HOV lane returning, bus lane pilot launching north of Boston

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BOSTON (SHNS) – A new pilot program will reshape vehicle travel on the Tobin Bridge starting next month, while a vehicle lane on Interstate 93 near the bridge is now back to only accepting cars with multiple passengers.

The MBTA and Department of Transportation will launch a bus lane pilot on the Tobin Bridge’s southbound side on Dec. 14, dedicating a full lane for the Route 111 bus that connects Chelsea and other north-of-Boston communities to the capital city.

Unlike other T bus and train routes, ridership on the 111 has remained relatively high during the COVID-19 era, dropping to only about 63 percent of pre-pandemic levels. Poftak said a bus-only lane would speed up trip times for riders. “It’s an exciting first step,” Poftak said. “This board for several years has been looking for ways to provide better service to our customers in Chelsea, and particularly on the 111, and we’re hopeful this is one piece of the puzzle.”

MassDOT officials also reversed a 2019 decision to convert an HOV lane on I-93 southbound to an all-traffic lane. Effective Monday, the lane is not open to single-occupancy vehicles.

Transportation and environmental activists celebrated the change, noting the October 2019 conversion prompted the Conservation Law Foundation to allege that MassDOT violated state law.

Staci Rubin, a senior attorney with CLF, tweeted that reinstating the HOV restrictions will “improve air quality and reduce noise pollution in Somerville.”

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