Curious About Rt. 128 Expansion Project

By David Wade, WBZ-TV

WELLESLEY (CBS) — If it seems like a certain highway project has been going on for years, well that’s because it has.

Martin from Needham Declared his Curiosity by asking: “Why is the Rt. 128 lane expansion taking so long?”

We went to the state’s Transportation Department for an answer.

It’s a major league project. Nearly 14 miles of widening, repairing and rehabbing on 128 from Wellesley, to Rt. 93 in Randolph. Price tag $354 million.

“It seems like it’s been going on for years!” says one commuter.

Eight years to be exact. The construction began in 2003. As for the completion date?

“It’s projected to finish sometime in late 2015 or early 2016,” says Acting Highway Administrator Frank DePaola from the Dept. of Transportation.

So at best, that’s four more years of work for a grand total of 12 years of construction.

“I’ve got more broken windshields on 128, rocks kicking up and dinging the window, than I care to count,” another driver told us.

WBZ-TV’s David Wade reports.

The goal of the project is to make that stretch of highway into four lanes which will increase travel capacity by as much as 25 percent. It will also get rid of the dicey proposition of driving in the breakdown lanes during rush hour.

But this one project actually has six parts. Only two of them are done, and a third is almost done. The last one hasn’t started yet.

“The project took a long time because we phased it over several years,” says DePaola. That’s because they had to repair and widen a series of bridges before working on the rest of the highway.

Bridges are often complicated jobs. There also wasn’t enough money to work on the whole thing at once, and they can’t shut down a major highway. But couldn’t they add workers and get the thing done?

“In order to put more people on the job it means we have to occupy more area, which means increasing the impact on the traffic,” explains DePaola.

But it’s not like they’re on time. Some of the phases were finished two years late and several million dollars over budget. However the DOT says, for the most part, those kinds of overruns are to be expected on a complex job.

The good news is that next year, the fourth lane opens in a number of areas so drivers will finally enjoy some of the benefits of the project. The multi-million dollar cost of this project is being paid for with state and federal dollars.

More from David Wade
  • gs

    But this one project actually has six parts. Only two of them are done, and a third is almost done. The last one hasn’t started yet.

    I’m not a math major but Isn’t that five?

    • roadbowler

      nope, you are not a math major…that’s actually 4

      • meerk


  • Jeff Kingston

    Very typical of any building project in Massachusetts. Takes three times as long as it should, cost 10 times what it should, and in the end it is third rate quality that will require immediate and constant maintenance to remain useable.
    The State of Massachusetts should be investigated for blatant stupidity.

  • eddwal50

    well what do you expert from the experts at mass highway they need calculators to add 1 plus 1 as to adding more workers yes they could have add more workers since workers park off site they also could have put 2 shifts on there is no reason the widing of 128 should take so long

  • MassWaste

    Maybe we should hire Chinese workers. they can frame up a nine story building in 2 weeks. How much do you want to bet that their will be cost overruns just like the big dig by 2015,2016. Its the unions scamming the tax payer again.

  • Mass FedUp

    That exactly it, Unions,, as one reader said, 10 times as much, 5 timas as long and as for quality, just look at the big dig.

  • response

    “Some of the phases were finished two years late and several million dollars over budget. However the DOT says, for the most part, those kinds of overruns are to be expected on a complex job”

    To be expected? I’m expecting them to come in on time and on budget. That’s what these people get paid to do. If this was done in the private sector, someone head’s would role and there would be lawsuits. This is what’s wrong with the MA transportation systems.
    Remember, this is just one major project the state has going on. The 495 project will take just as long and will that run millions overbudget as well?

    • Crock

      So true. What good is a budget if you never come at or under it? I can see the budget meetings that take place in the state. People having to control themselves from bursting out in laughter when they present the budget proposal. This is expected? Some of these guys and gals would not last a second in the private sector. I’m in sales and if I blow my budget or dont hit my number i am gone. I wonder if good ole Frank DePaolo at the DOT was paid for performance or meeting budgets and deadlines on time if things would be different. Or what if he was given an additional bonus for finishing a job ahead of time and under budget. In think things would be different.

  • emom

    THese kind of overruns are to be expected, really… I dont understand this, why should it take 3 times longer to do a project. Its insane, since we have no control over the budget any more, yet I have to wonder if the recent cuts are in any way related to these kind of over budgeted jobs acros the state., this state has cut so many vital services I have to wonder if it was to take that money to FUND these over budgeted projects,,,,after all WHERE IS THE MONEY COMING FROM TO FUND THESE OVER BUDGETED PROJECTS THAT TAKE …………… FORERVER TO COMPLETE……………. HHHHMMMMM WHERE.

  • roadbowler

    ^^^The professional complainers have spoken.^^^

    Let’s see them do a better job designing and building these projects.

    • response

      Let me ask you something. You are building a home, and the contractor gives you a completion date. That date is then missed by a year. Based on your comment, you would be ok with that and there would be no repercussions?

