MassDOT considering tolls in Boston region

November 25, 2020

Tyson Fisher

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As congestion in Massachusetts continues to be an issue, the state Department of Transportation is considering tolls on 10 corridors.

On Monday, Nov. 23, MassDOT updated its Traffic and Congestion Initiatives report during a board meeting. One option to curb congestion is to implement managed lanes – i.e., tolls.

In a preliminary screening study, MassDOT identified 10 candidates for potentials tolls:

  • Interstate 90.
  • Interstate 93.
  • Interstate 95.
  • Interstate 95/state Route 128.
  • Interstate 495.
  • U.S. 1.
  • U.S. 3.
  • State Route 2.
  • State Route 3.
  • State Route 24.

Of those highways, Interstate 93 was rated to be the most sustainable for tolling. I-90, I-95/SR 128 and U.S. 3 all ranked considerably high as well. However, I-495 has a significantly low rank when determining tolling sustainability.

MassDOT toll options
Source: Massachusetts Department of Transportation

Toll consideration is limited to an area in the Boston region of the state.

The recent MassDOT board meeting only presents tolls as a possible option, with no concrete plans to adopt tolls.

On the other hand, a bus-on-shoulder system is another option MassDOT will consider. In that scenario, buses can use the shoulder of a highway in certain conditions. The Federal Highway Administrations has approved a two-year pilot program for MassDOT to explore that option.

From here, MassDOT will conduct a variety of studies to determine feasibility and equity of certain toll options. Different tolls can be installed, included converting high-occupancy lanes to high-occupancy toll lanes, converting general-purpose lanes to toll lanes, and constructing new, additional toll lanes.

MassDOT’s recent report is an update to a report from August 2019. One key difference is the pandemic that has taken place since then. Travel and congestion decreased significantly as a result, potentially affecting congestion mitigation plans that were relevant in the fall of 2019.

According to the most recent report, traffic has increased since April, when impacts to traffic from the pandemic peaked. However, those increases began to level off in August. During the week of Oct. 12-18, statewide daily traffic volumes were 9% to 21% lower than the corresponding 2019 traffic volumes. Although, MassDOT concedes that traffic congestion may remain lower or may vary on some corridors. In a best case scenario estimated by MassDOT, vehicle miles traveled during morning rush hours may not return to pre-pandemic levels until the second half of 2023. LL

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Tyson Fisher

Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.