March 27, 2012 | last updated April 19, 2012 2:07 pm

MetroWest Weighs Problem Interchanges

A project team working for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation said this morning that a combination of new off-ramps, ride sharing, public transportation, extra road lanes and other improvements are all options the state could pursue to ease congestion at major highway interchanges in Westborough, Southborough and Hopkinton.

The team, led by Boston-based consultants from AECOM and the Collaborative, projects traffic volume on Interstate 495 to increase by as much as 20 percent over the next 23 years and for the section of that highway south of the Massachusetts Turnpike to reach capacity. Meanwhile, Route 9 could see a 10-percent traffic increase in that span.

The two interchanges, where 495 intersects the turnpike and Route 9, share a slew of commuting problems, from ramp delays to toll plaza weaving to overall congestion. Those conditions have led to a high number of accidents, said Jeff Maxtutis of Aecom.

"We do have capacity and safety issues moving into the future," said Maxtutis, who showed a traffic simulation of 2035 conditions if no changes are made.

Town officials, state representatives and companies such as EMC Corp., E.L. Harvey & Sons, BJ's Wholesale Club and Carruth Capital attended the meeting, which was held at the 495/MetroWest Partnership, located just off the Route 9 interchange being discussed.

Several town officials expressed support for an idea to allow E.L. Harvey's trucks to access the turnpike through an access ramp, which they said would ease congestion at the tolls. The project team said that would require legislation and cooperation of several state agencies.

Marc Verreault, vice president at Westborough-based Carruth, said he feels the turnpike interchange is the most pressing need.

"Are we ever going to be able to do anything with the Pike?" he asked. "It backs up here every night."

William Schwartz, vice president of the collaborative, answered that the footprint of the interchange is located in a swamp, which will complicate matters because of wetlands protection laws.

Innovation To Ease Congestion

Ed Carr, director of the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority, said he'd like to see an "out of the box" solution for the congestion problems in the region.

Carr urged the project team to consider dedicated lanes for passenger buses and freight hauling trucks. He said he visited Ottawa, where such a strategy has worked well.

The project team is scheduled to release a final report in December.


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