General Thoughts/State of Southeast Expressway

mass88

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 10, 2008
Messages
2,049
Reaction score
36
I have a few thoughts and observations about the Southeast Expressway from Braintree to the Zakim Bridge.

First, I don't understand how a major expressway into a major city does not include a breakdown lane?

How often do they pick trash along this stretch? I can't remember the last time I saw trash cleanup. There is a good amount stuck along the sides and it's pretty ugly.

How often do they power wash the tunnels and the cement barriers? They are all dirty and could use a wash.

How come most of the lights along this stretch work? Most don't. It would be nice if this stretch had great lighting and was lit up well at night.

The HOV lane situation needs to be reworked. In addition to the lack of a breakdown lane, the HOV lane is a joke. I think the best situation for this stretch of road would be to have 4 travel lanes in each direction with a full breakdown lane also. Either an elevated HOV lane or widen the stretch to allow for a permanent HOV lane that can work for both directions. Think of the JFK Expressway in Chicago.
 

erikyow

Active Member
Joined
Nov 20, 2009
Messages
244
Reaction score
0
It's funny, I never noticed the lack of breakdown lanes until I was driving it once with some friends from out of town who remarked that there were no breakdown lanes. Ever since then, I've taken note.
 

Charlie_mta

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2006
Messages
1,773
Reaction score
459
The section from Mass Ave to Braintree was originally built as 3 lanes plus a breakdown lane. It was converted to 4 lanes with no breakdown lane. I agree, it should be widened to 4 lanes plus a breakdown lane. The carpool lane could be one of the four lanes, or an additional center "zip" lane.

In Massachusetts you'll never see an elevated center carpool lane. Too many NIMBY's and shortsighted, corrupt politicians.
 

Ron Newman

Senior Member
Joined
May 30, 2006
Messages
8,395
Reaction score
2
Not worth doing if it would require demolishing adjoining houses or businesses.
 

mass88

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 10, 2008
Messages
2,049
Reaction score
36
It's funny, I never noticed the lack of breakdown lanes until I was driving it once with some friends from out of town who remarked that there were no breakdown lanes. Ever since then, I've taken note.
I had a similar thing happen. A friend my Los Angeles asked the same question and then commented, it must make a mess if someone breaks down, you lose a lane. Sure enough it happened the next day when we were driving up to Logan.
 

BostonUrbEx

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 13, 2010
Messages
4,309
Reaction score
89
I think it needs a nice big toll plaza right over the Neponset.
 

Charlie_mta

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2006
Messages
1,773
Reaction score
459
Not worth doing if it would require demolishing adjoining houses or businesses.
In the Savin Hill area, it would require merging the two Red Line branches into one single line (double track). This would also make room for the Old Colony to be converted to double track through this area. The decrease from 5 tracks to 4 would allow enough room for the addition of one breakdown lane on the expressway.

Most of the remainder of the Expressway has room for addition of breakdown lanes on both sides if retaining walls are built, bridges over the Expressway are replaced, and bridges carrying the Expressway over streets widened or replaced. The taking of residences would not be needed, and only some sliver takings of commercial property.

The exception is at Exit 9 in Milton where the service roads parallel both sides of the Expressway. Breakdown lanes would require some residential and commercial takings, probably not politically feasible. To avoid that, a cut and cover tunnel for one direction of the Expressway would be required through that area.
 
Last edited:

datadyne007

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Sep 15, 2010
Messages
8,878
Reaction score
233
IIRC, lighting was cut from the budget to recoup deficits. I believe that's why every other light is on or in some cases every 3 or 4. Most Mass highways aren't lit. It's always funny going from Mass to Rhode Island on 195 when you emerge from the dark woods of MA to the heavenly glow of RI where the lights suddenly begin. RI was also considering cutting the lighting on 195 last I heard, but I don't think it ever happened. They were on when I was driving back on Christmas.

The HOV lane is also unfortunate because it actually ends up being counter-productive as far as the traffic flow goes. The line was so long and backed up for the HOV lane tonight during rush hour that it was quicker to not even use it. It also causes chaos on the opposite side of the road because of course no one lets anyone merge when the lanes cut from 4 to 3. I remember reading somewhere that it costs the State $1m to open and close the HOV lane with the special vehicle each year. The vehicle will soon need very pricey maintenance too.
 

mass88

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 10, 2008
Messages
2,049
Reaction score
36
IIRC, lighting was cut from the budget to recoup deficits. I believe that's why every other light is on or in some cases every 3 or 4. Most Mass highways aren't lit. It's always funny going from Mass to Rhode Island on 195 when you emerge from the dark woods of MA to the heavenly glow of RI where the lights suddenly begin. RI was also considering cutting the lighting on 195 last I heard, but I don't think it ever happened. They were on when I was driving back on Christmas.

