Yearlong study on traffic congestion released

BOSTON — It's not your imagination. Traffic has gotten worse in the last five years.

State officials confirmed this when they released the results of the yearlong traffic study into why Boston's traffic is so awful.

The report essentially determined that there is no single cause, but says some factors in the increased gridlock include:

  • A booming state economy that's leading to more jobs and a growing population
  • The housing crisis pushing people further away from their jobs and forcing them to commute
  • Poor road conditions
  • A spike in the number of people now using rideshares

"These services are popular, but as they pick up and drop off passengers and cruise or drive around empty, they create traffic jams and congestion," said Baker.

>> Previous: Uber or Lyft? State to release study into Boston's gridlock

Governor Baker himself is sick of the gridlock.

"We have signaling issues on state roads and local roads that absolutely positively contribute to congestion.

Baker's administration spent a year studying the traffic problems and tried to come up with solutions to fix the problem.

In the massive 186-page report, the state says it will work with local towns and cities to:

  • Fix bottlenecks and problematic intersections
  • Increase the number of trips and seats on the T
  • Reinvent bus transit

One part of the report basically said that the $420 million spent to add a lane in each direction of Route 128 did not do much to ease rush hour traffic.

The Massachusetts Highway Department started the "Route 128 Add-A-Lane" project 16 years ago. Many drivers assumed it was to help ease traffic, but the state's new report revealed something different:

Congestion management was not the rationale behind this project—rather, it primarily sought to eliminate travel on the shoulder, a practice that raises major safety concerns.

The project was intended to widen 13.7 miles of I-95, Route 128 and I-93 from a six-lane highway to an eight-lane highway between Route 9 in Wellesley and Route 24 in Randolph. The cost? $420 million.

"On a weekday evening or morning, it's pretty much all traffic," said Kendra Snow of Route 128.

"The last two weeks of August is always good," said Steve DiCecco. "Everyone is due for their vacations before school starts. They all pile up at the end."

In the end, even MassDOT Secretary Stephanie Pollack is skeptical.

"There is no silver bullet," she said. "There is no one thing the Commonwealth can do that will make congestion better here."

Governor Baker ruled out the idea of "smart tolling," or charging people more money to travel certain roads during rush hour. He does support the idea of "managed lanes," where the state would build an extra lane along certain highways and drivers can choose to pay more to take that lane and avoid back-ups.

"This managed lane idea, I do believe this, if it can be done, and we need to figure it out, could absolutely affect the quality of people's commutes," said Baker.

MassDOT Secretary Stephanie Pollack says there's not one simple solution, but many smaller changes that need to be made.

"There is no silver bullet. There is no one thing the Commonwealth can do that will make congestion better here," she said.

Last month, Baker proposed an $18 billion transportation bill that will expand the T, add additional bus lanes, and offer projects to reduce traffic.

Baker believes all the ideas in the new report can be implemented over the next three or four years.

To read the full report, click here.