Residents Hear Plans on Tunnel Closure

John Romano of MassDepartment of Transportatoon (DOT) met with East Boston residents last Thursday night at East Boston High School to brief the community on the upcoming Callahan Tunnel closure.

At the meeting Romano said 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.

One of the biggest concerns at the meeting was the disruption to traffic and local construction impacts.

Romano said there will be programs implemented to abate noise dust and vibration in the tunnel during construction and these programs will mitigate those issues in the community.

“There will be controls in place but its not going to be perfect,” said Romano. “This will be difficult two and half months but compared to a year and a year in a half of construction this is the best option. There will be a little more pain during the 3 months but it’s like ripping a band-aid off and its over. We feel best way to do it and get in and out of there quickly.”

Romano said one of the biggest concerns during the Big Dig was the detours were constantly changing to get people around the city. Romano said this would not be the case during this project and MassDOT will keep the detour routes consistent.

It was also reiterated at last week’s meeting 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 successfully lobbied state officials to delay the closure of Government Center until the Callahan Tunnel project was done.

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.

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