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Shirley Leung

Bypass road a popular shortcut during Callahan closure

An average of about 6,100 vehicles used the Bypass Road road daily during the Callahan Tunnel’s closure, almost triple the number when it was restricted to commercial vehicles.

Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/File

An average of about 6,100 vehicles used the bypass road road daily during the Callahan Tunnel’s closure, almost triple the number when it was restricted to commercial vehicles.

The Callahan Tunnel reopened this morning, two days ahead of schedule, but I secretly hoped for a delay.

That’s because I’ve enjoyed cutting across town using the bypass road off the Southeast Expressway that seamlessly connects the South Boston Waterfront and South Bay.

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Turns out, I haven’t been the only one taking advantage of this 1.1-mile stretch of sweet pavement the state had opened up to general traffic while the Callahan was closed for repairs.

Tracking traffic over three days, the state found it was a popular shortcut, most notably going eastbound toward the waterfront. An average of about 6,100 vehicles used the road daily, almost triple the number when it was restricted to commercial vehicles.

Even at that rate, the thoroughfare still feels like a country road in the middle of the city. During the busiest times, the bypass road carried about 400 to 500 vehicles an hour; it was built to handle four times as much.

So who was using the road during the Callahan construction? Passenger cars made up 84.5 percent of the traffic, trucks 13.6 percent, and buses 1.9 percent, according to state data.

State officials will use this data to explore whether to permanently open the road to general traffic to help ease congestion in the fast-growing Seaport District.

Opened in 1993, the bypass road was built for construction trucks during the Big Dig, and when the tunnels were finished, the road remained restricted to commercial use.

Now there are folks who still don’t like the idea of sharing.

Joe Zanti is one of them. He represents the Boston Marine Industrial Park Tenants Association, which are the businesses that rely on the bypass road to ferry cargo quickly in and out of the area.

His group didn’t experience major issues when everyone else was using the road, but that’s because he says truck traffic is light this time of year.

“The real traffic starts in the summer,” said Zanti, who is also president of Yankee Lobster, the restaurant on the Southie waterfront, and Commercial Lobster, a seafood wholesaler. “We are really concerned about getting trucks in and out especially during rush hour.”

He’s right, and I can’t think of a better way to spend my summer – with another trial period, out on the open road again.

Shirley Leung can be reached at sleung@globe.com.
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