128 on a daily basis. In my case I head North in the morning and south in the evening. Thus, the ecology of 128 is “with me” — traffic going north is typically light in the morning and subsequently light in the evening.  I apologize in advance to any of the Belmonters who go south — our end of 128 is always a nightmare south in the morning and north in the evening.

So, as a Northbound commuter, I am blessed, with the exception of the Rt2 Merge.

Here’s the issue:

Commuters going 128S sit waiting for access in the right hand lane of Rt 2W, often blocking the left two lanes of Rt 2W for as much as a mile. In addition, Hayden Ave feeds in just before the  exit to 128N.

On a typical day, commuters going north resolve this problem by driving in the breakdown lane from Hayden Ave to the exit. This seems to work quite well, until the MA state Police show up. Rather than doing the obvious, logical, thing (encouraging  people to use this brief section of the breakdown lane), they, instead block the lane and issue tickets to anyone attempting to use the lane for this purpose. The result is to increase the backup on Rt 2 and additional mile and create unsafe road conditions for those approaching the intersection.

How do we resolve issues like this?

I would welcome the views of a professional traffic engineer on this topic.

It would seem that a temporary adjustment of the road-use laws, similar to those in front of the middle school  (which change the direction of the road during certain times of the day) and that of the southern portion of 128 (where breakdown lane usage is authorized to ease the commute) would be warranted here to allow northbound commuters to utilize the breakdown lane from Hayden Ave to the  128N exit.

Your thoughts?



10 replies on “Rt 128 N Merge at Rt 2 W – Commuters North – There’s got to be a better way….”

  1. I, too, have encountered this problem and actually contacted Mass Highway about it. The problem with things as they stand now is that if one obeys the law and doesn’t use the breakdown lane, if there is a steady stream of cars in the breakdown lane, then it’s actually a bit dangerous to turn from far right (regular) lane onto the exit ramp. So, while I agree that the use of the highway department should legalize use of the breakdown lane during the morning rush hour, I think that it’s also important that they make sure that this change can be accomplished safely.

    1. Hi Helen – yes, I absolutely agree, the problem right now is that there’s normally just anarchy. The “good do-bees” waiting to get onto the relatively un-congested 128N route sit in the right lane along with the 128S traffic, the “bad influencers” (as my mom used to call them) use the breakdown lane, causing problems for the people legitimately positioned in the right lane and every couple of days, the cops block the lane causing enormous confusion without solving any of the issues.

      We need clear signage and an option that makes sense given the traffic flow.

      One other option would be to close the right hand lane to 128N traffic – have a cop-car stationed just beyond the entrance to 128N, forcing people into the middle lane. Eventually the 128S demand-flow may get the idea that the middle lane is the 128S waiting line, the right lane is the 128N waiting line. I’m not saying this is a better solution (personally, I’m quite happy with removing the breakdown lane and making it part of the 128N entrance as the 1/4 mile of breakdown will never be missed), but it is another solution.

      Obviously, a flying overpass to 128N would also help and is, in reality, partially built, but it ends at Spring St. Had Hayden ave been extended to feed 128N “back in the day” this would not have been an issue.

      I’m curious if you got any response whatsoever from Mass Highway?


  2. Please this response from Paul Stedman at MassHighway — he confirms Helens comments, but does offer some hope:

    Hi Representative – we have looked at this in the past and unfortunately, there are not a lot of options. We lengthened the deceleration lane for the Route 2 WB movements to I-95 NB when Route 2 was resurfaced a couple years back. The current location for the taper is at the approximate maximum it can be when considering the proximity of the end of the taper from the acceleration lane for the Hayden Avenue on ramp to Route 2 WB and the vertical curvature of the roadway. The use of breakdown lanes for travel requires the approval of the FHWA. I believe it also requires special legislation. Regardless, it is not something that is considered feasible at this location as breakdown travel is authorized in locations where it is used as a travel lane over long segments of highway as opposed to creating additional length for individual ramp movements.

    The reconstruction of the I-95 interchange at Winter Street in Waltham is expected to be substantially completed this fall. Once fully operational, the improvements associated with that project are expected to reduce the current congestion on I-95 SB that leads to the delays on Route 2 WB at this location.

  3. So, as I read this “there’s no solution to the problem – we’re hoping that when winter St is done (a project that has languished on for at least 7 years, through at least 3 contractors) it might help 128S be less congested.”
    Note – just my luck, I commute two days north and two days south of Belmont each week, on the northbound days I get to fight this intersection, on the southbound days I get to fight the nightmare of Winter St reconstruction……)

    They don’t want to open up the breakdown lane for reasons that are not at all clear (just how long a segment does it need to be to justify breakdown lane use during rush hours?)

    Who is the FHWA? (Good lord, not the Feds is it? If so, we are certainly doomed)

    Will – thanks for asking, unfortunately looks like the bureaucracy will triumph over reason in this case.

  4. I guess we’re doomed. Thanks for inquiring……Any chance of simply getting the cops to sit at the bottom of the hill instead of the top – that would (at least) reduce the ambiguity of the situation.
    Right now it look’s like they’re just there to raise a little revenue and make everyone’s lives more miserable.

    1. Rich, not sure how far your commute is, but often enough (when driving) I just cut through Lexington, usually on Lowell St, sometimes out 4/225/Bedford St. It’s not substantially slower (to the Burlington Mall area), plus it gives pretty good options for errands on the way to/from work. I don’t lead-foot it, either, since I’m driving residential neighborhoods, and the same route that I use when I bike.

  5. Hi Will – hope your summer is going well.

    Update (September 2014 – as part of a reconstruction project for Rt 2, the breakdown lane at the 128N on-ramp has temporarily been re-purposed to handle traffic)

    I was amazed the other day to find that the prohibitions mentioned below by Mr. Stedman are NOT absolutes. Apparently the state can commandeer a breakdown lane when it it’s to their convenience.

    Rt 2 now has a simple, logical approach to the 128 merge.

    It’s been great!

    EVEN with 1 lane taken out of action, the traffic flows more freely and 128 N is easily accessed in the morning.

    Clearly, this type of efficiency cannot last in the world of Mr. Stedman’s so I’m sure that as soon as the construction project is done, we will be back to business as usual and traffic will once again snarl up at Rt 2/128, but it’s interesting to see how a little common sense can affect even heavy traffic corridors. If only our government would allow common sense…sigh…

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