Mass. Ave. construction hits the business district

With Winter Street in the background at right. J.H. Lynch starts digging in Capitol Square on August 26.

With Winter Street in the background at right, contractor J.H. Lynch digs in at Capitol Square on August 26.

Construction landed across from the Capitol Theater Block last week nearly a month after breaking ground at Wyman Street.

The construction team aims for a small footprint as it works block-by-block on relocating storm drains and other utilities for the project.

So far the impact of road work seems to be manageable—but the worst is yet to come.


Work has generally moved from west to east, skipping some streets and sometimes doubling back. As promised, no more than one block has been in play at one time.

Construction work reached Foster St. on August 8.

Most of the work was concentrated at corners rather than mid block.

During the first week of August, workers made test drills for new masts (poles) for the new traffic signals to be installed later at Linwood, Lake, and Thorndike streets.


A big drill tests the location for a new signal mast in front of Calvary Church at Linwood St. Click any image for a close up.

Survey work continued throughout the month.

Tree work

The business of protecting trees with wooden jackets ended last month. Workers were supposed to begin taking down those few trees tagged for removal in August too.

Maybe that happened someplace. However, there are still plenty of “dead trees walking,” that is, still standing.

New trees are planned in the final landscaping phase in spring of 2016.

Traffic impact

Construction is taking up the parking lane and usually one of two eastbound travel lanes, causing traffic to merge. A police detail is present.

Traffic moves along at Wyman St. on July 29.

The hubbub and distraction introduced some momentary delays, but traffic kept moving without difficulty even during rush hour in every morning that I saw.

No surprise. Multiple traffic studies suggest that a single westbound lane can accommodate peak traffic volumes. (True, it’s summer, but even in winter westbound rush-hour traffic is pretty light in the morning.)

Construction at a cross street sometimes closed that street off entirely.

The real test will come when construction begins on the south (eastbound) side of Mass. Ave. between Bates Road and Lake Street. That is the only stretch of road where traffic counts suggest two lanes are necessary to accommodate peak volumes.


Generally, during the work day construction occupied the entire parking lane of the active block. At the end of each day parking access was usually restored, though sometimes equipment or hardware or materials would continue to take up one or more parking slots overnight.

Adams Box

This impressive apparatus was still living on the street just west of Adams as of Labor Day.

New catch basin at Tufts St. on August 18.

New catch basin at Tufts St. on August 18.

A pile of gravel lingered by Wyman Street for a few weeks. Some hardware has been hanging out west of Adams Street for the whole month.

The big excavator spent some nights and weekends hanging out on street corners, for instance in the extra-wide area at the mouth of Allen Street. Other nights it joined the smaller loader in the Grafton Street staging area.

Despite this appropriation of parking spaces, there was no shortage of places to put your car.

However, the after-hours use of parking spaces only took place in low-parking-demand areas, not in the business district. None of it took space in front of storefronts.

It looked as though there was driveway access throughout, perhaps with some interruptions during the day.


Unprotected storm drain in the midsts of construction at Harlow St. View is SE.

Unprotected storm drain in the midst of construction at Harlow St. View is SE.

The yellow silt sacks that were removed from some of the drains west of Grafton Street lingered for another week but were all collected by mid month.

However, those drains are still naked—not protected by a silt sack—even as construction has caught up to some of them.

The silt sacks are temporary catch basins that prevent construction junk from washing into Spy Pond or the Alewife Brook.

They were removed in a few places after the flash flood that briefly shut down Mass. Ave. on July 28.

The long view

Overall, construction has deviated in small ways from the description the project team set forth at the public meeting on June 16. There are two trucks on site, not one, and they don’t always return to the staging area at Grafton Street when work ends.

But by working block by block and leaving the work area in good shape at the end of the day, the project is living up to its goal of a small construction footprint.

I don’t want to minimize the noise and disruption to abutters, but so far so good.

The next phase, sidewalk work, will bring the dust and heavy equipment closer to abutting homes and businesses.

The real test will come when J.H. Lynch must operate in front of storefronts and on the eastbound side between Bates and Lake during the morning commute.

Those weeks may be good ones to seek another route.

Click here for recent construction news.


1 comment so far

  1. HaldoPeroX on

    seriously this is very disruptive to residents, we are woken before 7 am with the noise and the bulldozer drivers drive in traffic on mass ave CHECKING THIER PHONES!!!

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