Skip to comments.CONVENTION-WEEK DETOURS EYED - section of Boston's I-93 will be closed (the Big Mess?)
Posted on 04/01/2004 8:30:14 PM PST by Libloather
>b>CONVENTION-WEEK DETOURS EYED
Author(s): Mac Daniel, and Anthony Flint, GLOBE STAFF
Date: April 1, 2004
Page: A1 Section: Metro/Region
The major alternative routes for traffic detoured from Interstate 93 during the Democratic National Convention will probably be Route 128 and the Ted Williams Tunnel, shifts that would pack tens of thousands of additional cars onto those roads.
Secondary roads such as Routes 60, 99, and 1A north of the city are expected to be quickly overwhelmed, too, as motorists search for alternatives. "People should understand their evening commute will not be a smooth one and consider leaving their cars at home, taking the T, or finding other ways to get into the city," said Tom Tinlin, deputy commissioner at the Boston Transportation Department.
Jon Carlisle, spokesman for state Transportation Secretary Daniel Grabauskas, said the state is still working with the Secret Service and the city to develop a comprehensive detour plan. But he said it is reasonable to assume that Route 128 and the Ted Williams Tunnel will be major alternative routes.
Local officials are concerned that without I-93, the region's main artery, other roads could be gridlocked. Malden Police Chief Ken Coye, said the impact on his city, where officers patrol a crowded Route 60, could be great.
"It would almost be like Greater Boston before I-93 was built," said Coye, whose city is also home to Malden Station, a transfer point for commuter rail passengers forced to switch to the Orange Line, because of the planned closure of North Station during the convention.
The concerns underscore the difficulty of rerouting traffic from a high-volume interstate that cuts through a city bordered on one side by the Atlantic: There are very few places to send tens of thousands of cars. The problems also illustrate how quickly the city has come to depend on the newly opened I-93 tunnel, which carries about 30,000 vehicles each weekday evening.
It's not clear how lengthy a stretch of I-93 will be closed for the four nights of the convention. But even if a shorter expanse of the road is closed, traffic analysts said, officials would probably encourage motorists to drive around the city.
Southbound drivers on I-93 would then pick up Route 128 at the interchange in Woburn, the most dangerous and heavily travelled cloverleaf in the state. I-93 northbound drivers would get on Route 128 south of the city in Canton. Drivers coming north from the South Shore on Route 3 or those getting on I-93 northbound closer to the city will probably take the Massachusetts Turnpike west to reach Route 128 at the Weston tolls.
A state transportation official who asked to remain anonymous said that both the Sumner and Callahan Tunnels could also be closed, forcing more traffic to use the turnpike and the Ted Williams Tunnel.
As a result of an expected increase in Pike traffic, State Police Colonel Thomas J. Foley suggested yesterday that turnpike officials may suspend tolls to keep traffic flowing.
"I don't have the authority to do that, but I think that might be something that the turnpike might consider at some point," Foley said.
Pike officials said the issue has never been raised with them.
Despite widespread fears about traffic nightmares during the Democratic gathering, there is some precedent for the closure of I-93. Last year, just before the northbound Big Dig tunnel opened, officials limited I-93 north to a single lane while encouraging drivers to use the Pike and Route 128. For the most part, the detour worked.
The Route 128 detour, under ideal conditions, would not add significant time to a driver's commute. According to Jeff Larson at SmartRoutes, which generates local traffic reports, southbound traffic on I-93 can go from the Route 128 and I-93 interchange in Woburn to the Braintree split in 33 to 35 minutes. Using 128 would add between 10 to 12 minutes to that trip, he said.
But that's based on speed-limit conditions, and drivers cannot count on that, because of anticipated increase in volume on the Pike and Route 128 during the detour. Also, heavy nighttime truck traffic could add to delays.
MassHighway officials said an average of 18,554 vehicles travel I-93 northbound from 5 p.m. to midnight on weekdays, while 12,544 vehicles travel 93 south during those hours.
"I don't know where the detour is going to be, but I think it's logical to say that through-traffic going through the city should go around the city," Larson said.
Another detour used in the past when I-93 access was limited involved rerouting northbound traffic through the Ted Williams Tunnel and over to Route 1A in East Boston, where traffic can pick up Route 1 northbound.
But that narrow roadway is already under some stress. Since Route 1A was directly connected last year to the Ted Williams Tunnel, the number of cars on it everyday has jumped: The latest figures provided by state highway officials show approximately 50,000 vehicles per day using Route 1A north of Logan Airport, 20,000 more than it is designed to carry.
This route and others like it, including Routes 28, 99, 16, and 60, are more likely to become clogged, as thousands of drivers attempt to travel on roads that long ago reached their limits.
These potential problems will be dealt with by a small army of State Police. Foley said nearly half of all troopers in the state, between 1,200 and 1,300, will be in and around Boston during the convention.
"It is going to take a significant amount of people to manage that roadway," he said, referring to the closure and detours around I-93. "I think we all see that on a daily basis. One accident out there, and the traffic jams. Certainly we are going to strive to make this as painless as possible for everybody out there, but we're fully aware of what this is going to do to disrupt people's lives."
Author(s): Rick Klein, GLOBE STAFF
Date: April 1, 2004
Page: A1 Section: Metro/Region
Businesses in downtown Boston are bracing for commuting chaos when the Democratic National Convention comes to town in July, with some planning to close for the week and others asking their employees to take time off, rather than endure interminable trips to and from work.
