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The Sensible Traveler

Extension puts Logan in their reach

Trip to Logan improves, for some

Email|Print| Text size + By Bruce Mohl
Globe Staff / July 26, 2003

Travelers who once shunned Logan International Airport because it was so hard to get to are coming back. Until the Interstate 90 extension (the Massachusetts Turnpike connector) opened in January, Ken Schulman of Newton would drive all the way to T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, R.I., rather than accept what he called "the unknown challenges" of getting to and from Logan, especially during rush hour.

"I have done an about-face since the opening of the tunnel," Schulman said. "With some exceptions, my travel time to and from Logan has diminished and is much more predictable. Even the air fares -- except for Southwest, of course -- seem to be more comparable, sometimes less than Green."

Many travelers, mostly from the western suburbs but also from the south, have reached the same conclusion. In response to a Globe request for opinions about access to Logan, nearly 20 travelers said they no longer have to leave as early for the airport and have far more confidence about getting there in a reasonable amount of time.

Frequent flier Jay S. Rein of Holliston said he regularly used to travel to Green, even though it was about 11 miles farther from home than Logan. He said a trip to Logan often took longer than an hour, with sometimes 20 minutes spent getting from the Mass. Pike onto the expressway headed north and then into the Callahan Tunnel. Today, it takes him 45 minutes, even during rush hour.

"Today, if price is equal between Providence and Boston, I select Boston due to the convenience of the Big Dig improvements," Rein said.

Angela Demake of Worcester, who also previously opted for Green, said the Big Dig has made her a fan of Logan again. "Not having to negotiate the expressway is a godsend," she said. "The opening of the connector/tunnel has made a previously horrible east-west ride much less of an issue."

The Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates buses to the airport from Braintree, Framingham, and Woburn, said the I-90 connector to the airport and improved access to that connector from the south have cut travel times considerably.

Massport spokesman Phil Orlandella said the connector has cut 10 to 15 minutes off the trip from Braintree and 15 to 30 minutes from Framingham, depending on the time of day and level of traffic. He said travel time from Woburn has remained about the same, although officials at the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority say the drive from the north should go faster as the Big Dig is completed.

Sean O'Neill, a spokesman for the Turnpike, said the I-90 connector has siphoned off a lot of cars from the south that would normally be fighting their way to the Callahan Tunnel. He said further improvements should help travelers coming from Storrow Drive and from the north reach the tunnel more quickly. "We're not done yet," O'Neill said.

Scott Solombrino, president of Dav El Chauffeured Transportation Network and head of the National Limousine Association, said the existing Big Dig improvements have transformed his business.

"There's such a difference," Solombrino said. "Think back five years, coming out of Logan on a Friday afternoon. You'd spend an hour or two trying just to get to Boston. The I-90 extension is like something from heaven."

Sarah Lieberman is in total agreement. "I live in Newton and absolutely love -- and even look forward to -- driving to the airport now that the I-90 extension tunnel is complete," she said.

"It's a great situation all around," said Ellen Gitelman of Sudbury. "It saves time, gas, and nerves."

Dan Brosgol says getting from Waltham to Logan used to take him 45 minutes on a good day and up to 90 minutes on a bad one. Now he can do it in just over 20 minutes.

"It's miraculous," Brosgol said. "The only thing that is blatantly unfair is the new tolls on the Pike extension, which make a round trip from the Weston tolls to Logan and back cost $7. It's obscene and, if anything, discourages people from taking the new road."

Dan Thal of Newton said he can get to Logan in 20 minutes and only a bit more during rush hour, when most cars are trying to get on the Southeast Expressway. He calls the Big Dig a "fantastically successful project."

From the south, travelers still have to make it to exit 20, near South Bay, but from there it's clear sailing to the I-90 extension to the airport.

I tested the route several times over the last month and have found it a big improvement over driving farther into town to gain access to the Callahan Tunnel. From Neponset at 9 a.m. on a weekday morning, it took me 17 minutes to get to the American Airlines terminal. The next day, leaving from the Granite Avenue entrance to the expressway at 8:30 a.m., it took me 29 minutes. Both times there was almost no traffic once I took exit 20.

"The Big Dig improvements have definitely made travel to Logan much easier from the South Shore," said Dennis P. Johnson. "What used to be a nightmare is now a painless journey."

E. A. Ponte of Fall River said getting to the airport was a breeze, but he says the return trip wasn't as smooth. The new tunnel dumps you in South Boston with no easy access to Interstate 93 south, so the Turnpike Authority is currently recommending that travelers take the Sumner Tunnel back to Boston.

Several travelers said the reconfigured traffic patterns at Logan itself have made getting around the airport more confusing, but that problem should ease as terminals A and E are completed.

Thomas Kinton, Massport's director of aviation, said recently that reduced airport congestion is one of the reasons he thinks popular discounter JetBlue Airways will choose to come to Logan.

"The new Logan is emerging," Kinton said. "It's never been easier to get in and out of this airport, and it's only going to get easier."

But Kevin A. Dillon, director of Manchester (N.H.) Airport, said he expects the flow of travelers from Massachusetts to Manchester to continue, partly because the smaller airport is easier to navigate. It has fewer travelers, fewer hassles, and is a cheaper place to park and rent a car.

Massachusetts residents currently account for a fifth of Manchester's passengers, and Dillon expects that percentage to grow significantly in coming years.

"There's a lot more to convenience than just access. I think Manchester Airport will always be considered the more convenient facility," he said.

Buy 3, get one free

Several of the major airlines are offering frequent-flier travelers a free domestic round-trip ticket if they take three round-trip business trips by the end of September or early October.

Some critics have scoffed, but if you are flying on business already (meaning someone else is paying), it is worth pursuing.

The free fare must be used by the end of next year, requires a Saturday night stay, and has 54 blackout dates.

Bruce Mohl can be reached by e-mail at mohl@globe.com.

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