Business & Tech

Talking Points

The Silver Line extension is a great idea, until raised bridges get in the way

The Silver Line extension from the Seaport to Chelsea will open next spring.

Essdras M Suarez/ Globe Staff

The Silver Line extension from the Seaport to Chelsea will open next spring.


A rapid-transit bus that whisks commuters from downtown Chelsea to the heart of Boston’s Seaport in 20 minutes is a great idea.

What about 40? Suddenly, this ride doesn’t sound so rapid. That’s what could happen -- up to five times a day -- as a bridge that connects Chelsea and East Boston rises and falls to make way for ship traffic to the Chelsea Creek terminals.

The state Department of Transportation had great news for Chelsea last week: The Silver Line extension from the Seaport to Chelsea will open next spring. But solving the Chelsea Street Bridge problem remains a work in progress.

Drivers curse the span when it goes up, often for 15 to 20 minutes. The Silver Line won’t be exempt from the laws of physics.

A spokesman says MassDOT is trying to minimize the delays. Strategies include a “support tool” that would help T personnel decide whether to send a bus on a detour or simply wait for the bridge.

Chelsea city manager Tom Ambrosino has another idea: a bridge-opening “blackout” during rush hour commuting times. He has asked MassDOT to consider this option, but has been told that interrupting ship travel is really up to the Coast Guard.

Not that he is complaining. The Silver Line should be a boon for his city, and MassDOT is installing signs that offer alerts when the bridge is up.

Ambrosino also hopes the Silver Line’s arrival will draw more attention to a problem his city faces every day. If that happens, credit Ambrosino for finding a silver lining.

Jon Chesto is a Globe reporter. Reach him at and follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.
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