Ready for gridlock? Maps show roads that will see severe congestion during Orange Line shutdown

BOSTON — If you live in or around Boston, be prepared to contend with gridlock traffic throughout the duration of the Orange Line shutdown, transportation officials have warned.

State officials shared a simple message with the public on Monday: don’t hop in your car to avoid shuttle buses and commuter rail trains when the Orange Line goes offline Friday night for 30 days.

Traffic congestion on roads across the region will be “severe” and commute times will be longer during the shutdown, which begins Friday at 9 p.m. and lasts through Sept. 18. The first real test of the closure will come on Monday, Aug. 22.

“Whether you drive, bike, or walk, you will see changes in your everyday commute and your commute will likely be longer, " Massachusetts State Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver said. “To be clear, these shutdowns will have substantial regional travel impacts beyond the just transit users...Traffic congestion is expected to be severe.”

MassDOT shared a map of the areas that are expected to see additional congestion, and it’s bad news for commuters who live in the communities of Medford, Malden, Everett, Revere, Chelsea, Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville. Officials are forecasting gridlock traffic for anyone who takes to the roadways as an alternative travel option during the shutdown.

“If possible, avoid the region altogether until the diversion period has ended,” Gulliver advised.

Anyone planning on traveling into Boston from the north or south will likely have to sit in major backups on Interstate 93. Significant delays are also expected on Route 1, Route 1A, and parts of Interstate 90 around the city.

The service diversion could cut some roadway capacity in half due to additional space needed for the fleet of shuttle buses that be rolling down streets while crews work to complete five years worth of upgrades along the Orange Line in a span of 30 days.

“I know that some of the transit users may be considering driving as an alternative to the shuttle buses. I assure you that that is not a good option and you should look to other transit options,” Gulliver said. “We are urging travelers to evaluate their commute and, if possible, adjust or look for a route that avoids the shuttle diversion if you must drive in and shift your travel time to off-peak hours.”

Anticipating an uptick in traffic among pedestrians and cyclists, Gulliver urged vulnerable road users to beware of the shuttle buses’ “different turning radiuses.”

“I want to give a special warning to vulnerable road users, like cyclists and pedestrians. The shuttle buses that are being implemented here are not the same as MBTA buses,” Gulliver said. “They have different turning radiuses and different blind spots for drivers. If you are walking or biking near these shuttle buses near this route you need to be extra vigilant, especially around these bus stops and around turns and intersections.”

In addition to the Orange Line being closed, Green Line service north of Government Center will similarly be offline and replaced by shuttle buses for four weeks between August and September.

Gov. Charlie Baker asked commuters to remain patient while service is suspended, stating that the work will “result in a smoother and faster Orange Line.”

“We all know that this diversion will be an inconvenience for riders. Be patient for the next 30 days...It’s necessary work and it will result in a smoother and faster Orange Line coming out the other side,” Baker said. “When this project is complete, Orange Line travelers will have a faster and more reliable ride and the Orange Line car fleet will be made up almost exclusively of new vehicles.”

Here are some alternate ways to beat the expected traffic nightmare:

Shuttle buses

Throughout the shutdown, the T will offer free shuttle buses between Oak Grove and Haymarket/Government Center and between Forest Hills and Back Bay/Copley. Gulliver urged bikers to use caution as they navigate the increased presence of buses on city streets.

Commuter rail

All Zone 1A, 1, and 2 fares can be paid simply by showing a Charlie Card or Charlie Tickets on ALL Commuter Rail lines. Since many Orange Line riders drive to or transfer between buses and the Orange Line, the MBTA is making it easy to access the Commuter Rail before riders get to the Orange Line by allowing all riders to utilize Commuter Rail stations in Zones 1A, 1, and 2 by showing their Charlie Card or Charlie Ticket to a conductor.

During these 30 days, most passing south-side Needham and Providence Line Commuter Rail trains will stop at Forest Hills, Ruggles, Back Bay, and South Station. On the north-side, Haverhill Line Commuter Rail trains will stop at Oak Grove, Malden Center, and North Station. During these 30 days, riders can show their Charlie Card or Charlie Ticket to the conductor to access the Commuter Rail. Riders should review the latest Commuter Rail schedule changes as a result of adding these stops, which will be available soon.

Consider working from home

During this 30-day shutdown, Orange Line riders who are able to work from home are strongly encouraged to do so. The MBTA encourages employers with hybrid work policies to allow employees to work from home as much as possible.

Seek existing MBTA bus and subway alternatives

Riders can use other existing MBTA bus and subway services to complete their trips.

The MBTA has also shared a “Rider’s Guide to Planning Ahead.” Riders can also monitor MBTA social media for the latest updates on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok, to subscribe to T-Alerts at mbta.com, and visit more information at mbta.com/BBT2022.

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