The letter below from Transportation Secretary Pollack to MBTA and MassDOT Staff transmits well-deserved congratulations, which I echo.
Dear Colleagues at MassDOT and the MBTA,
You and I know that what we do every day and how well we do it matters, but that’s not always obvious to the public. This week marked the culmination of so many accomplishments at MassDOT and the MBTA that it’s worth taking a moment to acknowledge and celebrate what we can accomplish when we plan smart, communicate well across agencies and with the public and deliver on projects that are rebuilding and modernizing our transportation systems.
For many inside our agencies and in the public, this summer’s transportation news was about the replacement of the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge in Boston, a project at arguably the most complicated confluence of transportation infrastructure in Massachusetts. Months ago, we spread the word: the Mass Pike will be one or two lanes, bus shuttles will replace Green Line trolleys, no weekend Amtrak or commuter rail could run under the bridge, and the Comm Ave and BU bridges would be off-limits to the driving public. This was a complex project, tightly scheduled; all the parts of the project would have to work together – thousands of very specific steps would need to occur in sequence.
Thanks to a lot of hard work by a lot of people at MassDOT, the MBTA and the contractor team lead by Walsh Construction, the part of the project requiring closure of the Mass Pike was executed well and re-thought in real time, allowing the full reopening of all lanes of the highway 18 days early. In an editorial in the Boston Herald giving “a well-deserved shout out” to our team, the newspaper noted that “to view this project up close is to appreciate the marvel not simply of engineering but of planning that shows government at its best.”
But that was only the beginning and just one of the things that has demonstrated “government at its best.” Here are some of the highlights from this week:
Monday: Service resumes, as scheduled, for our customers on the Newburyport/Rockport commuter rail line following replacement of the 120-year old Beverly Drawbridge. The project required detailed planning: how would customers north of Salem get to work with the drawbridge out, how many MBTA bus shuttles would be needed to replace trains, what impact would buses have on local roads, how do we tell people who live and work on the North Shore what’s going on? Not only was the project finished in 28 days, but the installation of Positive Train Control on the same line that forced overlapping weekend closures is scheduled to conclude weeks early, allowing our customers to be back on the trains in time for Labor Day. And that wasn’t all. At Monday’s MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board meeting months of staff work culminated in board votes to proceed with two service pilots: the first expansion of bus service in years, with the addition of early morning “sunrise service” on
selected bus routes, and approval for a 2019 commuter rail pilot service to Foxboro which will give area commuters access to 500 parking spaces at Gillette Stadium to evaluate how parking additions can grow rail ridership.
Tuesday: On Tuesday I announced that Luis Manuel Ramírez, whose three-decade business career has included successful turnarounds with divisions of some of the nation’s biggest corporations, will be the next General Manager/CEO of the MBTA. With the Fiscal and Management Control Board’s term now extended through 2020, 17-year MBTA veteran Jeff Gonneville elevated to Deputy General Manager and Luis starting on September 12, the T will have the stability in both governance and leadership that it needs to achieve the next phase of its transformation into a world-class transit authority. As FMCB Chair Joe Aiello noted, “After going through six permanent or acting general managers since 2011, the T and its workforce will benefit from seasoned and stable leadership at the top.”
Wednesday: Disruption from the Commonwealth Avenue bridge project didn’t end when the Pike reopened. Work continued. With Green Line bus shuttles accommodating all comers, a new deck was installed and new MBTA track and wiring went in. Wednesday morning, after only 20 days, the sun rose on operating Green Line trolleys and drivers back at the wheel using Commonwealth Avenue and the BU Bridge.
Thursday: Yesterday marked a major milestone for people using Route 3A between Quincy and Weymouth. For the first time, the new Fore River Bridge opened to traffic. The day was long-awaited for drivers who have spent fifteen years using a zigzag route to cross a “temporary” bridge. And yesterday morning we celebrated a smaller but still important collaboration in Framingham with a groundbreaking for a new parking lot and improved security and amenities at the commuter rail station. Those investments are the result of a collaboration between MassDOT’s Rail and Transit Division, the MBTA and the Metro West Regional Transit Authority. MWRTA and the T are splitting parking proceeds and MWRTA is using some of those proceeds to maintain and improve the station and provide on-site staffing and security that we expect will grow ridership as more area residents park and use the trains.
What do all of these accomplishments have in common? Under-promising and over-delivering: lots of planning and coordination up front and keeping it going once the project gets underway. Collaboration and partnership: working well across departments and agencies and with external partners. Constant and specific communication: we’ve had accolades for how well MassDOT and the MBTA have kept the public informed about what’s happening and when. Focusing on the customer: thinking through every aspect of the project from the perspective of drivers and transit passengers and other users of the transportation system and working hard to minimize disruptions to their travel. And, most of all, talent: your talent, experience, smarts and dedication. This week was the culmination of thousands of hours of hard work by hundreds of people in every corner of both MassDOT and the MBTA. The result? As Boston Globe columnist Dante Ramos wrote, our “team showed the public that, when government means to get something done on a deadline, it can happen.”
I have never been prouder to be your Secretary. I hope everyone gets some well-deserved vacation in these closing weeks of the summer and look forward to continuing the track record we’ve