Potholes plague drivers across the United States creating an uncomfortable and bumpy commute for many. According to a report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group drivers spend an average $335 per year repairing pothole damages to their vehicles totaling $67 billion dollars throughout the nation. The Research Group published its results in Road Work Ahead – Holding Government Accountable for Fixing America’s Crumbling Roads and Bridges. The researchers found Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Montana and Nevada to be the state with best road conditions. The states with the nation’s worst roads were identified as Alaska, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Vermont and California.
Massachusetts will be working to repair roads and bridges as summer and construction season begins. The report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group discovered the average U.S. bridge 43 years old and about 185,000 of them are older than 50 years. Governor Deval Patrick has been pushing the Accelerated Bridge Program, an eight-year $3 billion project to improve bridge conditions across the Bay State. This Project will reduce the number of structurally deficient bridges in the state system and create thousands of construction jobs on bridge projects across the state.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation‘s Highway Division was formed from a merger of the Massachusetts Highway Department and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. After the merge Luisa Paiewonsky has overseen the joined organizations and was previously the highway department commissioner. Eric Moskowitz, a reporter of the Boston Globe, has recently interviewed Paiewonsky bringing Massachusetts drivers a better understanding of just what’s happening with our representatives and roads.
Q. What does your job entail?
A. I am responsible for running the state highway system, and the highway division that has jurisdiction over the state highway system. That includes a little over 10,000 lane miles of roads. We have responsibilities for a little under 5,000 bridges, and we have 3,300 employees working from the Berkshires to Cape Cod and the Islands. We are responsible for everything from interstate highways to a number of biking paths, timber bridges, large roads, small roads, everything in between. And that includes not only building and maintaining them but clearing them of snow, cutting the grass, and preserving the bridges.
Q. How much is spent on construction and how much on maintenance?
A. Last year we spent $771 million on construction and we probably spent another $150 million on maintenance. We would always love to spend more on maintenance, because it’s the most efficient way to use the dollars. It buys more service life out of roads and bridges.
Q. I understand that construction spending has more than doubled in the last few years. What are the reasons?
A. The first is Governor Patrick, as one of his first acts in office, greatly expanded our construction budget on the rationale that we had a large number of backed-up projects, and highway construction creates a lot of jobs. So that was a major infusion of dollars into our core program, the Statewide Road and Bridge Program.
About a year and a half later he signed the Accelerated Bridge Program [after the Minnesota bridge collapse]. That gave us $3 billion over eight years to improve the safety and condition of bridges across the state. And then the following year we got almost $450 million in stimulus funds.
Q. What’s something we learned from another state, and how do we rate nationally?
A. The most important measure is that we have the safest roads in the nation [measuring fatalities per vehicle miles traveled], but we’re not even satisfied with that. We want to reduce fatalities even further. We’re just ending a four-year program to reduce fatalities by 20 percent, and we will hit that target at the end of this year, and then we’re going to set a new goal.
Our interstate highways are in the top 12 nationally for pavement condition. We’d like to improve the condition of our other national highway system roads. I think we’re well known for being a multimodal state DOT in that our highway design guide is one of the best in the nation for welcoming bicyclists and pedestrians.
Many people in the Highway Division can’t take a trip on vacation or for business or any other reason without looking at other states’ roads or bringing back ideas.
I noticed traveling up to Maine that they had street signs on overpasses to help drivers know where they were. So we decided to not only add street names to the overpasses but the towns. And that’s a very small investment that provides a large service to millions of people a day.
The Patrick-Murray Administration has increased the Massachusetts Department of Transportation efforts to strengthen customer service through online RMV services, the Accelerated Bridge Program, and now with spreading a free 511 service. The next generation of 511 traveler information service, as the press release describes it, is at no cost to the Commonwealth. Mass DOT will is partnering with Sendza, a growing Massachusetts communications software company based in Marlborough to make the 511 travelers information service available May of 2010.
This is the first time 511 traveler information will be available statewide as it was previously only available in eastern Massachusetts. The traveler information will give drivers the ability to automatically receive personalized travel information alerts via e0mail, text, or phone. The partnership with Sendza is of no cost to the state creating a one time savings of $4.1 million and a $1.2 million annual savings for MassDOT. The 511 information service currently handles about 500,000 a month. The Sendza-based 511 system is not only capable of this but holds the capacity for significant growth as the system’s availability spreads.
This partnership is a perfect example of our new transportation reform approach, working to deliver better statewide service to travelers at a reduced cost to taxpayers
-Governor Deval Patrick
July 21, 2000 the Federal Communications Commission designated 511 as the single traffic information telephone number for use by states and local jurisdictions. Traveler information systems have helped reduce travel times, decrease fuel consumption, and reduce the number of accidents. Massachusetts implemented 511 on October 15, 2007 providing real time traffic, transit, weather, and construction. The 511 traveler information is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year.
The new Mass511 system will go live in May 2010. For the latest information, check back at www.mass.gov/511 To learn more about Sendza, visit www.Sendza.com.
Early March Governor Deval Patrick visited the Interstate 190 Bridge passing over Route 12 in Worcester emphasizing the quick and early success of the Patrick – Murray Administration’s eight year Accelerated Bridge Program. This program was implemented to reduce the number of structurally deficient bridges in the state while creating construction jobs on the bridge projects. Short of two years the Accelerated Bridge Program has completed 13 bridge projects with 62 additional projects continuing or commencing this next spring and summer.
“Though our administration inherited hundreds of structurally deficient bridges, we have and will continue to make significant investments to repair these bridges through the successful implementation of our Accelerated Bridge Program. By strategically investing in our infrastructure, we will not only improve the safety for our residents, but will also create immediate and needed jobs across the state.”
– Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray
Massachsuetts Department of Transportation has been working with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation to use accelerated state of the art project development and construction techniques. Working together the two departments will complete projects on-time, on-budget and with minimum inconveniences to residents and drivers.
Since the program’s implementation in May of 2008 the number of structurally deficient bridges has decreased more than 9% falling from 543 to 494. An expected minimum of 200 bridge projects will be completed in the eight-year program. Under Patrick’s lead the Massachusetts Department of Transportation has reduced time for construction contract advertisement to construction beginning from 218 days in 2008 to 124 days in 2009. Advanced construction techniques and precast construction have assisted in the faster completion of projects while causing less of a disturbance throughout communities local to construction sites.