Traffic patterns likely to remain shifted into winter

Boston Statehouse

BOSTON (SHNS) – Traffic in Massachusetts has been close to pre-pandemic levels for months after dropping sharply early in the crisis, and officials now project that altered travel patterns will remain “in flux” this winter.

The return of congestion has not hit Bay State roadways evenly, with some commutes now slower than they were before the emergency began and others faster, and Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver said Tuesday that the disparities could stick around for several more months.

“It’s a little bit of a balancing act that’s going on right now,” Gulliver told the Department of Transportation’s board. “There is still a settling-in period with the current state of where we are with COVID and hybrid work schedules and the delay many businesses have had with returning fully to work. I think this is still going to be in flux for some time, and we’re probably going to be looking at some time later this winter before this stabilizes.”

For example, according to data Gulliver presented, the morning rush hour drive from the Braintree Split to the Massachusetts Avenue Connector is about three minutes faster today than it was in 2019, but the evening rush hour drive along the same northbound stretch of road is more than four minutes slower. The biggest slowdown is the evening rush hour eastbound drive along the Massachusetts Turnpike from Interstate 95 to Interstate 93, which is now nearly four and a half minutes slower than it was before the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the most substantial drop has taken place on I-95 northbound between the I-93 interchange in Canton and the Turnpike, which is running 40 percent faster — or more than eight minutes in average travel time — now than before COVID-19. Overall, aggregate daily traffic volumes are about 7 percent lower than they were before the pandemic, Gulliver said.

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