Hazmat gasoline tanker truck cutting through North End

The streets of the North End / Waterfront and downtown Boston just became safer, at least during the day. A State decision came down Friday indicating that dangerous hazardous material trucks won’t be passing through the city during the hours of 6 am to 8 pm. The daytime ban is a win for the North End / Waterfront Hazmat Task Force and other neighborhood groups that have been rallying for the several years against the danger presented by the vehicles on our city streets.

Hazmat trucks not doing business in Boston (i.e., cutting through) will have to use Route 128 around Boston now that the long-awaited decision by MassDOT, the State’s transportation authority has been issued. The State will advertise the new route for 30 days and it will go into effect on June 13, 2012.

Boston’s City Hall is calling the State decision a “victory” in a statement by Mayor Menino and as reported by the Globe. The statement also says that officials continue to consider ways to ban the trucks during the night hours as well.

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Mayor Menino also thanked Sen. John Kerry, Sen. Scott Brown, Congressman Michael Capuano, members of Boston’s legislative delegation, Boston City Councilor Sal LaMattina, and City residents, particularly those from the North End for their assistance throughout this process.

“Today’s announcement is a victory for the people of Boston,” said Mayor Thomas M. Menino. “ We have worked hard to prevent hazmat vehicles without a destination in the City from using our local streets as a cut-through for traveling between northern and southern points in the Commonwealth.  Our efforts have paid off and we can now be assured that for 14 hours each day hazmat vehicles that do not belong in Boston will not be on our roadways.” He continued, “Vehicles carrying hazardous materials through the City pose a significant public safety threat to residents of our effected neighborhoods, as well as to commuters and other daily visitors to Downtown Boston.  I strongly encourage the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to take public safety into consideration, to look at the facts presented by experts that outline the critical consequences that would result from a hazmat incident taking place Downtown, and to further extend this ban through the evening hours as well.”

In an official statement, MassDOT said, “Working closely with state and local officials, residents, businesses and other stakeholders, we have determined that a daytime ban on hazmat vehicles is in the best interest of the more than 1 million residents, workers and visitors to the City during the day. We will continue to review nighttime hazmat routing in the region.

Gasoline tankers are the most common type of hazmat vehicles passing through the neighborhood and along the Greenway delivering fuel from the gas tanks north of Boston, to the south and west of the city. Since gas and fueling stations are the primary delivery points, most truck deliveries are during the daytime hours when those facilities are open.

HazMat Truck Spill Explosion on Route 1 in Saugus July 2011

When the Central Artery was taken down, the trucks that previously traveled on the elevated structure ended up on the streets because they are not allowed in the Big Dig tunnel. A city daytime ban established in 2005 was overturned in 2009 when the trucking lobby received a temporary judgement from Federal officials. This compelled the City of Boston to contract the Battelle public safety study that quantified the excessive risks of pass-through trucks going through downtown Boston in comparison to using the highways where the risks are significantly reduced.

Today’s decision comes after the State held several hearings on the re-routing in Boston and the surrounding communities along Route 128 in the Fall of 2011. The ruling by MassDot to institute a daytime ban on hazmat cut-through traffic in Boston is their first.  The Battelle Institute’s recommendation to extend the ban through the evening hours remains under consideration.

See previous posts on the hazmat truck issue.

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