It was no secret people in East Boston were pretty unhappy that the project to fix all the wall panels in the Callahan Tunnel would coincide with a two-year closure of the Government Center MBTA station.
However, it was announced this week that the MBTA would hold off on the closure of Government Center until work on the tunnel was complete.
MassDOT planned to close the tunnel for three months beginning in January and begin a $34.9 million project to rehab the 52-year old tunnel’s deck, curb line, gutters and replace the tunnel’s wall panels.
Residents complained that the tunnels closure coupled with the Government Center closure beginning in the fall would cause a commuting nightmare for thousands of Eastie residents trying to get back to the neighborhood during the afternoon rush hour.
The timing was particularly bad because the dual closure of the tunnel and train station would be in the dead of winter.
Senator Anthony Petruccelli, Representative Carlo Basile and Boston City Councilor Sal LaMattinasuccessfully lobbied state officials to delay the closure of Government Center until the Callahan Tunnel project was done.
“It was going to be a terrible three month inconvenience for resident of East Boston if we allowed these two major projects to coincide,” said City Councilor Sal LaMattina. “This is a win for Eastie commuters because they will still have access to Government Center until the Callahan Tunnel project is complete.”
LaMattina said he heard a lot of complaints from residents that closing the two key points of travel for residents at the same time was poor planning by the state.
“Both projects are crucial to improving aging infrastructure but I agree with residents that work downtown that having these two major redevelopment projects going on at the same time would have a devastating impact on residents,” said LaMattina.
LaMattina added that popular restaurants like Rino’s, K.O. Pies, Santarpio’s Pizza and Ecco that have all become destination spots for people on the other side of the tunnel would have also been impacted.
“There would have been no easy way for customers of these establishments to get over to East Boston if both the Callahan Tunnel and Government Center were closed at the same time,” said LaMattina. “It would have been unfair to expect our small businesses to bear the burden of these two projects going on simultaneously.”
After removing 117 wall panels from the Callahan Tunnel in December 2013 and an additional two-dozen panels from the adjoining Sumner Tunnel, MassDOT decided to remove all 2,400 panels from the Callahan.
The removal of the panels came after a 100 lb. wall panel in the tunnel fell off the wall of the tunnel and landed in the road. The panels, which date back to the 1990s, are 9 ft. by 4 ft. and replaced older panels in order to give the tunnel a better look and reflect light for improved visibility in the tunnel for motorists.
After the panel fell, MassDOT was forced to shut down the Callahan so inspectors could perform a ‘pull test’ on the panels that line the tunnel.
After the inspections it was found that 117 panels did not pass the pull test and had to be removed. MassDOT officials said the framing holding the panels in place had corroded.
The proposed work schedule includes a full tunnel closure with detours in place and posted for approximately three months beginning in January 2014, followed by an additional 4-5 months of work requiring overnight closures between 11p.m. and 5 a.m.