Recently, Senator Brownsberger hosted a meeting with officials from MassDOT to get an update on the Trapelo Road reconstruction project. In attendance were Acting Highway Administrator Tinlin, District 4 Highway Director Paul Stedman, engineering staff from District 4, Belmont Town Administrator David Kale, Belmont Director of Community Development Glenn Clancy and Watertown Town Councilor Angie Kounelis. The project, which was scheduled to be completed in September, will take longer than anticipated, but the most challenging work is already complete and MassDOT does not expect any further major delays. Substantial progress has been made through Cushing Square and construction will continue easterly until completion.
Currently, the project is approximately 60% complete and $10 million of $17 million has been spent. The most challenging work, the subsurface work for utilities, drainage systems and signal foundations has already been completed. The contractor faced challenging conditions throughout much of the underground work that necessitated design modifications, which was the cause of much of the delays. MassDOT does not have an expected completion date. If the project is not finished by November, work will resume in March.
MassDOT has provided a project update with additional detail and explanation.
You can find a set of project plans here.
- 213 new trees have been planted so far, with more to come.
- MassDOT would like to coordinate with the Cushing Square redevelopment however if the timing of the projects does not match up the developer may be required to regrade the road after utility work.
- All of the cracked defective sidewalks will be removed and replaced. The cracking was caused by an issue with the air content of the concrete, notification will be given to abutters prior to the start of work.
- The new signals should be installed and operational by the end of the year.
- Rodent control measures are being taken.
- MBTA officials will meet with project management in August to discuss the timeline for the resumption of trackless trolley service. The catenary wires cannot be put up until the conclusion of construction.
Office of State Senator William N. Browsberger
A few concerns I’ve heard recently:
- The lack of working pedestrian signals in some intersections, especially in Cushing Square — the project management is very aware of this issue and is pushing for a quick restoration of the signals. Update as of 8-11, fact, Cushing signals are in!
- The islands — these may take some getting used to, but once all the markings and signs are in place, my hope and belief is that these will contribute to pedestrian safety and orderly traffic flow, without reduction of end-to-end throughput. On the old Trapelo Road, people sped along straightaways then waited intersections. In the new Trapelo Road, the hope is that people will be able to maintain a more consistent speed.
- Cameras on the new intersection signals — not to worry, these are just motion detectors to control the signals more efficiently. They are not cameras.
This is really helpful – I truly appreciated your staying on top of this and providing us an update. Thanks.
Will, glad to hear the cracked concrete will be replaced! Are there arrangements to water the new trees through the fall? It would be a shame to lose any of them due to lack of rain.
The contractor owns the trees, including responsibility for watering, until the project is done. The state and the town won’t accept dead trees.
Two questions. Will the Trackless Trolleys return when the project is complete? Not sure which is better with regard to fossil fuel use, but the Trackless Trolleys I think are less noisy and deposit less local carbon. Will the center islands be completed before snow season? Aesthetically I like the concept, but wonder about snow removal and taking left hand turns onto Trapelo.
Thanks to everyone who has worked so hard on this project.
Can’t promise on the islands, but the plan has been and remains to reinstall the overhead wires and return to using electric buses when the work is done.
Re: left hand turns specifically for reaching a driveway on the opposite side of the street, will there be places along Belmont and Trapelo to U turn to opposite side destinations?
Thanks for the update, BUT- there is still the final coat on the road- or else we continue to have problems at every manhole cover. And there need to be paving connections of Trapelo and the side streets, and then there are all the unfinished corners which now only have rough asphalt- or none. And something has to be done to light up all the center of the road structures- why they are there is a mystery since they will force a single line of traffic- I want the road engineers/architects to travel Trapelo in the mornings and in the afternoons and see what they’ve done!
You are quite right. Rest assured the project is only 60% complete. There is still a lot of work to be done.
As to the islands, I think we need to get through the construction process and see how they function when all is properly marked. The temporary barrels are more of an obstruction than the islands themselves in some places.
I have to add that I admire the T bus drivers for putting up with all the obstacles and keeping a schedule!
