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Work on Prudential tunnel roof slated

Months of road closures, heavy traffic expected

By Brian R. Ballou
Globe Staff / January 9, 2010

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Major repairs will begin in the spring on the Prudential Center tunnel roof, but the engineers overseeing the project are not sure whether the aged suspended concrete slabs should be repaired or replaced, according to officials with the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority.

The authority is overseeing the work because the Hynes Convention Center occupies a large swath of land above the tunnel.

The work, whether it is in the form or repairs or replacement, will most likely lead to months of road closures, at a time when traffic through that stretch of Interstate 90 experiences increased volumes with Red Sox games and other warm-weather events. Mac Daniel, spokesman for the Convention Center Authority, said everyone involved in the project is focused on lessening the inconvenience to commuters.

“There needs to be some form of traffic mitigation done, whether it is in the form of full late-night closures or east-west contraflow of traffic,’’ Daniel said.

The authority and the state’s Executive Office of Transportation, which oversees the turnpike, will coordinate their repair projects to reduce closures, said Colin Durrant, deputy director for communications and policy for the state’s Executive Office of Transportation.

There are approximately 42,630 square feet of suspended concrete ceiling slabs throughout the tunnel and an additional 13,700 square feet over an adjacent CSX rail line. The slabs are 4 inches thick.

Over the past two years, the authority has done work on the ceiling, installing additional hangers, or steel anchors, in order to avoid a ceiling collapse such as the one at the eastbound entrance to the Ted Williams Tunnel that killed a Jamaica Plain woman in 2006, and chipping out rotten or crumbling portions of slab to prevent debris from falling. The authority also put in soundproofing and fireproofing during that period.

Daniel said former governor Mitt Romney “ordered large-scale inspections after the collapse and as part of that we installed the redundant hangers as a precaution. There is no safety threat at all. It’s safer than ever, but the ceiling is on its last legs.’’

This project is expected to be the most extensive in at least 40 years. The authority has not yet released a cost estimate.