Tobin Bridge Traffic Plummets, Toll Revenues Down in March

Trips across the Mystic/Tobin Bridge have plummeted over the last month, reducing toll revenues and creating much less congestion over the Bridge that drivers have become used to over the years.

For the most recent data available, which is the week ending April 3, trips in both directions on the Bridge are down 55.4 percent, according to data released from MassDOT on Tuesday. That includes an average weekday decrease of 45,639 trips over the Bridge compared to the same week in 2019.

The number of trips over the Bridge on Monday, April 1, 2019 was 87,299, while on Monday, March 30, 2020, it was 35,509.

For the month, going from March 2 to April 7, use of the Bridge has gone down from about 80,000 trips per day on March 3 to about 22,000 trips per day (both ways) on April 5. There was an uptick in usage between April 5 and April 7, which has been a bit of a pattern emerging for weekend and weekday differences.

That decrease over the Bridge and throughout the highway network all over Greater Boston has led to dramatically cleaner air. NASA has grown very popular online lately in posting its satellite photos of nitrogen and particulate matter releases from previous years compared to the months of March and April this year.

The differences are astounding throughout the northeast and Ohio Valley – where red-colored emissions in previous years have given away to blue colored clear air pockets. This is very noticeable in Boston.

The decreases also lead to major losses in toll revenues too.

However, at the MassDOT Board meeting on Monday, Secretary Stephanie Pollack said despite loss of revenue on the Bridge, tunnels and Mass Pike, they will be able to use reserves to make up the losses.

“Even with the preponderance of lost toll revenue through FY 2020, we are in good shape,” she said. “We even have reserves to cover construction projects…We do have reserves to get through the remainder of Fiscal Year 2020…We are not putting specific restrictions to keep expenses down or putting on things like hiring freezes or anything like that.”

Pollack said toll revenues had been tracking ahead of budget for the first eight months of the fiscal year, which is helpful now. The year-end projection, however, will be substantially impacted by COVID-19 losses. She said they expect toll revenues to be below projections by 8 percent.

MassDOT said it expected to have operating reserves of $625 million available to cover any shortfalls to cover capital projects on July 1, 2020 (the beginning of FY 2021).

Toll revenues pay for improvement and construction projects on things like the MassPike and the Mystic/Tobin Bridge.

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