State and City transportation officials announced a “compromise agreement” today with the hazardous cargo trucking companies and the Federal administrator that will once again open North End/Waterfront streets to daytime travel by hazardous material (hazmat) trucks. This agreement ends the city’s defacto daytime ban of hazmat trucks, instead blocking off just the rush hours (7-9 am & 4-6 pm). The ruling goes into effect on July 1, 2010 and allows hazmat trucks to cut through the city from 9 am – 4 pm on weekdays, after 6 pm at night and 24 hours/day on weekends. Previously, only hazmat trucks delivering within the city limits were allowed to use city streets during the day.
The parties agreed to allow travel on both Cross Street and Commercial Street, with Cross Street being the “preferred route” until a safety study further examines all the possible routes including Congress Street and Massachusetts Avenue. The trucking companies indicated they will strongly encourage drivers to continue to use Cross Street until a final determination is made by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
“Our ultimate goal remains to keep hazmat trucks away from Commercial Street,” said Boston Transportation Department Commissioner Thomas J. Tinlin. “Yet, for the interim at least, it is necessary that Commercial Street is once again recognized as a Hazardous Cargo (HC) Route. The good news is that this burden will be shared by Cross Street and that the Massachusetts Motor Transportation Association (MMTA) wil be working with us to ensure that traffic on Commercial Street is kept to a minimum.” (View the City’s press release.)
Officials continue to work toward a final Hazardous Cargo Route determination which was discussed at a 2-hour meeting on June 22nd. At the meeting, the City’s preliminary safety analysis was presented concluding that hazmat trucks in the city were over 8x more at risk of an accident than going around the city using Route 128. Attending the meeting were representatives from the FMCSA in Washington D.C., North End State Representative Aaron Michlewitz and representatives from the offices of City Councilor Sal LaMattina, Senator John Kerry, Senator Scott Brown, Congressman Michael Capuano along with local transportation, police and fire officials.
As part of the process to meet Federal guidelines and justify its defacto ban, the City of Boston has contracted a $250,000 detailed study by Battelle, a specialist consulting firm. Battelle is currently collecting data with a report to be given to the City by late August. More information on Battelle can be found at http://www.battelle.org. The schedule of Battelle’s study is shown in the slide below.
Once the city completes the safety study, the State will apply to the FMCSA to approve the changes. As part of that process, hearings in the surrounding towns outside of Boston may be necessary. Thus, the earliest the FMCSA may approve the changes is in the Fall of 2010. Possibly extending the timeframe, the MMTA and American Trucking Association could challenge the City and State’s recommendation to protect the ability for hazmat trucks to cut through the city. The trucking industry has indicated that the City and State ignored federal regulations by imposing the defacto ban, citing guidelines that require Federal approval for routing changes. For those interested, the various communications between the authorities and the trucking industry can be found here in the official rulemaking “docket folder.” (At the website, check Public Submissions and go to last page to see the most recent letters.)
A local effort continues to stop the haz-mat trucks from using the North End/Waterfront streets. More information from the local Haz-Mat Taskforce can be found at: www.hazmatters.eboard.com.