Hazardous materialsBoston tries to bar hazmat trucks from downtown -- again

Published 23 May 2011

On average, 317 big trucks and tankers carrying hazardous materials travel through downtown Boston every day; in 2006 Boston had barred hazmat trucks from entering downtown, but federal officials voided the restrictions last year, saying Boston did not show sufficient cause to justify the restrictions; the city commissioned a study on the issue, which recommended diverting hazmat traffic from downtown to a route which will see the truck take the already-congested Route 128, which cuts through Boston’s western suburbs; businesses and cities along the proposed rout object

The City of Boston commissioned a study on trucks carrying hazardous materials through downtown Boston. The Battelle Memorial Institute, a Ohio-based nonprofit research organization, found that, on average, 317 such trucks cross down streets every day – 98 trucks carrying hazardous materials do so during morning rush hour, 38 do so in the evening rush hours, and the rest do so during non-rush hour periods.

The Boston Globe reports that the Battelle study recommended that the city bar such trucks from using down streets to get to Interstate 93, and instead direct them on a wide swing south along Route 128/Interstate 95, which goes through the city’s western suburbs.

Boston mayor Thomas Mennino supports the proposal.

An alliance of businesses located along Route 128 opposes the plan. Route 128 was built to carry about 150,000 vehicles a day, but it is now already carrying more than 200,000 vehicles a day, causing congestions and delays for those who rely on it.

The city wants these trucks off downtown streets because if one of them has a serious accident, it will be difficult for first responders teams to fight their way through downtown traffic to get to the truck. The 128 Business Council makes the same argument about the difficulty first responders would face trying to get to a stalled truck on Route 128. Moreover, mayors of the city’s western suburbs say that it makes no sense to put their residents at risk from a chemical spill or explosion.

The Globe notes that in 2006 Boston had already barred trucks carrying hazardous materials from going through downtown, but federal officials voided the restrictions last year, saying Boston did not show sufficient cause for it.