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Comm. Ave. Bridge Project Begins This Week08:21
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This week, a construction project that's going to create a traffic nightmare for tens of thousands of people in Greater Boston begins: the Commonwealth Avenue bridge project.

Secretary Pollack gives us a rundown of what to expect, detours and closures, and how long the nightmare lasts. (Get all the details here.)

Guest

Stephanie Pollack, Massachusetts transportation secretary. She tweets @steph_pollack.

Interview Highlights

On how bad it's going to be

"I think it's going to be pretty hellish for commuters if they don't avoid the area. It's one of the most complicated intersections of different kinds of transportation infrastructure anywhere in the Commonwealth ..."

On when things close

"Things actually start to close tomorrow [Thursday] at 9:00 p.m., when we are going to start busing the B branch of the Green Line on Commonwealth Avenue, in order to begin to take down the catenary wires and pull up the rails, all of which will be replaced ...

Thursday night, we close the BU bridge to everything except people walking, biking, and emergency vehicles and buses.

Also Thursday night, we close Commonwealth Avenue itself on the eastbound side. So folks coming east on Commonwealth Avenue or coming in towards Boston are going to be diverted off the street at Packards Corner and they're not going to be able to get back on Commonwealth Avenue until Kenmore Square."

On changes to the commuter rail and Amtrak

"The commuter rail we will run during the week. We actually encourage folks who might normally drive on the Mass Pike to consider trying the Worcester/Framingham line on the commuter rail. You don't have to have a pass — might not be a bad idea to download some schedules and a free app that allows you to pay.

But the commuter rail and Amtrak only close on weekends. They're there during the week for the people who might want to avoid the Mass Pike, which will be reduced to two lanes and eventually the whole Mass Pike in both directions is going to have to fit into three lanes on one side of the highway."

On changes for pedestrians and cyclists

"We want people to walk and bike and so we will actually build a separate bike lane for folks on the westbound side of Commonwealth Avenue. And the sidewalks will be open so people will be able to walk and bike along Commonwealth Avenue and over the BU bridge."

On how long the construction will last

"The schedule is to have everything 100 percent done and back open for the morning rush hour on Monday August 14th."

On how they'll get the project done in three weeks

"One of the things that we, and a lot of other states have learned a lot about, is what's called accelerated bridge replacements. So the idea is that you literally, basically build the bridge and then just move it into place.

So if folks happen to pass the old Beacon Park Yards rail yard on the Mass Pike and were to glance over, right now you would actually see essentially the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge sitting there, in the form of a couple hundred pre-cast pieces of concrete and 40-plus steel girders. And it's literally been sort of put together over there ... And what's going to happen is one piece at a time, we'll tear down the bridge and then they'll put it all back together.

There'll be up to 200 people at a time working on the project 24/7 during this period."

On the total estimated cost

"It's about an $80 million project, which ironically, in the scheme of transportation and especially in sort of Big Dig terms, is not a lot of dollars."

On her advice for regular commuters

"It pretty much comes down to three things. Number one is, stay away. If you don't need to be in that part of town, don't.

Number two is, if you do have to be there, plan ahead. Figure out, are you going to take the bus, shuttle, are you going to walk? What are you going to do when they take you off Comm Ave.?

And then number three is, just leave plenty of time. Because it's going to take longer if you choose to drive ... or if you're on the green line."

This segment aired on July 25, 2017.

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