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Study suggests toll booth or new ramp at Newton Corner

Posted by Leslie Anderson  January 6, 2009 03:34 PM

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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.

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12 comments so far...
  1. They needed 100k study to tell them this? How would tolls help? If you can fit a toll booth, you can widen the road enough to fix it. It's still higher tolls to get to the next exit! I drove this intersection multiple times a day for 8 years. All they really need is to raise the pedestrian crosswalks to a bridge. Right now some old lady needs to walk to the Sheraton, she hits the crosswalk button located at the top of the Mass Pike ramps, and essentially stops the Pike. Insane. All these people flood out of the hotel on foot, and cause a traffic jam...other than that, the thing is just a giant rotary. Oh, and lengthen the green on the first light on Centre St. That's the other spot that creates backup that stops the highway! Oh, and no charge for this study, I've sat in hours of traffic thinking about it!

    Posted by Sittingon90E January 6, 09 04:59 PM
  1. Yeah, that will be a brilliant idea - put a toll in there, that will really free up the congestion! People who get off/on at this exit LIVE in that vicinity so it is not a question of deterring people from using that exit (we have to use it anyways!), it is about making it easier and or going with the secondary option of adding an additional exit in between. Seriously, who ARE these people that come up with these stupid ideas??? Still blows my mind that the answers somehow always lie in charging peopel more for thinsg instead of actually proactively fixing them lol...

    Posted by Lynn from Watertown January 6, 09 05:32 PM
  1. I agree with the previous comment about the crosswalk. An elevated crosswalk will greatly reduce traffic when a pedestrian needs to cross the street. However, that is only a small part of the traffic problem, as pedestrian crossings are relatively infrequent.

    I wonder where they would find space to fit toll booths at exit 17? Also, wouldn't tolls at exit 17 result in reduced traffic at Newton Corner, but more traffic jams on the Pike waiting to pay the toll?

    Posted by Bootleg January 6, 09 06:14 PM
  1. This is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. Who thinks that adding toll booths help with traffic congestion? Are they serious! I also agree with an elevated crosswalk near the hotel.

    Posted by Nadine January 7, 09 02:38 PM
  1. A toll booth, what kind of losers working at Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization. I am sure all the MIT graduates must have left Boston.

    Posted by David January 7, 09 03:05 PM
  1. I commute from Back Bay to Newton Centre to work... The easier route is the Mass Pike to Newton Corner..I am already hit with a toll in Allston...why hit me with another toll in Newton Corner. Tolls are never an answer. Newton benefits has I do most of my shopping in Newton.

    Posted by George January 7, 09 03:09 PM
  1. I think a toll is a horrible idea. It won't move cars through there any faster, it will just tie them up at a different point (the toll) and back traffic way up the pike. I like the idea of pedestrian bridges. Even if pedestrian crossings aren' t that frequent (though I believe they are), the brief stoppages the cause can snowball into a major traffic jam. Elevated pedestrian bridges like those spanning Storrow Drive make good sense.

    Posted by Greg January 7, 09 03:18 PM
  1. I have a hard time believing that adding a toll will help alleviate congestion,since from what I can see tolls slow down traffic. Look at the Weston and Allston backups. They seriously want us to go through a toll at Westion, another less than a mile later at W Newton, and then a mile later at Newton Corner? As an area commuter I find it suspect that toll increases/additions seem to be offered up as the solution to all of our ills?

    Posted by WNewton commuter January 7, 09 03:58 PM
  1. People take that exit because they try to avoid toll. If they put a toll there, they will use route 16 or washington st instead. how is putting toll there going to help the situation? That's how our toll/tax $ being wasted to do stupid study like that.

    Posted by ray January 7, 09 05:15 PM
  1. Just another way for the Pols to steal more money from the taxpayers. You would think they could come up with a more creative way to rob us.

    Posted by Steve Leeman January 8, 09 02:43 AM
  1. Great, more tolls... Please do not put tolls at that exit.

    Posted by Brighton_Corgi January 8, 09 09:26 AM
  1. How about adding a toll on 93? Aren't the commuters who use the Mass pike sick of toll hikes while all the commuters from the south shore have a toll free ride? Just add more ramps off the pike and traffic will be lighter. Everyone laughs at NJ's system but an exit every mile keeps traffic moving. They also have more fast lane tolls.

    Posted by JR January 8, 09 09:38 AM