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.

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