Commentaries Police & Fire Transportation

State Authorizes Regional HazMat Truck Study; Globe Reporter Sides With Suburbs

One of the bank shots coming off the May 2012 State ban of daytime hazmat trucks cutting through the North End/Downtown Boston was the passage of a State transportation bill allocating $300,000 for yet another regional study of the hazardous truck routing issue.

The bill provides for, “Up to $300,000 to retain an independent, third-party, nationally recognized consultant in hazmat transportation routing risk analysis to conduct a regional hazardous materials routing analysis.”

Sound familiar? We’ve been here before.

Taking this news one step further is a Boston Globe news article mislabeled opinion piece by Scott Van Voorhis arguing the case for suburbanite politicians. Speaking about the daytime ban of hazmat trucks not doing business in Boston, Van Voorhis says:

the state DOT’s decision to shift hundreds of tankers and other big trucks with hazardous loads onto Route 128 came despite vocal opposition by town and city officials in communities along the corridor.

He must have missed our coverage of the four suburban public hearings with photos showing the well-advertised meetings were largely vacant of residents in these communities.

Strangely missing from the piece is mention of the benchmark Battelle Memorial Institute study that identified the North End/Downtown Boston route as 4 times more risky during the day and 2.2 more times at night. (The nighttime, 8pm-6am, cut-through route is still allowed in Boston and under review, according to officials.) Further, the investigators found that “Route 128 should be the leading candidate for designation as a through hazmat route.”

The Globe piece continues by interviewing the same small cast of conflicted lobbyists and politicians, including the 128 Corporate Allaince, Waltham’s Mayor and the 128 Business Council.

The new route was projected to mean on average an additional 317 tankers and other hazmat trucks daily on Route 128. It was a case of the North End and other Boston neighborhoods pushing even harder than suburban officials, said Monica Tibbits, executive director of the 128 Business Council.

“I think in the end it came down to the fact the North End community was very, very vocal about it,” Tibbits said. “It boils down to whoever is yelling the loudest.”

Van Voorhis didn’t bother to talk to anyone along the designated North End / Downtown Boston hazmat truck route.

While it may seem the North End and Downtown Boston won this battle, in truth, it still goes on. The hazmat trucks continue to plow through the neighborhood at night and there are reports of continued daytime use.

The quietly passed regional study authorized by the State legislature will have to be watched closely in the months ahead. To the extent it suggests relief measures for Route 128 congestion and suburban fire response capabilities, all the better. But, we suspect articles like this are prompted by the trucking lobby looking to save a few miles to bolster their bottom line.

See past coverage on of the Hazmat Truck issue.

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