One week after hazardous material (haz-mat) trucks showed up on the North End’s Commercial St., a City ban goes back in effect on Monday, May 24th for at least the next 45 days. Last week, the City of Boston received a 45-day extension of its daytime ban from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). With the extension, trucks carrying hazardous materials can travel through the city only between 6 p.m. and 7 a.m. In addition, trucks cannot use Commercial Street in the North End. Haz-mat trucks now must once again take Cross Street and the Charlestown Bridge to connect to Interstate 93.
In 2006, the City of Boston halted daytime permits for trucks passing through Boston with hazardous or flammable materials. But a Federal government agency ruled last November that the city never consulted with them. The Feds told the city to complete a safety study to justify the ban. However, Boston officials say they were only given 6 months to do an 18-month study and are skeptical that a 45-day extension will allow for enough time.
After one week of the rumbling haz-mat trucks, Commercial Street residents and businesses are up in arms. The flyer shown below is being distributed throughout the area as part of a letter writing campaign. (Click for a pdf version of the flyer.)
The trucking companies say that the ban forces them to go around Boston which is a longer and more costly route. Although trucking companies care less about specific street routes within the city, their lobbyists have worked to eliminate the daytime ban. According to LMTruck.com, “After Boston changed its rules, the American Trucking Association filed a petition with FMCSA saying the city was not following federal regulations governing routing. FMCSA agreed and in November told Boston it had overstepped its authority in changing the route and had ignored federally mandated procedures governing routing.”
The City of Boston received permission from the State for the ban and route change back in 2006. They also held over 30 hearings with the trucking industry and communities. When the Federal agency ruled against them in November 2009, City Hall says the Feds knew it would take at least 18 months to perform the ordered safety study.
Since the November 2009 federal agency ruling, the City has hired a consultant to perform a risk assessment and route analysis. A preliminary analysis concluded the city is safer with the ban and route changes in effect. A final study is in progress, after which State law requires hearings in the surrounding communities. City officials say it is unlikely this process will be complete in 45 days. It is unclear if the FMCSA will grant more extensions after the 45 days.