      You pay for your driveway to be paved and give a deposit. The contractor doesn’t show up for six months, you’re ok with that?
      That’s bs…this is their job, they should do it.
      Just another reason to get rid of prevailing wage in MA.

    • Cynic

      Am I correct in assuming that you are a contracter?

  • Chris

    Good ole Mass Union jobs. Takes three times the people, time and money to finish any job…good grief!

  • Cynic

    Probably, like the Cambridge Street project…..The Contracters take on more jobs than they have the capacity to handle….Which ever project people scream about gets some attention until the screaming dies down then it goes back to business as usual.They would have made great jugglers on the Ed Sullivan Show they can keep ten jobs in the air at once.

  • TheoNa

    For comparative purposes, it took just over a year to build the Empire State building, four years to construct the Golden Gate Bridge, five years to construct the Hoover Dam, less than a decade for NASA to land a man on the moon. Incompetence is an understatement in describing the effectiveness of Massachusetts’ government when it comes to highway and construction projects.

    • James M.

      Finally, a wise rebuttal.

  • Crock

    12 years for any project is ridiculous. I mean this is turning into another Big Dig. Who pays for this one? We do. In this economy the guys at the DOT must be loving life. Job security for 12 years but we all know it will probably be more like 15 – 18 years. Life is good at the DOT. Funny to think that this project might not be done when my sons start driving and they are 4 and 2. Let’s go Deval, clean it up already.

  • emom

    If the hoover dam was built in 5 years OMG <, and that is probably 100 times bigger than the rte128 project and the big dig together… it shadows the two of those projects and the hoover dam is still standing and working just fine…………… the politicians in this state need to be fired cause they have no idea on how long a project should take…… roads are built in less than a month in ARIZONA,,, and they are not single roads….. so why does it take us so long to build in this state,, OH WAIT….. its becuase those pockets are lined with GOLD in the form of YOUR TAX DOLLARS…… DOES ANYONE GIVEN THAT A THOUGHT………. HHMMMMMMM. Why do you think the want to RAISE your taxes AGAIN……THINK ABOUT IT….

  • KRG

    If the state government keeps doing the same stupid thing over and over again, and we keep re-electing them over and over again, who is more stupid??? Let’s take these complaints with us to the voting booth and then maybe we will be heard, until then we are all just peeing into the wind.

  • 1stackmack

    we can expand 128 to more then 10 lanes each still will be f—ed up.i’ve driven in every state,and major city.atlanta has the worst traffic in the south,the ring highway has 6 lanes and during rush hour you can’t move.LA.IS WORSE THAN THAT.traffic would flow nicely if peaple wouldn’t drive live every morning is a personal nascar race.diving for the off ramps at the last second like its pit road.

  • bob

    Well union busters. this project started out non union. well guess what. union quality and experience needed to come in.

  • taxedout

    If this road was in NH it would have been done 5 years ago, and cost 3 times less!!!!Union quality, who bulit the Big Pig????

  • Steve

    Union or nonunion has nothing to do with it. The problem is much higher up the bureaucracy.

    I’m curious about David’s question regarding why don’t they just put more manpower on it, I’ve always been curious about this. I wish he hit the guy a little harder on his reply because I’m not buying that at all that it would cause more problems. I remember when they were widening Route 3 North into New Hampshire you would see four or five people working on a bridge laying rebar, what a joke let me say that again what a joke. The millions I go into the managers and engineers not to the workers union or nonunion

  • rich donahue

    steve is correct, the problem is higher up in the bureaucracy.
    we elect people to do the business of the state but most times they do the business of their constituency or their own business. public projects are for the good of all, but, what happens is they are held hostage for a pet project of a legislator or cut back for this or held back for that and on and on.
    i for one am amazed that these highway projects can be done all while the highway is being used. it would be different if the project was on a new site and the construction area was unimpeded by public use but, these people have to engineer and carryout out plans while cars/ trucks speed by at high speeds.
    all the bridges in the path had to be rebuilt,again while traffic used them. the work areas in the median strips is pretty tight and the whole work area is dangerous.
    to drive by and pass judgment on the workers from just a glimpse shows ignorance at best or just a plain cynical attitude. to plot out these road projects in parts and connect them together is an engineering feat we take for granted.
    don’t blame the people who work these projects, look to our golden dome and they who roost under it for the reasons for delay and decay.

  • An old timer in Mass.

    remember the big dig would speed trafiic through Bosto, has any one been able to speed through Boston? e will niw speed down 128 until we hit 24 in Randolph, then we squeze back to the old road and jam up again.So i another 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 we may see the completion of another magnificient road that does nothing to help traffic. I remember when they buit the original 128 back in the 50’s, help for a couple of years, I suppose in 2025 We will need to widen it again

  • Mulls Mom

    Route 128 will NEVER be finished. Ask those around at the time 128 was finishing at one end (south side) and on the same day, the north side was having a ribbon cutting/shovel ceremony to begin widening it!

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