Community Transportation

City Receives Positive Reaction from North End / Waterfront at HazMat Route Study Meeting

“Based on the differences in route risk, the routes through downtown Boston are significantly higher in risk than travel on the beltway (Route 128).”
—Battelle Memorial Institute Study

Boston Transportation Department Commissioner Tom Tinlin brought good news to approximately 80 North End / Waterfront residents at this week’s community meeting on hazardous material (hazmat) truck routing. City officials presented the long-awaited HazMat Truck Route Evaluation Report that supports a ban of hazmat trucks cutting through the city on the currently designated North End routes (Atlantic Ave., Cross St., Commercial St., N. Washington St.). Further, the study did not find any routes inside the city with an acceptable level of risk.

View the full City of Boston HazMat Route Evaluation Report by Battelle (large pdf file).

The HazMat Truck Route Evaluation by Battelle Memorial Institute supports a ban of hazmat trucks not doing business in the city from using city streets to reach destinations outside the city. BTD estimates that 75%-80% of the hazmat trucks coming through the North End are not doing business in the city. The region’s main fuel terminal is north of Boston in Everett. Most of the hazmat trucks currently cut through the city to save time and distance on their way to destinations south and west of Boston. The study supports routing the vehicles around the city on the longer Route 128/I-95 corridor.

In the video below, BTD Commissioner Tom Tinlin, introduces the study and the history of hazmat truck routing in the City of Boston.

The level of risk regarding hazmat transport on any particular route deemed safe by the federal government is 1.5 or lower. According to the report, the level of risk in the City of Boston during the day is 4.0 and the level of risk at night is 2.2.

Battelle HazMat Route Evaluation Conclusions:

— Route 128 should be the leading candidate for designation as a through hazmat route.
Applying the federal through routing criteria and comparing Route Alternative 1 (through
Boston) with Route Alternative 3 (which uses Route 128) demonstrates the significantly
increased risk posed by hazmat cargoes coming through Boston. Because Route
Alternative 1 poses more than 50 percent greater risk than Route Alternative 3,
Alternative 3 may become the designated hazmat route, if selected, regardless of its
length and circuitry relative to the other alternatives. Sensitivity and uncertainty analyses
were performed on these shipment route risk results.

— Factors besides risk such as emergency response capabilities, the location of sensitive
environmental features, climate and the burden to commerce – while worthy of
consideration – do not represent factors that can be used to effectively discriminate
among the alternative through routes.

— There is ample justification to monitor, control and even restrict daytime through hazmat
shipments through downtown Boston.

— If downtown shipment routes are allowed, the selection of any downtown through
shipment route should be made based on factors other than risk and made by
transportation officials using such factors as traffic flow and distance. If these factors are
judged to not be significant, then the routing regulations state that the most direct route be

— Nothing in this report is intended to lead to recommendations for further restricting the
local delivery of gasoline, diesel fuel and fuel oil within the City of Boston, beyond those
otherwise reasonable restrictions currently in place as implemented by permits issued
under the City’s existing regulations.

BTD Deputy Commissioner Jim Gillooly presents a summary of the study in the video below.

Next steps: The State will now spend 3-4 months reviewing the City’s recommendation, based on the Battelle Study, and determine the actual routes for the hazmat trucks. There will be a process for the communities outside of Boston, around the expressways, that are already designated hazmat truck routes. The role of the Federal regulator is to confirm that the City/State followed the appropriate process. Of course, the trucking companies will likely lobby for their interests as part of this process.

North End / Waterfront residents asked a number of questions regarding the study, the next steps and timeline in the video below.

Related post:
Study Says HazMat Trucks Too Dangerous for North End Streets (and City of Boston)