Yesterday's announcements that North Station will be shuttered for a full week and the Central Artery will be closed during late afternoon and evening kicked off what is likely to be months of frenzied planning by downtown companies and the tens of thousands of workers they employ. Massachusetts General Hospital is scheduling appointments early in the day during convention time or moving them to other weeks. Some architects, accountants, and financial firms are telling employees to work from home. A small Causeway Street cleaning company called MaidPro may close between July 26 and July 29 and try to rent out its office space, because nearly all its 25 employees would be forced to ride the crowded subway or commuter trains.
"Boston may be dirty for a week," said Jane Koopman, MaidPro's director of marketing. "We're just talking about either closing down for the week and taking a financial hit or working [on the company's administrative tasks] from home. . . . But we can't just say, `Hey everyone stay at home,' because not everyone has broadband."
Paul Guzzi, president and chief executive of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, said he will organize a series of forums for business leaders to raise concerns with police and transportation officials and to discuss ways to handle commuting problems.
"To the extent employers can schedule vacation during that period of time, that would make good, common sense," Guzzi said. "This is for a finite period of time. We've gone through things before, nothing perhaps of this magnitude, but given the magnitude of this event, there's an acceptance of what has to be done."
Convention planners conceded that commuters will be inconvenienced when the Democrats converge on Boston to nominate their candidates for president and vice president. But they said plans will be in place to make sure that all Boston businesses, even those within walking distance of the FleetCenter, will be able to stay open because police and other security personnel will allow, for example, delivery trucks and garbage trucks to get into the city.
"We can still maintain a level of security, but allow the restaurants and things of that nature in that area to function," said Steven D. Ricciardi, who is helping organize convention security as special agent in charge of the US Secret Service's Boston field office. "We're working on it. It's something that is going to take a little more planning, and there is a way to do it."
The heads of business organizations said they expect that most companies will be able to work around the inconveniences, especially with nearly four months to prepare for only a few trying days.
Mass. General, which employs more than 10,000 people at its sprawling West End campus just a few blocks from the FleetCenter, faces daunting planning challenges for making sure that its workers arrive on time.
Bonnie Michelman, director of police, security, and outside services for the hospital, said that MGH officials will start some shifts earlier to ensure that employees are in place when they have to be and will work with convention planners to identify alternative routes for staff and patients. She said the hospital is encouraging as many of its employees as possible to take public transportation, so its limited parking is available for patients. MGH's shuttle bus system will be in full operation throughout the convention, she said.
"We will map out in great detail, for all employees on all shifts, what roads will be open and closed, what T lines are available to them," Michelman said. "We are going to be mindful of trying to adjust schedules as best we can, to ease the convenience factor."
Several major downtown employers, including Filene's and Fidelity Investments, said they are awaiting further details from convention planners, but said they are planning various ways to ease employees' commutes.
It's not just those who work in the city who'll be inconvenienced. Kevin Morrissey of Weymouth said his daily commute to and from Lawrence puts him on Interstate 93 at the very late afternoon time that the roadway will be closed.
"I just think it's crazy that they're going to shut down the main vein of the city just to please all these Democrats," said Morrissey, 38, an Internet application developer. "To inconvenience that many people is absolutely crazy."
The potential for travel disruptions is already causing all manner of shifting plans. The bar exam scheduled for some 2,000 recent law school graduates July 28 at the World Trade Center in South Boston has been pushed back by one hour, in case traffic snarls unexpectedly.
Arrangements have been made with three colleges and universities to rent out dorm rooms to bar applicants who need them, because hotel rooms will be scarce with the Democrats in town.
Pam Cassidy, a consultant with New England Financial, said she hopes to work from her Marblehead home on her laptop or just take a vacation in late July. She commutes into the city by commuter rail and subway.
"It's going to be a huge mess," said Cassidy, who added that she nonetheless understood the need for tight security in these times. "But it's only a week, not a month or a year. I think that you can't be too careful in these circumstances."
The accounting firm Grant Thornton, with a 125-person Boston office, may be down to about a dozen employees during the convention, to keep as many workers as possible from having to commute into Boston. The firm is considering asking many of its business advisers to work at clients' offices the week of the convention or to have them take vacation time then, said Joel Anik, managing partner of the company's Boston office. In addition, the firm is looking to close by 3 p.m. during convention week, so those who do come to the office can head out before I-93 closes for the day.
"We will be able to do OK, because it is a popular time of summer to take vacation anyway," Anik said. "For those who do have to come in, I'm hoping we can get them out before it gets crazy down here."
The architectural firm John Battle Associates, which has offices at West End Place, plans to have most of the eight people in its office work remotely, according to owner John Battle. "It will definitely have an impact on our activity here," he said.
So far, relatively few businesses seem ready to close entirely during the convention. Anne Meyers, president of the Downtown Crossing Association, said retail shops and dining establishments want to stay open to take advantage of the fact that the city will have 35,000 out-of-town guests during the convention.
Scott Nogueria, co-owner of Porters Bar and Grill on Portland Street near the FleetCenter, said he figures he has to stay open during the convention if this summer is to be nearly as productive as previous ones. His bar is already losing out on business that would have been generated by the ten or so concerts the FleetCenter would have hosted in July and August if not for the convention, he said.
"We're hoping and praying that we're going to make up for that lost revenue in the week of and maybe the week before and after the convention," Nogueria said. "But I have high hopes and low expectations."
A convention motto?