What happened with the Trapelo Road road project (604688) ???

Got this question by email: I just noticed that all the bids (both) got cancelled on 12/20/2012 and bidding will re-open at some future date. Why?

Answer: The bids came in high because of some concerns about challenges that the project would raise — bidders seemed to view it as a tunnel project requiring special equipment and techniques because of the overhead trolley wires.

The T is planning to replace the wires anyway so we’re working on agreement where they would take the wires down, then the road project would happen, then they would put the wires back up. We are already planning to run diesel buses during the project period — the trolleys can’t leave their lanes, much less detour..

Hopefully it will go back out to bid in time to start as planned this Spring.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

12 replies on “What happened with the Trapelo Road road project (604688) ???”

  1. Thanks for the update!  Good luck – coordinating with other agencies who are large with many maintenance projects, priorities,  different schedules, and financing can’t be easy.

  2. I can now report that the MBTA and MassHighway have worked this issue out. The MBTA has agreed to have the catenary wires removed during the project period and MassDOT has agreed to absorb the costs of the removal and reinstallation. The Federal Highway Administration has preserved the allocation of funds.

    So, the revised basic plan is in place and the revised money is in place. Now, the project just has to move back through the bid process. I’m still waiting for confirmation of the new bid date. I’m still hopeful that we won’t lose much of the construction season.

  3. Just met with the Administrator of the Highway Division of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation — Frank DePaola — for an update on the Trapelo Road project.

    The good news is that additional federal funds have been identified for the project, saving the state approximately $1.6 million. State funds that had been previously identified for the project will be designated for other purposes.

    The bad news is that to take advantage of those federal funds, the project advertising will be delayed another couple of months, probably until late April. This will result in a mid-summer construction start.

    As noted above, bids came in high for the project by about $4 million because contractors understood that they could not use normal equipment for the project. Because most of the project lies under the overhead wires for the trackless trolleys, and because regulations (MBTA and/or OSHA) prohibit equipment coming within 10 feet of those wires, the contractors were planning to use smaller equipment with a maximum height of 8 feet. Even when de-energized, as they would be for the project, the wires pose a hazard because they could be accidentally re-energized — workers near exposed wires have to assume that they could be live.

    So, the project has been reconceived. The MBTA will remove the wires and put them back up after the project. The wires are approaching the end of their useful life anyway. That removal and replacement will cost approximately $1.6 million, but the construction bids should come in much lower than before, resulting in a substantial net savings.

    In the initial resolution of the project problems back in December, explained above, the expectation was that the state would use its own funds to pay for the wire removal and replacement. However, since then, federal funds have become available that were swept from other projects that for whatever reason did not move forward. Our project is eligible to use those funds. To use them, however, they must be programmed by the Metropolitan Planning Organization. If things go as now planned, the MPO will consider an amendment to the Transportation Improvement Plan at their March meeting and, after the mandatory 30 day comment period, finalize it at their April meeting.

    After the April approval, the project should then go out to bid promptly because all other issues are substantially resolved. Administrator DePaola assured me that that, if, for whatever reason, the TIP amendment could not be approved, the state funds originally identified could be used and the project would go to bid in this season anyway.

  4. Will, you said at Belmont Town Meeting that it will cost millions of dollars to take down the trolley wires and put them back up.

    Why not just eliminate the wires and switch to LNG busses? The trolleys do not offer a pollution or noise advantage any more. The busses are also much more reliable, they can be re-routed and there are no catenaries to fall off.

    The money could be better spent on some sort of system at the bus stops to announce how long until the next bus comes. The T is still in the 19th century in that department.


  5. Roy, switching to LNG for a large operation is not so easy. First, buses are expensive and slow to purchase, so switching from electric to LNG takes time. Second, refueling LNG takes longer than diesel, with fewer, more costly facilities. Third, LNG gets HALF the MPG as diesel due to lower energy density, resulting in going out of service during the day to refuel, or limiting use to short routes. Fourth, LNG buses are higher due to added fuel tanks on top and don’t clear some bridges – last year an out of service one took a bad route under a low rail bridge, knocking off the tanks from the roof. Fifth, MBTA maintenance facilities are very busy and need to be proportionally equipped to handle the vehicles they work on. Increasing LNG buses will likely need re-fitting of repair facilities. The advantage of LNG is being cleaner burning than diesel, like electric buses. Keeping the catenary wires is probably cheaper than converting to LNG.

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