Thursday, 4:30 PM
U-Turn back on track
By Mac Daniel, Globe Staff
A U-turn ramp at the Massachusetts Turnpike’s Allston-Brighton tolls, a $1.3 million project intended to speed trips from Back Bay hotels to the new convention center in South Boston, ground to a halt after the fatal Big Dig ceiling collapse and soil problems were discovered at the construction site.
The project, which was supposed to have been completed in November, is not dead, said a Massachusetts Turnpike Authority spokesman.
James E. Rooney, executive director of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, one of the ramp’s chief supporters, said the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center would get a huge boost from the ramp and that he has told prospective clients it would be built.
"After the tunnel ceiling collapse, the project was postponed just because there were so many traffic detours going on and the city and the turnpike did not want to add another one," he said. "I anticipated it would pick up again once the tunnel system and ramps were back in order."
The long-sought U-turn would allow vehicles to loop from the Allston interchange to the eastbound onramp. Vehicles headed to the Back Bay could then use the eastbound exit at Prudential Center-Copley Square.
Going from Back Bay to Logan, a vehicle could use one of four westbound onramps in the Back Bay, drive 2 miles, and then make the U-turn to head eastbound.
Jon Carlisle, spokesman for the Turnpike Authority, said the ramp’s design has gone through three revisions after the soil under the proposed site was found to be moisture-absorbing and unstable peat. In the latest design, stone columns will be placed to distribute the weight of the ramp. It is expected to increase the project’s cost by $250,000, Carlisle said.
"The biggest impediment was the geotechnical issues we’ve had to deal with," he said. "But I think it’s fair to say that following the ceiling collapse, there was an all-hands-on-deck mentality."
Construction is expected to begin this spring and be completed in about six months, he said.
Meanwhile, all 1,825 Boston taxicab owners have signed up for Fast Lane electronic toll transponders, a major factor in the success of the ramp, which is designed to accommodate only an electronic tollbooth, said Lieutenant Robert Ciccolo, commander of the Boston Police Department’s hackney unit.