Think you can avoid the construction disruption that will soon hit the Massachusetts Turnpike? Well, so does everyone else — and we’re all likely to just move the traffic nightmare from one road to the next.
Transportation officials expect to see more cars spill over to Route 2, Storrow Drive, and Memorial Drive as Interstate 90 is reduced to two lanes of traffic each way through Boston while workers rebuild the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge overhead.
The road closures begin Thursday when the BU Bridge to Cambridge and a long stretch of Commonwealth Avenue west of Kenmore Square are closed off to most passenger and commercial vehicles. The Mass. Pike will be reduced to a maximum of two lanes eastbound and two lanes westbound starting Friday night.
The shutdowns are likely to create a further ripple effect across roads as everyone tries to shift to another route.
“There’s only so many ways to get in and out of Boston from an east-to-west standpoint. You’ve got the river roads, Route 2, and the turnpike,” said Jonathan Gulliver, the state’s acting highway administrator. “That’s what made this project so difficult, is that there are very limited options.”
With so many different commutes affected through at least Aug. 14, here are some options for avoiding a pikeapalooza:
If you take the Mass. Pike
While every roadway may back up, it’s important for many turnpike drivers to find a different route, Gulliver said. If daily Mass. Pike commuters remain on I-90, the state Department of Transportation predicts the morning commute will increase by a whopping 90 minutes.
The commuter rail’s Worcester-Framingham line will continue to operate on weekdays, and Gulliver said people should “seriously consider” that option.
“We expect to have sufficient capacity, but certainly you’ll probably have some extra friends sitting next to you during the trip,” he said.
MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said the commuter rail will add coaches to trains as demand warrants.
If rail is not an option, Gulliver suggested using traffic and mapping apps like Waze to find the best turnpike alternative. No, the other roads won’t be a picnic either, but the apps will at least give you the least bad route.
However, Gulliver warned, that solution isn’t perfect.
“They can tell you what the traffic is now, but if you’re traveling from half an hour away, that’s impossible to predict,” he said. “All you need is a crash or a car fire to throw off the whole thing.”
No matter what, drivers should build plenty of extra time into their commutes, he said. The worst case scenario with leaving early is that you get in early and catch up on e-mail, rather than missing an appointment.
The good news for Mass. Pike commuters? They’ve only got to deal with the lane closures for 10 days, starting Friday night. Up above, Commonwealth Avenue will be shut down for another whole week.
If you take Comm. Ave.
Shuttle service will replace the Green Line between Blandford and Babcock streets starting Wednesday night through Aug. 14. The shuttles, as well as other MBTA buses, will still be allowed to drive on the section of Commonwealth Avenue that isn’t being torn apart this summer.
Or you can just get out and walk. Though pedestrians and cyclists may be stalled for a few minutes at any given time as materials are moved during construction, they’ll still be able to cross from Kenmore to Allston during the work. The regional bike-share network Hubway is positioning extra stations and bikes along Commonwealth Avenue and is also offering special $1 fares while the road is shut down.
If you need to drive in the area, be prepared for a complex set of detours through Allston, the Fenway area, Brookline, and Cambridge that should cause even further traffic on Memorial Drive, Storrow Drive, and Beacon Street.
If you need the BU Bridge
It will also be closed to vehicle traffic during the period, limiting access between that side of Boston and Cambridge.
MBTA buses will still be allowed on the bridge, as will cyclists and pedestrians. Drivers, however, will need to head east to the Massachusetts Avenue bridge or west toward the River Street and Western Avenue bridges.
If you’re coming in on the weekend
The Mass. Pike will narrow even further during the next two weekends. There will be only one lane of eastbound traffic on July 29 and 30, and one lane westbound on Aug. 5 and 6.
And remember that part about taking the commuter rail? Yeah, that’s not looking so good on these weekends, when Worcester-Framingham trains will end their route at the Boston Landing station to accommodate bridge work over the tracks. Those passengers will be offered shuttle service from Boston Landing to the Green Line or to the Yawkey commuter rail station near Fenway Park.
Fenway, by the way, will host home games the next two weekends, and Sox fans will want to give themselves extra travel time before the first pitch due to these disruptions — especially this weekend, with only one inbound lane open on the Pike.
And if you’re going to . . . Albany?
Amtrak’s once-daily service between Boston and Chicago uses those tracks as well, meaning weekend service will be disrupted. Over the next two weekends, Amtrak will shuttle Boston passengers to Albany, where they can catch the train.
If you can’t stand the thought of it all
Maybe you should just get out of here for a little while.
“If you haven’t planned a vacation and you have an opportunity to go on vacation for a week, go to the Cape, go to the Berkshires, it’s a great time of year to go,” Gulliver said.
Adam Vaccaro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.