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MassDOT: Where It’s Been and Where It’s Going

October 20, 2014 05:55 PM

Written by Lisa Weber, OCABR and Arzu Kurkoglu, HNTB

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On September 24, 2014, WTS-Boston September Luncheon attendees heard from Massachusetts DOT (MassDOT) Highway Administrator Frank DePaola, P.E. In his remarks, Administrator DePaola highlighted the progress MassDOT has made since 2009 to develop a unified transportation agency out of previously disparate agencies, but primarily focused on the future directions of the agency.  MassDOT is continuously working to improve its service as an organization by increasing the safety of the transportation network; enhancing employee engagement and development; ensuring fiscal responsibility; and encouraging innovation in project planning, design, and delivery. The underlying objective of these initiatives, Administrator DePaola stressed, is to meet and exceed customer expectations for a multimodal system that will provide safe mobility, economic growth, and an enhanced quality of life for all the citizens of the Commonwealth.


Administrator DePaola commended the leadership of former Secretary of Transportation Jeff Mullen in implementing the law that created MassDOT, and current Secretary Richard Davey in pushing ahead with Governor Patrick’s Way Forward Transportation plan. With the passage of last year’s transportation finance reform act and the transportation bond bill this year, the Legislature has provided the revenue to MassDOT to implement a number of key initiatives such as the GLX (Green Line Extension), South Coast Rail, the implementation of "GO Time" real time traffic information signs, and the successful start of all-electronic tolling with the Tobin Bridge conversion earlier this year.


WTS-Boston members had the opportunity to ask Administrator DePaola questions about the future of MassDOT. One member asked about the role that public-private partnerships (P3) might play in the agency’s future initiatives. Administrator DePaola noted that P3 projects are different from typical public works projects in that the private sector provides funding up-front, but then requires a revenue stream from fees, tolls, etc. to pay off the debt accrued and make a profit. Some states have had success in using P3 projects, and MassDOT is carefully working to develop a strategy to implement these projects in the state. MassDOT is considering two projects as candidates for P3, including the addition of a high occupancy toll lane on Route 3 South of Braintree and a new bridge crossing the Cape Cod Canal.


Another member asked about the future of the Allston Rail/Toll area. Administrator DePaola said MassDOT is working closely with all the stakeholders involved to consider solutions to the traffic challenges in the Innovation District and the restructuring of the Allston Toll Plaza. This will include the reconstruction of both Commonwealth Avenue and Cambridge Street, allowing new development and addressing community concerns. 
The well-attended luncheon was a great event and WTS-Boston thanks Administrator DePaola for taking the time out of his schedule to join its members and provide an update on MassDOT and the future work of the agency.

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