Representatives from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) held a public information meeting in Hopkinton Oct. 9 to share details of the potential solutions proposed for the I-495/I-90 interchange.
According to the agenda handout, the interchange serves as a major crossroads for commuter traffic and is used by nearly half of freight trucking entering eastern Massachusetts. It is also a high crash location with 460 crashes between 2011 and 2015.
The meeting was the second public information meeting held in Hopkinton. The first, held about one year ago, was focused on gathering input. On Oct. 9, the goal was to update the public on the project status, share the results of data collected, and to obtain input on four potential interchange improvement alternatives, all designed to reduce crashes, congestion, queuing and travel time.
All four alternatives presented were evaluated against the project’s purpose – to improve safety and operational efficiency. While one has already been eliminated due to its inability to improve safety, the department does not have a preferred alternative at this time.
Environmental considerations, construction challenges, economic impacts, and cost are also being considered.
“We want to hear from you,” said Ryan McNeill, MassDOT project manager.
Comments from those present, who were mostly direct abutters or from the surrounding neighborhoods, included questions about pollution and noise levels. When asked if a noise barrier was being considered, McNeill said, “We’re happy to build a noise barrier, but we’re at a conceptual level.”
Common changes in all alternatives include the elimination of weaving and the elimination of loop ramps. The Fruit Street Bridge over I-495 will be rebuilt.
Estimated costs for the three remaining alternatives range from $296 million to $413 million, and, while all options operate better, the highest cost is not necessarily the most effective solution.
Next steps for the project include further refining the alternatives, with the preferred alternative selection targeted for fall 2018. From there the project must go through the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) process which will require a public hearing in 2019. Progress toward a 25-percent design plan includes a public hearing in 2020. The project is expected to take four years to build, from 2022 to 2026.
“We will continue to have these public and stakeholder meetings,” said McNeill.
The Oct. 9 presentation can also be viewed on the HCAM-TV YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/bwOlIgRIxgY.