Thursday, 4:30 PM
Romney closes eastbound Ted Williams Tunnel
By Andrew Ryan, Globe Correspondent
Governor Mitt Romney this afternoon ordered an immediate shutdown of the eastbound section of the Ted Williams Tunnel after state engineers re-inspected the concrete ceiling tiles and found two bolts that had loosed on the same panel.
Holding up photographs of the problem at an afternoon press conference, Romney pointed to a bolt that he said had slipped ½ an inch. The closure overruled an earlier inspection by the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority that had found 25 problems area in the tunnel but determined that none of the faulty connections threatened to give way.
"It is perhaps an overreaction, but we want to err on the side of public safety,'' Romney said of his decision to close the tunnel today at noon.
On July 10, ceiling tiles cascaded into the Interstate 90 connector tunnel and crushed a car, killing Milena Del Valle, 38, of Jamaica Plain.
The connector, which links Massachusetts Turnpike with the Ted Williams Tunnel, has been closed since the accident. On Sunday, officials shutdown another tube – the westbound I-90/Ted Williams ramp to I-93 in both directions at Exit 24 – after inspectors found more potentially dangerous bolt fixtures.
The eastbound Ted Williams Tunnel had been closed to motorists since the accident but was being used by emergency vehicles and Silver Line and Logan Express buses heading to Logan International Airport. The westbound Ted William Tunnel has remained open.
“We do not have reason at this point to fear for the safety of other parts of this tunnel system,” Romney said.
The governor added, “We don’t know yet whether there is a systemic failure of the fastening system in the Ted Williams Tunnel. That could change when we do the pull tests.”
Engineers have sent what Romney described as an 11-foot wide “Arva” truck inside the eastbound lanes to shore up the ceiling of the tunnel. Officials hope to it will take “hours, not days” to build a scaffolding to support the faulty panel and get Silver Line buses moving again through the eastbound lanes, Romney said.
Silver Line buses had been using the Ted William Tunnel for relatively easy access to Logan, one of the few bright spots in what has been a tough few weeks on Boston’s roads. Romney said transportation officials are studying a "two way pattern'' in the westbound tunnel to keep traffic flowing.
In the interim, MBTA officials warned riders to expect delays. Silver Line passengers will be shuttled from the arrival level of each terminal to the airport Blue Line Station. From there, passengers will be directed to the Blue Line to Aquarium Station, where they will be bused to South Station.