Truck detour idea carries fear as cargo

The Boston Globe
May 22, 2011

If you think traffic on Route 128 can’t get any worse, just imagine dozens of tanker trucks joining the rush-hour crunch.

A new study commissioned by Boston officials recommends barring trucks that carry gas, chemicals, and other hazardous materials from cutting through city streets to Interstate 93. Instead, the plan would send the trucks on a wide swing south along Route 128/Interstate 95, through the heart of the western suburbs.

The proposal, backed by Mayor Thomas M. Menino, is winning accolades in Boston, where the new restriction would divert an average of 317 big trucks every weekday from city streets after they pick up loads at a depot in Everett.

But it is going over like a lead balloon among the 128 corporate community and local officials, who say the highway is already choked by traffic.

But the highway is already well over capacity, jammed each day with tens of thousands of vehicles it was never designed to handle. The stretch of 128 from Route 3 in Burlington to Waltham now sees 200,000 cars and trucks a day, far past its capacity of 150,000, according to the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.

Jack Troast, executive director of the 128 Corporate Alliance, shares similar concerns. He notes that fairly normal events — a snow storm or a minor accident — already have the ability to trigger monster traffic jams on the highway.

Adding more tanker trucks to this unstable mix could be problematic, he said. “It’s well over capacity,’’ Troast said. “Rerouting any vehicles that don’t take this as a normal route, you are going to increase the load on an already overtaxed roadway.’’
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