Forget the number of days left in the holiday shopping season. This year, there’s only one countdown that matters: 27 days until the closure of the Callahan Tunnel.
In preparation for that apocalyptic event, transportation officials are already preparing the traffic relief valves. Starting Sunday, the Martin A. Coughlin Bypass Road in East Boston, a thoroughfare previously open to only to commercial vehicles, will be available to all traffic.
If you are not familiar with it, the Coughlin Bypass Road debuted last year as a means to reduce traffic congestion in Day Square. The two-lane road, which runs about a half-mile, starts on Chelsea Street, just south of the intersection with Curtis Street, and continues southwest, tracing a parallel corridor between Route 1A and Bremen Street. At its southern terminus, the road ducks underneath 1A and deposits drivers at the intersection of Lovell and Frankfort streets, an easy access point to Logan International Airport.
This route — usually only used by taxis, airport vehicles, MBTA buses, and Massport employee shuttles — will be open to the public until March, when the Callahan is expected to be back open for business. It will shut down at 12:01 a.m. Dec. 27.
“With the impending closure of the Callahan Tunnel, opening this road gives everyone needing to get to the airport another optional route,” said Massport chief executive Thomas P. Glynn.
Looking for better guidance at Logan Airport entry road
In other airport-related news, Massport officials may be taking a second look at a confusing entrance into Logan.
I relay a message sent by a colleague who described a familiar phenomenon that comes up on the drive to Logan Airport via the Ted Williams Tunnel.
“You come around the bend,” he wrote, “and you are all of a sudden, without ANY advance warning signs, faced with getting into left lane for departures and right lane for arrivals. The result of which has been — for years now — lots of cars swerving left or right at the last second. I’ve never seen an accident, but some close calls. I’ll bet there have been plenty of fender-benders.
“The obvious solution to this,” my colleague wrote, “is a large sign a few hundred yards back that says ‘DEPARTURES, LEFT LANE’ and ‘ARRIVALS AND PARKING RIGHT LANE.’ I know the correct lane now because I memorized it.”
It’s a good point, airport entrances often elicit a wallop of frantic split-second decisions — and perhaps nowhere is worse than the Ted Williams Tunnel entrance.
There are, in fact, guideposts that precede the arrivals-departures sign. However, all those signs indicate which airline resides in which concourse. Though that information is important, the choice to move into the left lane for departures and the right lane for arrivals is the decision that comes first in the layout of the airport entrance.
And soon, the Callahan Tunnel renovations will funnel a heretofore unseen amount of traffic through the Ted Williams Tunnel. Many motorists who for years have depended on the Callahan Tunnel for their Logan Airport needs may encounter the Ted Williams Tunnel airport route for the first time in a long time — or ever.
Richard Walsh, spokesman for Massport, acknowledged that it was a bewildering point for drivers.
“Because of the amount of information and the relatively short roadway, drivers unfamiliar with the airport roadway can be confused,” Walsh said.
He promised that the sign issue will be an item for discussion at the next meeting between Massport and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
Rail riders stirred up over unpaid ticket notices
Commuter rail riders may have received an unpleasant notification in the mail this week: notices from the MBTA for outstanding parking tickets. Very outstanding.
Several Starts & Stops readers e-mailed this week to bring attention to a letter sent out by the MBTA that alleges that the motorist has unpaid parking tickets.
Many of those parking violations go way back — some as long ago as 2010.
Usually, long-ignored parking fines cost a significant amount of additional cash: a $20 fine for failing to pay the ticket within 21 days, and an additional $20 payment to the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
But don’t worry, the letter indicates that the T is providing a 30-day amnesty period for motorists to pay a base $5 fee (the $4 parking ticket, plus a $1 fine) without having to tack on an additional $20 to $40.
The amnesty period is a benevolent act of transit agency holiday goodwill, right?
“This generous offer has been extended to those who have outstanding debts,” MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said.
But readers argued that the ticket notifications are so outdated, they never stood a chance to defend themselves against them. After all, who could remember what they were doing on a random weekday years ago? How could they prove that they had never parked in the lot on that day at all?
One reader, who frequently parks his car at the Andover station on the Haverhill commuter rail line, said the violations sent to his home date back to September 2012 and February 2011.
“If there were any missed parking fees I paid them using the envelope system that used to be in place,” the commuter wrote. “Is there a statute of limitations regarding unpaid parking fees? The oldest ‘violation’ is over 2 and a half years old!”
One reader from Ashland, whose alleged parking violations stemmed from July 2012 and December 2010, made a similar point.
“Is the agency that runs the parking lots allowed to go back several years and pick random dates to issue violation notices?” he wrote. “This is the first notice I have ever received that I allegedly missed a payment and now I am on the hook to prove that I either made my payment or I was never there.”
Pesaturo maintained that all violators received notification of their outstanding fines with the T previous to the letter that was distributed this week. He said motorists with concerns about the validity of their violation may call the phone number listed on the letter and file an appeal if they have proof of payment.
But Pesaturo maintained that all the tickets within the past two years are accurate and valid, and that motorists received an initial hard copy of the ticket on their windshields.
“This letter is not the first notification for violators,” he said, adding that the T has canceled some of the tickets that were issued more than two years ago.
Have other people received these notices from the T? And if so, how outdated are your alleged parking violations?Martine Powers can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @martinepowers.