We’ve all been along Route 18 in New Bedford, wondering what all this construction is about.
Sure we can see the work being done, on both sides of the road, but what’s the endgame? One day motorists are driving on a southbound lane pushed to the right, another day that lane is now gone and the traveling lane is to far left. Then we hear the project may be a year ahead of schedule, which is great for anyone suffering through congested single lane of traffic each day, but what does it all mean?
What will it look like and what will it do?
First off, this stretch of road, as of a 2007 traffic study, carries 33,200 through it each day. In 2027, that number is estimated to rise to just about 40,000, a lot of cars for a two-lane road traveling both north and south, a single lane on each side.
The Route 18 project, more than 10 years in the making, isn’t really a project to help motorists out or curb traffic flow to the downtown area. It will help promote commerce in downtown New Bedford by making it much safer for pedestrians to cross JFK Boulevard to get to the state pier, the Fairfield Inn and Suites, or to other spots near the water as well as to what upper downtown has to offer. It will help pedestrians cross safely and to make the downtown area safer.
You’ve seen the pedestrians, those poor souls trying to cross Route 18 to get to the Whaling Museum or the Waterfront Grille, acting like the frog in one of my favorite 80’s video games, Frogger. It’s never a pretty or a safe sight.
Mass DOT’s official report notes the project “facilitates downtown/waterfront pedestrian access through intersection upgrades especially at Union Street and State Pier,” going from just south of Pine Street to just north of Elm Street, including a new Route 6 on-ramp which involves the construction of a new bridge.
While improving safety, MassDOT’s additional plans call for the improvement of the aesthetic quality of the Route 18 roadway through the New Bedford Historic District and the New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park.
Safe, convenient pedestrian access between the historic district and the waterfront area is being improved by providing three access points at Walnut, Union and Elm Streets.
MassDOT reports the Route 18 project is currently just about 30 percent done. The contractor, AA Will Corporation, plans to have the entire $10.53 million dollar project (it bid out 20 percent less than MassDOT expected) wrapped up by April 23, 2014, though officials have conceded the completion date could come earlier. The Route 6 on-ramp was taken down months ago and the foundation for the new Route 6 on-ramp, moved further north to Elm Street, is being worked on. Due to the warmer weather, the contractor has been able to work through the winter, Bernard said.