The Middle/Center Islands for trees is too broad. It may cause congestion as road narrows around the islands
Thanks for the update! I just want to reiterate the concern about pedestrian safety without functional walk signals in major intersections such as Cushing square. Anything that can be done to speed up the installation and functionality of the crosswalk safety signals would be greatly appreciated.
The walk signals are in as of today!
Will the walk signal at Star Market in Waverley Sq. actually work? For years the old ones have been practically worthless. A walk signal has to respond to being pushed in a reasonable amount of time.
It better! You are quite right that a slow walk signal doesn’t get used and that reality is generally accepted among traffic planners now.
Any word on the elimination of bus stops for #73? There was talk of that before construction started.
Right after it was paved, people were driving way too fast, eastbound near Payson Rd. It’s nice and smooth, and downhill, makes it quite tempting. The islands do help, plus I do feel safer crossing there.
As for complaints about islands and limited lanes – like a computer network (my field) the overall, end-to-end throughput is the key thing here, not individual segments.
The cameras, for controlling the signals, are quite a bit better than the wire loops embedded in the road.
Nice update, W. Thanks.
piggy backing what John just said.
there has been zero movement on this and it needs to be done now. by removing that secondary travel lane for these buses, the morning commute is already slower.
the # of stops on this line is so wildly inefficient, i don’t understand why it is so difficult to get this done.
Fair question. Let us get you an update on that part of the plan.
Stop elimination along the 73 is a topic that comes up every now and again. I have asked the MBTA about it a few times in the past and the information below is what I have learned over the years.
The MBTA’s “Key Bus Routes” initiative was a comprehensive service planning project for the MBTA’s 15 busiest routes, funded by stimulus money. The routes were studied with the goals of improving service speed and rider experience. Stops were moved, eliminated and consolidated and new shelters and benches added. The 73 was part of Key Bus Routes and several improvements were made to both inbound and outbound service.
Once the Trapelo Road improvement project is complete, there will be 9 fewer bus stops along the Route 73. This is an 18% reduction, which is about average for stops eliminated as part of the Key Bus Routes Program.
The challenge for service planners is to balance the desire for faster service while still providing reasonable walking distances to bus stops. On the Route 73 corridor, the MBTA actually proposed removing more bus stops but refrained in some cases due to public outcry.
It is unclear, what if any further improvements will be made to the route. The availability of stimulus funds was essential for Key Bus Routes. I will check in with the MBTA and report back any additional findings.
Office of State Senator William N. Brownsberger
I’m not sure you have accurate information. Not 1 stop has been consolidated on the 73 line. I’m on it twice a day, and there has been no difference. As someone who relies on this service daily, and pays good money for it, i’m very tired of hearing “it comes up now and again” or “it’s forthcoming” or “it’s underway”… frankly because none of those things are true.
This consolidation should have been done in tandem with all this construction. Not waiting fort the construction to finish, which, by my estimation, is behind schedule by a fair amount. And construction, of which, that is contributing to the lack of efficiency of this line. There was previously room for cars to bypass buses stopping to pick up passengers. That is only the case now at a handful of stops. It creates backups, more backups than we had before. These middle-of-the-road-planters are asinine (from an Architect’s perspective). You’ve effectively cut 1 lanes worth of travel for planters and barriers we didn’t need, and that will undoubtedly take a vicious beating from plows come winter.
While I understand you or whomever needs to find balance with walking distances, but again, frankly this is not really a challenge. There are parts of Trapelo road you can look down, and within 400 yards, visibly see 4-5 bus stops. I fail to see the challenge. It’s plain as day. I’m also not sure what public outcry there was. I’m sure if there was a poll sent to people who live along the route, the temperature of response would be very different. A few of these stops in question are 1 block apart. It’s beyond infuriating during rush hour.
I aim not at being bombastic in my reply, but to be a voice of an extremely fed up community member who relies on a service that, in my opinion, can very easily be improved upon after a quick visible review of what’s what. As an architect, I understand and can appreciate the level of approvals that need to happen with public agencies, etc. But this conversation started a very long time ago and we as a community are not seeing the results.
That needs to change.
I apologize for not being more clear above: our office receives constituent inquiries about stop elimination “every now and again.” We certainly agree, there are too many stops and support the prompt removal and consolidation of stops.
