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News Briefs: MassDOT schedules toll plaza demolition, extra E-ZPass sign-up opportunities; Downing to lead discussion on hunger; State Senate debate on TV

On Friday, Oct. 28, crews stationed at every toll plaza location along I-90 will begin setting up the new traffic patterns, pavement markings, and electronic message boards for the initial stage of toll plaza demolition.

MassDOT schedules toll plaza demolition, extra E-ZPass sign-up opportunities

Boston — The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) process of removing existing toll plazas will occur in phases so as to ensure the safety of drivers and work zone crews and to minimize traffic disruption. The first phase, beginning this weekend, will continue until all center areas of all I-90 toll plazas are removed. Given that the toll plazas are located on top of concrete pads and have tunnels underneath, the Phase One demolition will include relocation of utilities, removal of concrete pads, the filling of tunnel areas, and the paving of the center lanes of travel after center plaza infrastructure is removed and tunnels are filled in. Traffic patterns will be shifted at the end of the first phase of demolition and will involve shifting vehicles onto the newly paved travel lanes where the centers of the toll plazas once stood. At all times, drivers will be warned to drive slowly and proceed at slow speeds in these active construction zones. The first phase of toll plaza demolition work is scheduled to be completed by Tuesday, Nov. 22.

Electronic tolling gantries along the Mass Pike will replace toll plazas at exits.
Electronic tolling gantries along the Mass Pike will replace toll plazas at exits.

On Friday, Oct. 28, at 10 p.m., crews stationed at every toll plaza location along I-90 will begin setting up the new traffic patterns, pavement markings, and electronic message boards for the initial stage of toll plaza demolition. MassDOT will deploy 64 “arrow boards” along I-90 and approximately 24 lift trucks statewide. The lift trucks will assist employees in covering existing “Cash” and “E-ZPass” signs at plazas and unveiling the new gantry rate signs. An estimated 107 law enforcement details and more than 100 workers, including laborers, foremen, and supervisors will be utilized at “go-live” time.

By 5 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 29, the appropriate toll demolition configurations will be in place at every toll plaza location statewide. During that day and also on Sunday, Oct. 30, contractors will continue preparing the construction zones at 23 locations and will begin demolishing the existing toll plazas late Sunday. Phase One of plaza demolition will remove the center areas of the plazas as traffic is detoured to the right and to the left of the center toll plaza areas.

The eastbound Lee Service Plaza on between Exits 1 and 2 will be open for in-person assistance and account sign-ups from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, and Sunday, Oct. 30, and from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 31. The transponders will not be activated until up to five days later. In-person sign up will still be available at Massachusetts RMV and AAA locations during their normal business hours. An online list of locations and hours is available.

MassDOT will inform the public about in-person customer service opportunities, the progress of toll plaza demolition, new lanes of traffic patterns on I-90, and other developments with the use of real-time signboards along roads, via its Twitter feed, and through other communication tools.

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Downing to lead community discussion on hunger

Pittsfield — The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, in conjunction with a Task Force to End Hunger, will hold Berkshire County community forum on Saturday, Oct. 29, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Berkshire Community College. State Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, will lead the discussion about the causes of hunger in the region and examine possible solutions.

In the past year, the Food Bank distributed more than 10.1 million pounds of food to its member agencies throughout western Massachusetts. Each week 15,000 people in need seek food assistance from these pantries, meal sites and other emergency feeding programs. Nearly 30 percent of those who are served are children under the age of 18. Since January, policymakers, business leaders, education professionals, health care administrators, religious leaders and others in the Task Force to End Hunger have engaged in serious discussions and are working to develop a plan of action to end hunger in the region.

All community members are invited to attend the forum and share their experiences, concerns and ideas. The event is free but seating is limited. Lunch will be served and Spanish translation will be provided. Free parking and childcare are also available. To reserve a space, contact the Food Bank at (413) 247-9738 or taskforcetoendhunger@foodbankwma.org.

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State Senate debate televised

Springfield — The contenders for Massachusetts’ Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin & Hampden District State Senate seat have joined Connecting Point host Jim Madigan for a debate inside the WGBY public television studio. The political forum will be broadcast on WGBY at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 28, with an encore showing at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 30. Republican candidate Christine Canning of Lanesborough and Democratic candidate Adam Hinds of Pittsfield will discuss and debate the issues affecting the 52 western communities in the district. Topics will include economic development, possible legalization of marijuana, education funding, and charter schools.

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