The HOV lane is also unfortunate because it actually ends up being counter-productive as far as the traffic flow goes. The line was so long and backed up for the HOV lane tonight during rush hour that it was quicker to not even use it. It also causes chaos on the opposite side of the road because of course no one lets anyone merge when the lanes cut from 4 to 3. I remember reading somewhere that it costs the State $1m to open and close the HOV lane with the special vehicle each year. The vehicle will soon need very pricey maintenance too.
That's good to know. I just assumed the department got lazy and never got around to repairing the lights.

However, the lighting on the Pike is pretty good and there are only a few outages.

In general, street lighting in Boston and the Metro area is lower than in other cities in metro areas.

Northbound on the Expressway at night has terrible traffic. The fact that it goes down to 3 lanes only causes traffic to be bogged down. For a major expressway traveling into a city, they should be wider.
 

datadyne007

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Sep 15, 2010
Messages
8,878
Reaction score
233
I also noticed tonight that it was a TERRIBLE idea to cut the Big Dig tunnel SB down to 3 lanes after the Pike/S Sta double lane right exit (20?) to the open-air highway before 18/Mass Ave.
 

choo

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 2, 2008
Messages
1,276
Reaction score
1
While extra lanes could help, I think this is the perfect place to make the case for upgrades to the T and commuter rail. Add a track, increase frequency. add a high speed toll that has the money directly earmarked for the HOV and T upgrades. no need to subsidize a guy in riding alone in his benz from duxbury to downtown ;).
 

mass88

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 10, 2008
Messages
2,049
Reaction score
36
While extra lanes could help, I think this is the perfect place to make the case for upgrades to the T and commuter rail. Add a track, increase frequency. add a high speed toll that has the money directly earmarked for the HOV and T upgrades. no need to subsidize a guy in riding alone in his benz from duxbury to downtown ;).
I think we'll see high speed tolls in this state when pigs begin taking off from Logan.
 

omaja

Active Member
Joined
Nov 14, 2010
Messages
584
Reaction score
1
Any way you look at it, this stretch of freeway needs help. Even if lane capacity is kept static, some major upgrades are needed to bring the road up to Interstate standards.

The current zipper HOV lane is clearly a failed operation because it doesn't connect to the most congested portions of the expressway: near the Pike and at the Braintree split. In place of that, why not reserve both left lanes for HOV traffic during rush hours and follow the Bay Area's open-HOV model:


That doesn't resolve the issue of shoulders, though. To make the freeway more efficient and safer by adding inner and outer shoulders, the HOV lanes would need to be elevated in certain areas.

Throw in some interchange rationalization (braiding on/off ramps at exit 12, adding auxiliary lanes between exits, etc) and that stretch of road might actually function properly!
 

datadyne007

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Sep 15, 2010
Messages
8,878
Reaction score
233
I don't understand the open-HOV concept. What makes it different from a fifth lane?? How is HOV-only traffic handled and enforced? :-/
 

Lurker

Senior Member
Joined
Jun 13, 2006
Messages
2,362
Reaction score
0
HOV lanes are a waste of time and roadway capacity. The only vehicle specific highway lanes which make sense are truck/bus only lanes forming "virtual" road-trains for safety and aerodynamic purposes.
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
6,833
Reaction score
1,755
They definitely need to fix the lighting. I drove it late Monday night and the Braintree split curves are white-knuckle driving pitch dark in uncongested traffic where everyone's hugging the lanes going 85. Some high-mast fixtures at the interchange would help, and then fix the damn median lights on the rest of it. I can understand why north-of-Boston had shot wiring on its fixtures...those were 40 years old. SE Expressway was rebuilt with new lighting barely 25 years ago; how could that stretch be in worse shape already?

I don't mind that most highways in the state are unlit. Outside of very complex interchanges and a general 1-2 suburb radius of the major cities (Boston, Worcester, Springfield, Lowell, Fall River, etc.) where exit spacing is tightest and the roads are least up-to-spec with modern interstate standards, you actually get better night vision without the lights. Driving Route 24 that same night this week, I noticed those green flaps they have on the center jersey barrier (same as in that San Fran pic a couple posts up) do a great job breaking up the oncoming headlights to keep them from messing up my night vision. The only visibility problems I had was the security lighting spewing sideways from every big-box store next to the road. Otherwise it was excellent visibility, much better than overlit 84/91 in CT which I drove earlier in the weekend. And that's because you aren't in permanent day-vision mode from a glarebomb on a pole every 50 feet for 30 miles at a time. CT is awful for that...crikey, you can see the string of endless orange from I-91 fifteen miles away in Farmington.


