MassDOT released a comprehensive 172-page traffic congestion report last Thursday for the state and the several major arteries, which flow through the Greater-Boston area.
“Massachusetts has reached a tipping point with respect to congestion,” Stephanie Pollack, Transportation Secretary for Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration, of the report entitled Congestion in the Commonwealth: Report to the Governor last Thursday.
“The city of Revere bears the brunt of the North Shore’s traffic flowing into and out of Boston each day – Revere residents did not need a study to tell us that, as we sit in it every day on our way to and from work,” said State Rep. RoseLee Vincent (D-Revere).
While congestion is a major problem within the Route 128/95 loop, the congestion for Revere continues to push along the major arteries of Route 1A (North Shore Road), Route 1, Route 60 on the Malden line and the Revere Beach Parkway.
The section of Route 1A southbound carries traffic from Revere, Saugus, Lynn, Swampscott, Salem, and other North Shore communities to and out of Boston through the Sumner and Callahan tunnels.
The report continues to state that trips between Lynn and Boston along Routes 1A, 60, and 107 are also unreliable heading in both directions. Going inbound in the morning on an average day, the non-rush hour trip will take 30 minutes, but during the peak hour commute could take up to 40 minutes. Drivers headed outbound can expect to experience the same conditions with roughly the same frequency.
Another area of concern is the American Legion Highway (Revere), which carries the Route 60 desig-nation, and connects the Salem Turnpike (Route 107) at Brown Circle to Route 1A, all in Revere. The south¬bound direction is congested for 11 hours per day, from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. The northbound direction is congested for nine hours per day, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
“The DOT Traffic study confirms what we have known all along: traffic in Metropolitan Boston is a regional problem, not a unique Revere problem. Our own analysis of traffic on the eastern side of our city indicates that over 90 percent of rush hour traffic is from outside of our city—it’s motorists just passing through on their way into Boston or to the Airport. And, as the study points out, traffic problems in many parts of the region are far worse than what we in Revere experience. Motorists face literally miles of bumper-to-bumper travel that can take hours. We are fortunate that Revere has the benefit of public transportation and short access to downtown Boston and Logan Airport,” said Mayor Brian Arrigo. “That is the primary reason that we continue to forcefully advocate for the creation of a commuter rail stop at Wonderland, which we hope will move up on the MBTA’s priority list as development occurs at Wonderland, Suffolk Downs, and the Necco site.”
“This was a long-awaited and overdue study,” said State Sen. Joe Boncore, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. “Greater Boston has the worst congestion of any area in the country and it’s only getting worse.”
“With the release of this report, I am hopeful that state leaders will begin to seriously discuss ways to mitigate commuter traffic that floods our roadways,” Vincent said. “I have been a strong proponent of widening Route 1 at the Revere/Saugus bottleneck to allow traffic to flow better from Revere into Saugus and points north. I am proud that Revere’s State Delegation was able to secure funds to begin the first stages of this project in the last Transportation Bond Bill the Legislature enacted. I also support the idea of a Blue Line extension to Lynn and a commuter rail stop at Wonderland to create a link between the commuter rail and the Blue Line. Both of these would strive to deter vehicular traffic on Route 1A from North Shore residents coming to the Wonderland/Revere Beach/Beachmont T-stations every day. In order to have a meaningful impact on lessening traffic in the Commonwealth, and in Revere specifically, we need to properly invest in projects like these.”
According to the report, in the 7 a.m. hour, more roadway segments are highly congested within the problematic I-95/128 belt, including from Route 1A southbound (from Lynn, Swampscott and Marblehead through Revere to the Sumner Tunnel.
From 8 a.m. to 8:59 a.m. Routh 1A South is listed as “congested” and one of the most consistently congested roadways in the Commonwealth.
The Lynn/Boston corridor travel times range from 30 to 40 minutes with congestion impacting jobs and the transit services, the report points out.
During the rush hour between 5 p.m. to 5:59 p.m. Route 107 North (The Marsh Road) is “congested” and Route 1A north is “highly congested”.
Other places where travel time increased by more than 50 percent during the morning peak travel period include many of the most problematic segments in Greater Boston – include American Legion High¬way (Route 60) in Revere.
The congestion not only effects automobile traffic, but bus traffic, too.
According to the study, MBTA Bus Route 441 travels from Marblehead to the Wonderland MBTA station in Revere via Swampscott and Lynn. Since 2012, median travel times on both inbound and outbound trips have remained steady at around 50 minutes. It can take over 70 minutes to get from one end of the route to the other.
The study also looked at why congestion occurs. Recurring congestion is traditionally associated with commuting patterns, but the regular increase of traffic volumes beyond available roadway capacity is the product of several and overlapping forces including population and employment growth, housing and land use development priorities, travel behavior, and elements of the roadway network itself.
“The study also recommends building more affordable housing near transit. People will be able to get out of their cars and jump on the T instead,” Boncore said. “We need to do more in the Commonwealth to get people out of their cars.”
“To the extent that public transportation is a partial solution to roadway traffic, I am also a proponent of the long-discussed Blue Line-Red Line connection between the Bowdoin and Charles/MGH MBTA stops. This will connect large segments of the regional population that will be vital to the success of development on both sides of Boston,” Arrigo said adding, “The development along Revere Beach Boulevard and Ocean Avenue benefit from state programs that emphasize transit-oriented development, in other words, development located near public transit. Revere development actually adds relatively little additional traffic to our roads because of its easy access to public transportation.”
According to the study, congestion itself can change travel behavior, inducing people to change their commute times in order to avoid the worst con-gestion; this is called “peak spreading.”
In a recent poll on transportation issues, 67 percent of all respondents and 72 percent of respondents who work full-time stated that travel delays (on either roadways or on public transit services) have caused them to “leave earlier or later to avoid the busiest times of day.” With respect to full-time workers who exclusively drive, 71 percent of these respondents have adjusted their commuting routines or telecommute.
So why is congestion so bad?
“We need have to have discussions about new revenue for transportation,” Boncore said.
According to the study, congestion is bad because the economy is good. Since 2010, Massachusetts has added 350,000 new residents, nearly 39,000 just from 2017 to 2018. During the same period, employment in Greater Boston (roughly along and within I-95/128) grew by 19 percent, while employment in the rest of the state grew by 12 percent. More people, more households, more workers and more jobs lead to more driving and more congestion.