The North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association has submitted the following letter to State transportation authorities in support of the proposal to reroute pass-through hazardous material trucks from City of Boston streets to highways around the city. Additional information, including the City of Boston routing evaluation, is available on the MassDOT website (select Quick Links, then Boston HazMat Routing).

September 22, 2011

Thomas F. Broderick, P.E.
Acting Chief Engineer, MassDOT
10 Park Plaza, Suite 4160
Boston, MA 02116

Attention: BOSTON HAZMAT ROUTE

Dear Mr. Broderick:

I write on behalf of the North End/Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA) regarding the City of Boston‟s recommendation that trucks carrying pass-through hazardous materials be prohibited from Boston’s streets and instead be rerouted around the metropolitan area via Route 128. I first want to reiterate NEWRA’s appeal for prompt implementation of the rerouting recommendation in order to remove with no delay the serious threat of great loss of life and property posed by the present truck route(s) through our neighborhood. This we noted in our earlier letter of July 18, 2011, a copy of which is attached, and which should be considered as incorporated herein.

The Battelle study, after duly considering all risk factors, concluded that during the day, the current route through Boston is four times the risk of the proposed alternative, and more than twice the risk at night. The analysis of Deputy Fire Chief and Fire Marshall Frank Kodzis of the Boston Fire Department, previously submitted to MassDOT, comprehensively describes the risks to the North End and the surrounding areas along the current hazmat route.

As Deputy Chief Kodzis notes, the North End is one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the entire country. The homes and businesses along the current route are within 20 feet of the hazmat trucks as they travel through the neighborhood. The age and tight configuration of our buildings and streets, and the presence at all times of thousands of people within the potential impact zone, make it impossible for firemen and rescuers to respond quickly and to effectively control and isolate the impacts of a hazmat spill. There is, we believe, no possibility of isolation or safe and timely evacuation. Instead, the tight buildings and the narrow streets lined bumper to bumper with cars in our neighborhood provide the means and fuel for a rapidly spreading conflagration. The panic of those attempting to escape fire or other hazardous material threat will cause gridlock in the streets, further obstructing fire and rescue response. Large numbers of people and structures will quickly be endangered, while rescuers are hampered in their attempts to reach them.

Deputy Fire Chief Kodzis states that a catastrophic hazmat accident in the North End would likely overwhelm the Fire Department‟s ability to respond, and that the firefighters would have “to concede large sections of the neighborhood,” focusing their efforts on preserving life. At a recent public hearing, Town of Needham officials expressed concern about a delay of seven minutes in reaching a hazmat accident in the Route 128 construction zone. A seven-minute delay pales in comparison to the scenario Deputy Chief Kodzis describes. It is obvious to North End residents that our neighborhood of approximately a quarter of a square mile would be largely, if not completely, engulfed in such an event.

Some trucking company owners have testified that their drivers are highly trained and that accidents are less likely on city streets than on highways, because obstacles such as traffic lights and pedestrians force the drivers to drive more slowly. We who live in the North End/Waterfront know that most of the large trucks passing through our neighborhood do so at significant speeds, and residents have witnessed, and sometimes videotaped, hazmat trucks speeding and running red lights.

Highways are designed to allow emergency response, and they can be modified to improve the access of equipment and responders. Emergency drainage around reservoirs has been constructed and can also be modified. Route 128 is either already designed or can be modified to mitigate the risks of an accident involving a hazardous materials truck, but no mitigation is feasible to remove the risks to our neighborhood or any other Boston neighborhood.

The North End is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the country. Its historic buildings and character attract thousands of visitors a year. Seven hundred hazmat trucks per week cannot be safely accommodated in our historic neighborhood. No matter what route the trucks take, accidents will occur. Any loss of life is tragic, but the potential along the current hazmat route is loss of life and property on a catastrophic scale.
The disproportionate risk now being borne by those living and working along the current route must be alleviated. We ask you to consider the recent accidents in Everett and Saugus, and the potential consequences of such accidents for the North End. We urge you to implement the recommended route change without delay.

Respectfully,

 

Stephanie Hogue
President, North End/Waterfront Residents’ Association

cc:
Anne S. Ferro, Administrator, Federal Motor Carrier Administration
State Senator Anthony Petruccelli
State Representative Aaron Michlewitz
Mayor Thomas M. Menino
City Councilor Salvatore LaMattina
Commissioner Thomas Tinlin, Boston Transportation Department
Donna Freni, President, North End/Waterfront Neighborhood Council

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