Belmont-Trapelo Corridor Project — FAQ (24 Responses)

When are we going to repave Belmont Street and Trapelo Road?

The project took a decade to get underway, but it finally started last fall.  The contractor is working through the winter installing new storm drainage grates and piping. The goal for 2014 is to complete paving from the Waltham line to the west side of  Cushing Square.   The goal for 2015 will be to complete paving through Cushing Square to the Cambridge line.

How much will the construction project cost?

The total costs are roughly $22 million.  The construction contract value is $17.1 million, and an additional roughly $2 million in costs will be incurred for temporary removal of the catenary wires for the buses.  State and federal agencies are paying these project costs.  In addition to the state-federal project costs, the town of Belmont has spent roughly $3 million on design and subsurface infrastructure replacement (water, sewer, storm drains) along the corridor.

Who is running the project?  

The state Highway department is overseeing the project.  They have an engineer stationed full time on the site.  The contractor is Newport Construction.

Who designed the project?

The state will be following a design blue-print developed and exhaustively vetted by the Town of Belmont in consultation with state engineers and with the town of Watertown.  The town employed the BSC Group as consulting engineers.  Peter Briere is the lead engineer for the project at the  BSC Group.  BSC’s design implements detailed conceptual direction provided by Belmont’s Traffic Advisory Committee based on public comment.

What does the design call for?

The project is a complete redesign of the streetscape all across the public right-of-way, including the sidewalks.

  • The traffic flow will be channeled to two lanes and the sidewalks will be widened where possible.
  • Where volume and turning motions call for additional lanes at signalized intersections, there will be three or four lanes as needed.
  • Bike lanes will be striped for the entire length of the project.
  • Over 200 new trees will be planted over the length of the corridor.

Are they pulling out the old trolley tracks?

No.  The consulting engineers, working with the pavement experts at MassHighway made an early determination that the road bed underlying Trapelo Road is actually quite sound.  They made that determination after taking core samples and fully inspecting the roadway.    Of course, the pavement itself is badly worn and the tracks are coming through in places, but that pavement failure reflects several decades of low maintenance and is not indicative, in their opinion, of a failing road bed.  Roads need to be maintained much more often than the corridor has been maintained.

But what about the railroad ties — won’t they rot?  And what about the rails themselves — will they rust and expand?

Certainly, to some degree, but the old track assembly is encased in concrete and cobble stones and the engineers feel that the whole assembly actually constitutes a strong road bed component.  According to the engineers, there will be at least 3.5 inches of asphalt over the tracks when the final repaving is complete. Just a comparison data point: The photo below shows the dense packed cobble stones around the tracks underneath Huron avenue — Cambridge is tearing up those tracks to allow pipe installation below them. According to the workers in the field, the the ties in the layer below are 99% solid.

track excavation

Why are they running diesel buses on the 73 line?

The presence of overhead catenary lines would force the contractors to use expensive special equipment to stay below them.   The initial bids for the project came in too high because the catenary lines were not initially to be removed.  After considerable negotiation, a new plan was worked out for temporary use of diesel buses during the project.   When the project is complete, the catenary lines will be re-installed and the trolley buses will return.

Why has service deteriorated on the 73 line?  

Many riders feel that the service has noticeably deteriorated, although a few disagree.  My office is working with the MBTA to find out what’s happening with that.

Where can we see the detailed design plans for the project?

Plans are available by clicking here. There is also a massive blueprint book available for inspection at the office of the Town Engineer in the Belmont Town Hall annex.

Can we change the plans at this stage?

The field engineers will always work with homeowners or businesses along the street to tweak details if they can, but the basic plan is pretty much locked in.

Are existing trees being protected in the project?  

In principle yes.  We’ve been disappointed that the contractor has piled stones under the canopy area of the trees in front of the Waverley Oaks housing. That is a contract violation and we are working to address it.

Where will there be traffic islands?

Answer posted on November 12, 2015: The islands between Waltham and Cushing Square are in their final form — some actual raised islands with plantings; some flush concrete segments that serve to alert motorists to the raised islands. From Cushing Square to Cambridge, the islands are not in their final form. There will be a total of 5 raised islands with grass and plantings (a total of approximately 25 trees) between Cushing Square and Payson Road. Motorists will be alerted to the raised segments by scored concrete segments (flush to the asphalt). The two longest raised segments will be between Oakley Street and Payson Road. Between Cushing Square and Oakley Street, there will be three smaller raised islands.

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