Construction Causing Headaches For Chelsea Bus Riders

Frustrated Chelsea commuters on Monday brought their concerns before state transportation officials, asking for relief on a bus route they said was plagued by delays and congestion.

Members of the MBTA's Fiscal and Management Control Board, in turn, floated the idea of creating a task force to explore transportation needs in the city.

"Why are we paying the exact same fares for the worst service in the entire state, I ask you," said Roseann Bongiovanni, a former Chelsea City Council president who now heads the community organization GreenRoots.

Bongiovanni was one of several community members who addressed either the control board or the Massachusetts Department of Transportation board in their back-to-back meetings Monday about the 111 bus and other transit issues in Chelsea.

The 111 bus has the MBTA's third-highest ridership, serving 11,800 passengers per weekday, MBTA deputy general manager Jeff Gonneville said. It runs between Revere and Boston's Haymarket station, passing through Chelsea and crossing the Tobin Bridge over the Mystic River along the way.

A planned two-month closure of the off-ramp from the Tobin Bridge to Chelsea's Beacon Street for repair work began on Aug. 27, pushing the 111 onto a detour route. The shift creates a dynamic of "bus-stop roulette," with passengers and in some cases drivers unsure where the proper stop is, Paula Garrity told the Control Board.

"Chelsea depends on the 111," Garrity said.

Gonneville highlighted recent investments the agency has made in the Chelsea area, including a $74 million expansion of the T's Silver Line buses to Chelsea. The first $56 million phase is now complete, and a second $18 million phase that includes relocating the Chelsea commuter rail station is underway, he said.

The T has also added five new operators to the 111 route, Gonneville said.

With the Tobin Bridge construction ongoing and future projects — replacement of the North Washington Street Bridge in Charlestown and work on the Chelsea viaduct — also expected to affect the 111, Gonneville said teams are working with MassDOT to evaluate impacts and come up transportation alternatives for riders.

He said up to 2,000 riders are projected to transfer from the 111 to the Chelsea-serving Silver Line Three route, and some riders can also switch to the commuter rail, as about 40 percent of 111 trips start within a quarter mile of Chelsea station and Boston's North Station.

Control board member Brian Lang said the matter was a "complex situation" involving multiple agencies, including the T, MassDOT, local governments and the Coast Guard, which is in charge of drawbridges. He suggested putting together a task force, with the MBTA taking a leadership role to find solutions.

Board Chairman Joseph Aiello called the idea a "great suggestion" and said he would ask MBTA general manager Luis Ramirez to look into it.


More from WBUR

Listen Live