MassDOT outlines plans to handle Big E traffic

Sept. 15, 2016 | G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD – Concerned about how to get through downtown Springfield on the Interstate 91 viaduct and negotiating traffic created by the Big E? The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) says they have that covered.

MassDOT officials announced at a meeting discussing the status of the rebuilding of the Interstate 91 viaduct that 17 message boards will be installed leading motorists to the best ways to reach the Eastern States Exposition fairgrounds and how to avoid traffic snarls.

Ralph Romano of MassDOT also announced the designation of “full beneficial use” of the strip of highway – when all of the lanes are open, paved, painted, exits open and the new signage installed – will be spring 2018.

“The bottom line it’s ahead of schedule,” he said.

Romano added the message boards for the Big E will also direct people to parking areas and noted the cooperation MassDOT has received from the fair administration.

“We all have the same agenda,” he said.

Michael Sutton, a project manager for Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc., who is working on the project, described two steps being taken to try to improve traffic flow on the southbound lanes. Currently there are two lanes heading south that merge into one and two lanes that exit connecting to Interstate 291. Sutton said that frequently people use the 291 exit lanes to advance past the line for the southbound lane and then force a merge. MassDOT is installing upright “paddles” that will prevent such a merge.

MassDOT is also implementing a “dynamic merge system,” that will use a series of message boards to instruct motorists when to merge to continue traveling southbound. Sutton explained the point to merge and the method of merging will change depending upon the amount of traffic.

This merge system should be in place in November.

MassDOT is still continuing its effort to keep the number of motorists using the highway as low as possible through its MassRIDES ridesharing program. Fore more information, go to

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