Transportation woes: MBTA announcement, legislators weigh in, potholes, and DPW budget

by beth on February 27, 2015

Post image for Transportation woes: MBTA announcement, legislators weigh in, potholes, and DPW budget

Above:  Problems with commuter rail service is just one of the fallouts from this winter’s snow (Image of Southborough station early this month posted to Flickr by Roadgeek Adam)

The onslaught of snow and arctic temperatures has undoubtedly hit public works the hardest this year. But commuters have to be a close second.

I’ve rounded up some news and reports on our transportation woes.

MBTA/Commuter Rail:

For those of you who take the commuter rail (or used to but have given up this month), here are some updates.

Plan to improve operations:

The good news is Commuter Rail operator Keolis has announced that it will get back to full operations under a new plan. The bad news – their commitment date isn’t until March 3oth.

Their goal for today was 78% capacity. You can read more about that in a story by WBUR here. And you can read the company’s latest statement here.

Our legislators weigh in:

Representative Carolyn Dykema released a letter she submitted to the MBTA. In it, she asks the agency to asking them to explain to her constituents top management’s reported double digit pay hikes:

If the public is to make additional, necessary investments in our transit system, it’s crucial they have confidence that decision-makers will allocate scarce resources prudentlly and strategically. (read more)

Senator Jamie Eldridge issued a letter to constituents about the MBTA crisis. In it, he apologizes to commuters and shares his plans for addressing problems:

With the MBTA crisis becoming more severe over the past few weeks, I am continuing to call for increased investment in the MBTA, and our entire transportation system. . .

Going forward, here are a few things that I’m doing (read more)

Reporting potholes:

As I’ve driven around our region, I’ve encountered some pretty nasty potholes this month. So, when I saw this tweet today, I decided to share it with you:

To report a #Pothole on a State roadway: Call 857-DOT-INFO. Online: http://t.co/Bg34B4A5Ik http://t.co/OEDLBLSAgF

— Mass. Transportation (@MassDOT) February 24, 2015

Southborough DPW deficit:

This week, the Board of Selectmen authorized the Department of Public Works to deficit spend up to $160,000 on snow and ice removal. DPW head Karen Galligan explained that overtime was largely responsible for the budget issue. 

Galligan pointed to the timing of snow storms requiring work on several Sundays and a holiday. In addition, three water main breaks in less than 48 hours had the DPW scrambling. She told the board that three of her Water Department crew also operate snow plows. That has contributed to the town’s issues on clearing hydrants.

Town Administrator Mark Purple credited Galligan for managing resources better than many communities. He told selectmen that some surrounding communities have already had to come back to their towns with a second request for deficit spending.

Purple and selectmen thanked Galligan and crew for their hard work. Galligan lauded her crew (who are apparently sick of people telling them they must be happy with the overtime.) She said this month has been difficult for workers with overnight shifts and a lot of time away from their families. She credited cross training for the amount of work her department has been able to tackle.

She also thanked the Fire Department and volunteers for their support. She informed the board that the Fire Deparment even cooked a meal for workers one of the overnights they worked. The department also contributed heaters and lights for the overnight water main repairs. And Fire crews and Teen CERT volunteers helped clear hydrants.

1 Joyce February 27, 2015 at 6:44 PM

I hope the DPW’s deficit spending will include investing in more reliable equipment for clearing sidewalks in Southborough. I see the surrounding communities’ sidewalks cleared but Southborough’s equipment broke down in the first storm.

2 beth February 28, 2015 at 4:06 PM

They have been renting a sidewalk plow for a while now.

3 Al Hamilton March 1, 2015 at 8:23 AM

The deficit spending will be for operations not capital. The DPW is allowed to exceed its budget for snow removal (One of the very few exceptions permitted).

If DPW wants new sidewalk snow removal equip it will be on the capital list that is presented at Town Meeting for approval.

4 I'm just sayin' March 1, 2015 at 9:37 AM

I think the rented sidewalk plow must have broken down, too, because sidewalks have not been cleared EVER on Southville towards Ashland and only once on River Street onto Southville towards Westborough…and that wasn’t done for the entire sidewalk on either street. I know we have had a lot of snow, but sidewalks not being cleared for commuters, creating a very dangerous situation for those walking to the station…and for those commuters lucky enough to have someone who can drive them and drop them off, the traffic situation at the station is dangerous at best. Even if someone decided to spend the astronomical amount of $4.00 per day to park there, there aren’t any spaces left by 7:15am due to all the snow pushed into the peripheral parking spots….and before someone starts yelling that the parking lot is MBTA property and the town is not responsible for clearing it, I know that, it is just added fuel to the fire of the safety of the commuting public in Southborough. Why, oh why, have the sidewalks not been cleared?

As far as our streets go, I understand the need to hire private, pickup truck snowplows for the snow removal (well, not removal exactly!) on the side streets. What I do not understand is why the big rigs don’t come in after the storm and push it back to where it should be. So many of our roads are down to one lane and it is extremely dangerous to drive on them….and now we have another 4-6 inches predicted for tonight. I have seen other towns, and even the state, do this and having spent most of my life in more northern climes until we moved here 24 years ago, I am perplexed at the methodology used in Southborough since John retired. This is the way it should be handled so that you have room for the next storm’s gift of snow.

Thank you to the drivers who know how to handle the snow and their plows . To the others, please learn how to plow effectively…it will help everyone…including you!

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