Thursday, 4:30 PM
Evening commute slow, officials suggest other routes
By Mac Daniel and Yvonne Abraham, Globe Staff
Traffic was moving -- albeit slowly -- this afternoon as Boston commuters made their way to and from work after a major piece of the Big Dig tunnel system was closed last night when a portion of the ceiling collapsed, killing one woman and injuring her husband.
Heavy rain and hail storms passing over portions of the North Shore and Essex County have led to other commuter problems, including partial flooding of the Lynnfield tunnel on Route 1.
The worst of the traffic crunch, which was bad even before the Turnpike connector was closed, was on Interstate 93 northbound out of Boston, where the trip between Boston and the New Hampshire border -- normally a 45 minute drive in ideal conditions -- was taking almost two hours, according to Smart Route Systems Inc., the traffic monitoring firm. Route 1 north and southbound was also slowing, largely because of the passing weather and related flooding.
Tomorrow morning, with the Turnpike connector tunnel still expected to be closed, officials are asking commuters to leave their cars at home and take MBTA ferry or train service into Boston. The T plans to add extra service, but some bus routes may discharge passengers at subway stops outside the city to avoid congestion downtown.
Traffic on the Massachusetts Turnpike did not seem impacted by the closure, a bright spot officials credited to the advanced notice of the problems on other roadways.
Officials at the Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates Logan International Airport, said the only problem they experienced was people getting to and from their flights. Massport spokesman Phil Orlandella said he did not know how many passengers missed their flights as a result of the tunnel closure, adding that airlines were waiving their late fees as passengers rebooked flights. Extra personnel and buses were added around Logan as well.
"Other than that," Orlandella said, "it seemed like a normal day."
Tonight and tomorrow morning, officials are asking commuters to seek alternative forms of transportation on the MBTA. Bus routes that usually end their runs downtown will instead end their runs at subway stops outside of the city to avoid getting mired in expected traffic congestion downtown.
Extra service will be added to the T's Silver Line Waterfront from South Boston to the tunnel entrance under the Fort Point Channel.
Silver Line airport service, which has been crippled by the tunnel shutdown, is now running every 15 minutes. The service usually provides buses every 10 minutes to the airport.
Extra service will also be offered on the Washington Street leg of the Silver Line. Subway service on the Blue and Orange lines will run rush hour service from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Extra parking will be made available at several commuter rail stations, including Anderson Station in Lowell, Lynn Station on the Rockport line, and the Route 128 lot on the Attleboro commuter rail line.
Commuter rail service will also be increased, running every 30 to 45 minutes, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. between Route 128 and South Station; between Lynn and North Station; and between Anderson and North Station.
If commuters must drive, the following are the recommended alternative routes:
From the south to Logan Airport and East Boston, officials recommend taking Exit 23 (Government Center) or Exit 26 (Storrow Dr.) off I-93 northbound and following the marked I-90 east/Airport detours through the Callahan Tunnel
From the north on I-93, detours are not necessary.
From the west to Logan and East Boston, officials recommend taking Exit 24B to I-93 north and using either Exit 23 or 26, following the detour to access the Callahan Tunnel.
An alternate route is to use Exit 18 (Allston/Cambridge) off the eastbound Pike to Storrow Drive, where you would pick up I-93 southbound at Leverett Circle to Exit 24B (Airport).
Heading on the Pike westbound from Logan or Route 1A, the Ted Williams Tunnel is being detoured to Exit 25. From there, turn right at the top of the ramp on to Congress Street, turn right on to D Street and then right towards the overhead sign for the Pike. Follow the South Boston Bypass Road, which is open to all traffic. At the end of the Bypass Road, turn right on to Frontage Road Northbound and follow the sign to the Pike west at the Broadway Bridge.