As part of a $110 million project to replace the half-century-old concrete surface and steel beams that support Commonwealth Avenue as it passes over the Massachusetts Turnpike, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) will close that section of Comm Ave to all but MBTA buses, pedestrians, bicycles, and emergency vehicles from July 27 through August 14.
The project begins Wednesday, July 26, at 9 p.m., when the MBTA Green Line trolleys stop running between Blandford Street east of the bridge and Babcock Street to its west. On Thursday, July 27, Comm Ave and the BU Bridge will close to private vehicular traffic at 7 p.m., and detours for the MBTA’s CT and number 47 buses will go into effect. Find a day-by-day schedule of the work’s transportation closings and changes here.
The MBTA Green Line B trolleys will be replaced with shuttle buses from Blandford Street to Babcock Street from July 26 through August 14. The buses will not stop at the BU West and BU Central stations in the eastbound direction but will make those stops in the westbound direction.
The project, scheduled for the time of year when vehicular traffic, pedestrians, and cyclists are significantly reduced, is phase one of a two-phase bridge replacement, to be undertaken and completed over the next two summers. This July and August, MassDOT will replace the eastbound lanes, sidewalk, bike lane, and MBTA trolley areas, and during summer 2018 it will replace westbound lanes, sidewalk, and bike lanes. Both phases will close to normal vehicular traffic roadways that intersect with the bridge, including University Road, the BU Bridge, the Carlton Street bridge, and Mountfort Street. Access from and to Storrow Drive at University Road will also be closed.
Pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists will use detours that will be clearly marked by MassDOT. Cyclists and pedestrians will be able to cross the bridge through designated areas monitored by police details. Special routes will be available for BU employees and residents whose offices and neighborhoods are along or abut Comm Ave. All detours will be directed by police details.
“To the degree that people can take vacation time or work from home, we would encourage that during the construction, commensurate with smooth University operations,” says Diane Tucker, BU chief human resources officer.
The commonwealth will use Accelerated Bridge Construction, which employs innovative planning, design, materials, and construction techniques to expedite the work during the two intensive summer phases; under conventional construction methods, according to MassDOT, it would take four to five years to replace the bridge. Find a video simulation of the project here.
The project is part of a BU-MassDOT public-private partnership that began in 2003 with improvements to Kenmore Square, continued with streetscape upgrades to Comm Ave from Deerfield Street to University Road in 2008 and the BU Bridge in 2012, and will encompass more Comm Ave work from Amory Street to Alcorn Street, scheduled for completion in 2019. Among the improvements are new sidewalks and aesthetic improvements, better handicapped accessibility, new traffic signaling for cyclists and vehicles, and a new and dedicated bike track on both the eastbound and westbound lanes of Comm Ave that will protect cyclists from traffic and parked cars.
Jake Sullivan, BU assistant vice president for government and community affairs, says the project is the product of years of extensive planning and coordination between the commonwealth, the city of Boston, and Boston University. Sullivan says BU has been working diligently with MassDOT to ensure that the University can continue essential services and operations throughout the construction phase. “Like any transportation infrastructure project, there will be inconvenience,” he says. “The University will work to minimize the impact as much as possible for our students, faculty, and staff.”
Michael Donovan, BU vice president for real estate and facility services, says MassDOT’s improvements should make the Comm Ave bridge and connections to adjoining roadways at the BU Bridge, the Carlton Street bridge, Mountfort Street, and University Road safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists.
“As we get closer to the start date for this major state construction project, I would urge the BU community to have the MassDOT and BU project websites handy for updates as may be issued by the Commonwealth,” Donovan says. “This project is in a highly dense, urban, well-traveled nexus of regional importance, serving not just the University, but adjacent Cambridge and Brookline. We will continue to work closely with MassDOT to ensure continuity of operations and essential services for the University during the brief construction period.”
The closures below will be in effect during the construction on the eastbound lane starting on July 26:
*Comm Ave will be closed in both directions for non-BU affiliates and nonresidents from St. Paul Street to St. Mary Street. Traffic will detour as indicated on the MassDOT and University’s website for the project.
Comm Ave area residents and BU faculty, staff, and students will be able to drive the avenue up to St. Mary Street east of the bridge and to St. Paul Street to the west. They must then detour to reach their destination.
During construction, the bridge’s westbound lane will remain open to essential vehicles headed in both directions. Essential vehicles include MBTA buses that will shuttle T passengers from Blandford Street to Babcock Street because of the T’s Green Line temporary service stoppage, police, fire, and emergency responder vehicles as well as BU essential services vehicles from Auxiliary Services, the BU Police Department, Environmental Health and Safety, Facilities Management & Planning, Information Services & Technology, and the BU Shuttle (the BUS). Delivery trucks and taxis taking research and health care materials to BU offices also will be permitted over the bridge.
*The BU Bridge, University Road, and the Carlton Street bridge will be closed to all but bus, pedestrian, and bicycle traffic. Access from and to Storrow Drive at University Road will be closed.
*The MBTA’s Green Line B Trolley on Comm Ave will not run beyond the Blandford Street stop to the east of the bridge, or beyond the Babcock Street stop to the west. MBTA shuttle buses will ferry commuters between Kenmore Square and Packard’s Corner.
*Interstate 90/Massachusetts Turnpike will be reduced to one or two lanes in both directions for the construction, while cranes work on the bridge above, from July 28 to August 7. State officials warn turnpike drivers to expect delays during peak driving hours.
*The MBTA’s commuter rail and Amtrak, running under the bridge, will shut down during the weekends of July 29 and August 5.
Parking Permit Holders: The College of Fine Arts (Lot E), Upper Bridge (Lot H), and Lower Bridge (Lot G) will be closed during construction. Those who typically park at the Bridge Lots are encouraged to use the Warren Towers garage during this period. Those who typically park at the College of Fine Arts are encouraged to use the Agganis Arena garage during this period. BU parking permit holders will be able to access the open lots at 766 and 750 Commonwealth Avenue by traveling westbound on Commonwealth Avenue. At that point, signage will be available to direct parkers to the entrance of the 766 and 750 Commonwealth Avenue lots. Permit holders will not have access to University Road.
Getting to Campus: From the east: A. Take the Kenmore Square exit off of Storrow Drive westbound and continue on Beacon Street to Commonwealth Avenue until St. Mary’s Street. B. From the Back Bay, take Beacon Street into Kenmore Square and continue on Commonwealth Avenue until St. Mary’s Street.
From the west: A. Take the Massachusetts Turnpike to exit 18 (Brighton-Cambridge) to Storrow Drive east. Take the Kenmore Square exit and continue up Beacon Street to Commonwealth Avenue until St. Mary’s Street. B. Take Route 9 eastbound to Brookline Avenue to Kenmore Square and continue up Commonwealth Avenue until St. Mary’s Street. C. From Packard’s Corner take Commonwealth Avenue eastbound up to St. Paul Street.
From the north/Cambridge: A. Take the Cambridge Street Bridge to Storrow Drive eastbound and exit at Kenmore Square. Continue up Beacon Street to Commonwealth Avenue until St. Mary’s Street. B. Take the Cambridge Street Bridge to Brighton Avenue and continue through Packard’s Corner to Commonwealth Avenue eastbound until St. Paul Street. C. Take the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge and continue up Beacon Street to Commonwealth Avenue until St. Mary’s Street.