The one place they can improve sightlines on 93 is with the signage. All those ancient button-copy signs are so faded they're almost invisible at night. MassHighway's new ultra-reflective signs that they've put up on Route 2 and other secondary expressways glow like daytime under headlights and are razor-sharp from a half-mile away. Every single highway in the state is on a 5-year rolling upgrade to the new signage, but for some reason they're doing all the ones out in the sticks first with the heaviest-use highways like 93 and 128 dead last in the queue. The Expressway's are by far the worst, to the point of being safety-negligent.


No easy solution for the breakdown lanes. There's simply no room, and the highway is expanded to the last available inch on/under bridges and next to the Red Line. Mass Highways have gotten a lot better over the last 15 years at getting up to full interstate standards with real shoulders. There's even a long-term item on the DOT site about adding contiguous breakdown lanes on the Pike inside 128 everywhere they'll fit to fill in the long gaps in Newton where there currently are none, but the Expressway is a road that'll always have to be grandfathered. And I agree that the zipper lane does little good, and compromises the road dimensions further where there'd be fewer delays with more shoulders and turnouts. If it could be fed from Braintree split it would work much better, but the 93/128 side goes through a rock cut that can't be widened and you can't even access it from 3.

The only thing I would do is do the easy visibility upgrades by fixing the lighting and expediting the signage replacement. Cram in as much full shoulder stretches as the road will fit. I think it's more useful to have higher quantity of curb jut-ins like the Pike in Newton than just a couple of those ultra-wide truck turnouts like the Expressway currently has. And do the planned Braintree split upgrades which would back away the Route 37 and Furnace Brook Pkwy. ramps a greater distance from the interchange for less weaving. And do everything possible to divert traffic from even entering it by increasing the multi-modal options...because it's exploding 3 and 128 traffic increases that are killing it more than the Expressway's own flaws. The South Shore has got to get with the sustainability program because it's choking to death on its own auto sprawl.

Other than those largely safety-related small tweaks, the 1980's rebuild pretty much did all that was possible for the road and other ramps. I got nuthin' for ideas without a self-defeating billion dollar solution like stacking the Red Line tracks surface/tunnel on top of each other to get full shoulders and HOV's through Savin Hill, or blasting away tons more rock to radically makeover the Split. Neither with long-lasting effects because of the induced demand they'll create.
 

jass

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 10, 2006
Messages
4,810
Reaction score
270
HOV lanes are a waste of time and roadway capacity. The only vehicle specific highway lanes which make sense are truck/bus only lanes forming "virtual" road-trains for safety and aerodynamic purposes.
Remarkably incorrect.

HOV lanes increase roadway capacity, thats their point.
 

Lurker

Senior Member
Joined
Jun 13, 2006
Messages
2,362
Reaction score
0
I fail to see how HOV lanes increase capacity when they are often mostly empty. I'd prefer a breakdown lane rather than a nearly empty HOV lane.
 

jass

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 10, 2006
Messages
4,810
Reaction score
270
I fail to see how HOV lanes increase capacity when they are often mostly empty. I'd prefer a breakdown lane rather than a nearly empty HOV lane.
Always remember: Its about moving people, not inanimate objects.

Because a traffic lane that is full isnt actually moving that many people. The more cars in a lane, the less people being moved.

Using basic numbers:

Say a lane has a capacity of 1,000 cars an hour for free-flow conditions. Any additional car with slow things down. Any less cars and the speed is the same.

Car pool lane, say it's "empty" with 500 cars an hour (just half the capacity!!). With an average passenger number of 3 per vehicle, 1,500 people are being moved per hour.

Say the regular lane is at max free flow, 1,000 cars an hour carrying 1.2 people (the national average). Thats 1,200 people per hour.

Car pool wins, even when regular lanes are free flowing and car pool lane is well underused.

At max capacity, the car pool lane is carrying 3,000 per hour.



Now say the regular lane is at congestion, with 1,200 cars. Well, speeds fall, so youre not actually carrying an additional 240 people per hour. You might carry slightly more, the same, or slightly less per hour.
 

mass88

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 10, 2008
Messages
2,049
Reaction score
36
This is what the highways in and around Boston should look like at night:




Everything nicely lit up.

I think there is definitely space to add 2 lanes to the SE Expressway from just after the Braintree split until the Mass Pike. The overpasses along this stretch, there aren't many of them, need to be rebuilt for the most part anyways.


In any event, how often is trash picking done? And, do they ever power wash the center barriers? I haven't seen them clean the O'Neil tunnel in a while either.
 

Top