A new study recommends two methods to reduce traffic at the famed trouble-spot Newton Corner, but at least one of them may not be popular with commuters.
The second phase of a recent study by the Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization, which analyzed long-term solutions to reducing traffic in an area that sees more than 100,000 cars a day, recommends either adding an offramp from the Massachusetts Turnpike to North Beacon Street in Brighton or installing a 50-cent toll at the onramps at exits 16 and 17 in Newton.
The Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization covers more than 100 cities and towns and is one of more than a dozen regional groups in Massachusetts established to maintain transportation plans funded by the federal government.
Officials from the organization will present its recommendations to the Board of Aldermen's public safety and transportation committee Wednesday. The committee meeeting begins at 7:45 p.m. in City Hall room 202.
Newton Corner has been targeted by police as a trouble spot and frequently raises the ire of local residents. Nearly 100,000 vehicles are shoved through Newton Corner each day, two-thirds entering from the seven local streets that feed into the loop, and the other third entering from two Mass. Pike offramps.
On some days, the problems at Newton Corner can have a ripple effect that stretches as far as Framingham. Cars exit the Mass. Pike to get to Allston, Brighton, Brookline, Cambridge, Newton and Watertown. It's particularly popular with commuters who want to avoid the toll at Allston/Brighton, the next exit.
Yet for years it was below the radar of state transportation officials, in part because the city owns the roads that parallel the Mass. Pike and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority owns the bridges.
In 2005, the planning organization approved a $95,000 grant to study the area. The first phase of the study, completed in 2006, identified short-term safety and operational strategies such as repainting the roadway and more signage, said David Koses, Newton's transportation planning coordinator.
Koses and several representatives from groups such as the Board of Aldermen, Newton's public works staff, Watertown's planning director, Mass. Pike, and the Boston Transportation Authority served on a study committee, which presented 10 possible concepts for the study. They narrowed it down to four alternatives, and the Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization created computerized models to study the effects of each one.
Along with the 50-cent tolls at exits 16 and 17 or adding a new offramp at North Beacon Street, the planning organization studied adding a westbound onramp and eastbound offramp at exit 16 and adding traffic signals for the approaches to the East Side Bridge.
The ramps at exit 16 would reduce congestion at Newton Corner, the study says, but could increase traffic around Route 16 in West Newton. The East Side Bridge alternative would reduce weaving and merging there, but would cause delays on Centre Street.