As the days tick down toward the closure of the Callahan Tunnel on Friday night, transportation officials are preparing to establish detours throughout the region that will divert an average of 30,000 drivers daily to alternate routes toward Logan International Airport and East Boston.
Massachusetts Department of Transportation staff are getting ready to post detour signs, beef up off-peak service on the Silver Line, run extra trains on the Blue Line, open up little-known tunnels and bypass roads, and educate the public on the best route for them to reach their destination as quickly as possible.
The tunnel carries traffic one way from Boston’s North End under Boston Harbor to Logan and East Boston. The Sumner tunnel carries traffic in the other direction. The Ted Williams tunnel also connects the city and the airport.
At a press conference today at MassDOT’s Highway Operation Center, Highway Administrator Frank DePaola expressed optimism.
“After the first few days of upset,” DePaola said, “things should calm down.”
The closure of the Callahan is scheduled to start at 11 p.m. Friday, and is expected to last until March 12, though there are financial incentives and penalties in place that will give the contractor the impetus to finish early. The tunnel, which was first built in the 1960s, will undergo a major construction overhaul to fix problems in the tunnel’s deck and paneling that arose after a half-century of wear and tear.
Though traffic engineers had originally considered the option of partially closing the tunnel to let some traffic through while construction was taking place, they decided that strategy would still result in significant delays for drivers that would extend over an 18-month period.
Instead, they opted for the rip-off-the-bandage approach.
Highway officials have identified three primary alternative ways for drivers to reach East Boston during the closure: The Ted Williams Tunnel, over the Tobin Bridge, or Route 16 East to 1A South. Additionally, several industrial bypass roads and high-occupancy vehicle lanes will be open to all traffic in an attempt to better funnel cars toward the airport.
By educating the public about the myriad detours and routes they can take instead of going through the Callahan Tunnel, DePaola said, he expects that traffic will be dispersed evenly throughout the region’s open roadways, limiting the ill-effects of the three-month tunnel closure
“We are confident we can handle any additional traffic,” DePaola said.