I will learn the current status of the implementation of the Key Bus Route recommendations and what further efforts are being undertaken to improve service along the route and post them here.
Office of State Senator William N. Brownsberger
The T said all along during the planning process that the consolidation would happen when the street construction was finished. Everybody is in favor of eliminating stops until it is their stop that gets eliminated. NIMBYs blocked a very reasonable plan to make a stop on the triangle at School St. that wouldn’t block traffic.
Upon completion of construction, eight Belmont stops and four Cambridge stops will be eliminated in both the inbound and outbound directions as part of the Key Bus Routes initiative. Several other stops along the route will be moved to improve spacing.
ADA accessibility upgrades are also included in this project as part of the Key Bus Routes initiative. The accessibility upgrades include lengthening stops to ensure the bus can pull up to the curb and widening the sidewalks in to provide sufficient space for all passengers to board and alight. I have been informed that the MBTA intends to modify stop the stop configuration only once all ADA accessibility improvements have been made at the conclusion of construction.
In most cases the stops to be eliminated are within 400-500 feet of the next closest stop. Other stop locations will be shifted in an effort to provide more uniform stop spacing and enhance accessibility, operations and safety.
I have included two maps which detail the locations of the existing stops, proposed new stops and the existing stops that will be eliminated as well as distances between stops.
Route 73 Improvements
Route 71/73 Improvements
Office of State Senator William N. Brownsberger.
My take on this, as a rider of the 73 myself, is that even more stops should probably be eliminated. Not infrequently, I walk past a dozen stops looking over my shoulder waiting for the bus to come.
So, even after the initial round of eliminations the conversation should continue.
As to whether this should while construction is on progress, I think we need to be realistic about the amount of change we can make happen at once. We haven’t even been able to keep the signs up for the existing stops very well during the sidewalk repairs. So, I do think that we need to finish the project, finish the planned eliminations per Andrew’s explanation above and then assess where we are.
I understand and share the frustrations about how long it all takes.
Thanks for the update
Will pedestrian signals be “smart signals” i.e. give pedestrians priority right of way? When will signals be working at Grove/Arlingtn & Belmont? Appreciate the updates..
I think the signals at the major intersections will be at fixed points in the intersection cycles — not entirely pedestrian driven.
Let me check on schedule for Grove St.
Who is going to water the 100s of new trees????
Right now and until the project is complete, the contractor has responsibility to water the trees. When it is done and accepted, the town will have responsibility.
If trees die during construction, it is on the contractor to replace them.
Hi Will, I live on Trapelo and am disappointed in the hydroseed used on the green spaces along the route. It seems no actual grass is growing just monster weeds. I’d even settle for crabgrass. I’ve never seen this from seeding before. Can the co tractor replace this and actually install grass?
I’ll pass this question on the Town Engineer. I think they are under an obligation to plant grass properly too.
This is the reply I got from MassDOT on this issue:
While construction is ongoing, the contractor owns the problems. We’ll have to be ready to follow up as completion nears to assure good results. Keep us posted on how it looks.
Is the plan still to paint consistent bike lanes along the corridor? New stripes are in place now, but no sign of bike lanes—and I’m seeing the same old confusion about the number of car lanes, with two narrowing to one and opening back up to two, with no indication of which lane is supposed to yield to the other. Is there another paint job in our future?
Thanks for keeping us informed!
Sorry for slow response on this: Bike lanes and better road striping should come to the segment between Waltham and Cushing Square in this construction season (i.e., very shortly) weather cooperating.
The intersection of Trapelo Road and Beech Street is not usable at this time. It has been like this for a long, long time, and cannot by used by people in wheelchairs or pushing strollers because the sidewalk is too narrow due to poor placement of utility apparatus.
Town hall was forced to close for several years while it was brought into compliance with ADA regulations. I have the same concern for the people of Belmont as they are faced with an passable section of town sidewalk.
This will only worsen in winter months.
Thanks for looking into this concern.
Bob, is this something that appears due to the ongoing construction? Or is it something that appears to be final in the design. Feel free to call by phone if that’s easier than writing it up further. My office number is 617-722-1280.
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