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MassDOT hosts public meeting regarding Commonwealth Bridge renovation

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation hosts a meeting at Boston University College of General Studies Thursday evening, to discuss traffic issues relating to summer construction of the BU Bridge. PHOTO BY HALEY ABRAM/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Approximately 40 people attended a public meeting held by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation on the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge renovation Thursday night at Boston University’s Jacob Sleeper Auditorium.

The construction will shutdown the surrounding roads, and will take place in the summer, from July 26 to Aug. 14, according to a press release from MassDOT.

This meeting is the first of three public forums in which representatives from MassDOT, The Walsh Group and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority answer residents’ questions on transportation service impacts of the project.

In addition to working on the deteriorating bridge, the restoration will include improvements to street safety and function, according to the release.

Curtis Nikitas, a project manager at the MBTA, said during the meeting that the project will affect the MBTA Green Line B branch from Babcock Street to Blandford Street Stations, which will be closed for 18 and a half days during the shutdown.

Nikitas assured the crowd during the meeting that alternate transportation will be accessible during this time and the MBTA will be keeping the public up to date on service changes.

“We will be running shuttle bus services during these days between Babcock and Blandford,” Nikitas said. “We also have a number of customer services we can utilize — the MBTA website, traffic alerts, Twitter, public service announcements at the train stations and additional employers will be there to assist passengers.”

Gary McNaughton, the vice president and regional manager of McMahon Associates and a member of the project team, said during the meeting that due to the increased traffic following the shutdown, shortcuts will not necessarily be viable, but there will be measures in place to make sure things run smoothly.

“I don’t really think there is any shortcut that will save you a lot of time,” McNaughton said. “But we are doing everything we can to get people divert on a broader scale by showing detour routes and maps. We will also have extensive police details planned during our work periods to navigate people to the more appropriate routes.”

McNaughton said there will be a new regional real-time traffic monitoring system introduced during the construction period that will monitor the traffic and help the public adjust to any obstructive conditions that may arise on the roads.

Jim Kersten, the legislative liaison of MassDOT, said the communication and public outreach team for the project is trying to make coordination as tight as possible.

“There are a lot of moving parts in this project, and it is really going to rely on coordination,” Kersten said. “We’ve been meeting bi-weekly with a large group of stakeholders.”

People who attended the event said they were concerned about traveling around the area during the construction shutdown.

Peter Wilson, 79, of Brookline, said he has many concerns about the construction shutdown.

“[My] number one [concern is] noise,” Wilson said. “[Another is] one end of the street I live on will be closed. There will a lot more traffic on Beacon Street. I won’t be able to get to Kenmore easily.”

Ronnie Dane, 68, of Brookline, said she showed up to the meeting due to her concerns about pedestrian safety.

“My interest was particularly in the end gain in terms of what it will look like for pedestrians, particularly students, who are crossing [the street],” Dane said. “There is no traffic light to help them cross safely. Frankly, motorists are scared to death too over that entrance section.”

Despite her concerns about pedestrian safety, Dane said the deterioration of the bridge wasn’t noticeable to her initially.

“I can’t say I noticed anything about the bridge,” Dane said. “I was unaware of the physical problems with the bridge prior to the presentation.”

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