Construction crews dismantle part of the Commonwealth Avenue bridge.

Credit: MassDOT

The Commonwealth Avenue Bridge Project: What You Need to Know

August 2, 2017

Even officials from the Department of Transportation described the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge Project as "hell on wheels." So far it's been a headache mostly for people along the Mass. Pike, but officials from MassDOT say things are going smoothly.

Overview: The construction project, which began on July 26, is replacing the eastbound lane on the Commonwealth Avenue bridge along with multiple steel girders supporting the bridge. The project follows an "accelerated" construction timeline of two-and-a-half weeks. Major portions of the bridge were built offsite and are being installed by crews of 200 workers active 24 hours a day. MassDot estimates the project will complete by Aug. 14, with delays to the Mass. Pike ending on Aug. 7. Construction is impacting multiple areas and modes of transportation from the Mass. Pike, the commuter rail, bus routes and the Green Line B Branch. Below is a break down of the impacts for each category, followed by a day-to-day breakdown on how the project is progressing. If there's one general consensus: Avoid the Mass. Pike.

Mass. Pike: On July 28 at 9 p.m., reduced access along the Mass. Pike between the Allston Interchange and the Beacon Street overpass began. On weekdays between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m., two lanes are open for the east and westbound lanes. This has been the biggest issue, causing backups to Watertown and Newton starting at around 6:30 a.m. each day. The week of Aug. 2 to Aug. 7 from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., there will be only one westbound lane. On the weekends and "off-peak" hours both east and westbound are reduced to one lane.

The exit to Cambridge Street and Soldier's Field Road on the eastbound lane is closed. Exit 20 on the westbound lane is closed intermittently. The lane closures are supposed to end on Aug. 7.

Commonwealth Avenue: Both the Commonwealth Avenue and Boston University Bridge are closed until Aug. 14. The westbound lane on the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge is open to local abutters, businesses, emergency vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. Suggested detours go to Harvard Avenue then Cambridge Street and onto Memorial Drive.

Green Line B Branch: The Green Line B Branch is closed between Babcock and Blandford Streets until Aug. 13. The MBTA is running Peter Pan coach buses as a shuttle service located at the usual stops. Some commuters have told WGBH News reporters that the trips take about 10 minutes longer than normal trolley service. The Green Line is shuttered because crews removed the track running across Commonwealth Avenue and must wait until construction on the bridge is complete before laying down a replacement.

Buses/Commuter Rail: The 47 and CT2 buses are operating on detoured routes, so expect some delays. The 57 is operating normally. 

The Worcester/Framingham commuter rail line operates normally during weekdays. Service stops this weekend at Boston Landing with a shuttle available on the D line to Reservoir station. There is no scheduled shuttle between Boston Landing to Back Bay, Yawkey Way and South Station except for days when the Red Sox play. On game nights a shuttle will run from Boston Landing to Yawkey Way three hours before the game.

The weekend of Aug. 5-7, Amtrak's Lakeshore Limited is replaced by shuttle buses to Albany, N.Y.

What we've encountered: WGBH News deployed reporters to Commonwealth Avenue following the closure of the Green Line B Branch the night of July 26. Most commuters said they experienced a five to 10 minute delay riding the Peter Pan buses that are replacing services between Babcock and Blandford Streets. The MBTA contracted service to Peter Ban because the demand would be too great on their bus fleet, according to the Assistant General Manager of Rail Operations, Bill McClellan. Reporter Gabrielle Emmanuel spoke with Lyft drivers and local business owners who are concerned about the impact the disruption will have. Drivers for ride-sharing services reported frustration over the increased traffic, which for them translates to more gas and fewer customers.

While both the BU and Commonwealth Avenue bridges closed down on July 27 disrupting local traffic, most commuters were holding their breath for the disruptions on the Mass. Pike that began Monday, July 31. Most commuters seemed to heed warnings from John Gulliver, the interim high administrator for MassDOT, and avoided the Mass. Pike. WGBH News' Aaron Schachter found the Pike to be relatively empty between 5 and 6 a.m., but just 45 minutes later, traffic began to build. However, the first day of disruptions weren't as bad as projected.

MassDOT has estimated an extra 90 minutes to travel times. That assessment became true on Aug. 1 and Aug. 2, when traffic was backed up almost three miles to the Newtown and Watertown exits starting around 6 a.m. While local roads around Commonwealth Avenue are experiencing more congestion, the Mass. Pike should be avoided unless it's absolutely necessary.

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