The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), the MBTA, and the City of Everett announced last week the groundbreaking for a series of bus lanes on Sweetser Circle, Main Street, and Broadway.
These bus lanes are a major component of the Rapid Response Bus Lane Program, a transformative MBTA-municipal collaboration to improve service reliability in order to better social distancing measures for MBTA riders and operators on the system’s busiest routes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The bus lanes will go into effect upon completion, which is expected in mid-October 2020.
“Improving transit reliability and supporting the commuting needs of essential workers is a key component of Governor Baker’s Reopening Massachusetts plan,” said Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack. “Implementing these changes to Sweetser Circle demonstrates MassDOT’s commitment to an equitable recovery from COVID-19 in addition to creating safer and more reliable bus facilities.”
Said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak, “In the last few months, as riders have returned to MBTA services, it was clear that routes like the 104, 109, and 110 faced challenges around crowding that were greater than most other routes. We launched our Rapid Response Bus Lane Program with our state and local partners to take these challenges head on, and ensure that we were doing everything we could to immediately improve service reliability and minimize the chances of overcrowding. Giving buses their own lane is the best way to do that, and we could not have accomplished this without the support of our close partners at MassDOT and the City of Everett.”
Mayor Carlo DeMaria said he believes the new bus lanes will relieve some of the bottlenecks around Sweetser Circle and maybe get more commuters on public transit.
“Sweetser Circle is a major bottleneck for the City of Everett, and this project aims to make it into a gateway for thousands of residents who rely on MBTA services to get to work, school, and services,” said DeMaria. “These transit facilities will make our city more resilient in response to the COVID-19 pandemic while also strengthening our workforce and our regional economy at a critical time.”
Project components include:
-A first-of-its kind all-day bus lane along the outside lane of Sweetser Circle;
-An outbound evening rush hour bus lane on Main Street from Sweetser Circle to Tileston Street effective from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays; and,
-An outbound evening rush hour bus lane on Broadway from Sweetser Circle to Chelsea Street effective from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays.
The outbound evening rush hour bus lane on Broadway from Sweetser Circle to Chelsea Street corresponds with an inbound lane that was first implemented by the City of Everett in 2016, creating a connected network of bus priority facilities traveling from major up-route corridors and then into and through Sweetser Circle.
As is the case with other bus lanes throughout the region, areas with wide skips in red paint and directional turn arrows are shared space for turning general purpose traffic and bus lanes. Areas with narrower skips in red paint without directional turn arrows are meant to be kept clear for passing buses. This new type of treatment is also used at the exit from Sweetser Circle to lower Broadway, where buses are often delayed entering the circle by traffic queues from the exit. Buses in the bus lane will yield to exiting traffic from Sweetser Circle where buses need to cross the general traffic lane to continue around.
The MBTA’s Rapid Response Bus Lane Program is based on close partnerships with state and municipal roadway owners, and other projects that are slated for completion this fall include portions of Broadway in Chelsea, Broadway in Revere, North Washington Street in Boston, and Washington Street in Somerville. Design for the projects is supported by the MBTA’s on-call design contracts with implementation predominantly funded by the MBTA and assistance from each municipality.
The total project cost for the Sweetser Circle project is expected to be about $270,000 with construction costs funded by the MBTA. The City of Everett funded project design and is managing construction of the project. The project is expected to be completed by mid-October 2020.
The MBTA Transit Priority Group was created in 2019 with support from the Barr Foundation to further bus priority projects around the region. Since its creation last year, the group has partnered with municipalities to implement nearly four miles of dedicated bus lanes alongside transit signal priority and other speed and reliability improvements.