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Boston hazardous materials proposal could be worse for some communities than others

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  November 18, 2011 07:25 AM

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Gasoline truckers say the price of gasoline in seven communities south of Boston would be increased by the city's plan to redirect some trucks carrying hazardous materials onto Route 128.

The proposal would redirect tankers carrying oil, propane, and gasoline to surrounding routes and highway rather than have the trucks go though the densely populated city of Boston, where officials say the consequences of a spill could be disastrous.

According to oil company executive Ed Rachins, gasoline stations in Quincy, Braintree, Weymouth, Hingham, Hull, Randolph, and Milton would feel the most impact from the proposal.

Currently, tankers are only allowed to traverse the 1.4 miles of the city – a 10-minute drive with six traffic lights - during nighttime hours to get to these seven towns, Rachins said. Otherwise, unless a tanker is making a delivery or conducting a pickup in Boston, the tanks must go around.

By making truckers unable to go through Boston at all, except to make deliveries to the city, the consequences for these towns could be significant.

“It puts you on 128 having to go all the way around, and that’s where you’ll hear the discussion coming. We need more trucks, cuts productivity by 50 percent, we’ll need more drivers -- that’s what the argument is. It’s a 10 minute trip and it’s making it an hour to two hours or more,” Rachins said.

According to Rachins, freight on gasoline deliveries is usually charged by the gallon. The proposal would add 56 miles to the delivery route.

“Speaking only for us, we think that cost is going to net out to between 3 to 5 cents per gallon additional cost for a delivery to the South Shore – [though] we have not finalized this and are waiting for a final regulation,” said Rachins, who is president of Mutual Oil Co. and chairman of the Independent Oil Marketers Association (IOMA).

Truckers are also concerned about the cascading consequence of policy: If Boston mandates no trucks through the city, so will Cambridge and Quincy.

“At some point, if you can't get there from here, then it will be a big problem,” he said.

State representatives outlined this and other concerns recently in their opposition of the plan. Representatives Tackey Chan of Quincy and Mark Cusack of Braintree cited safety concerns of the surrounding communities, the ability to respond to spills, and rush hour concerns.

“There are a host of issues,” Cusack said. ““The state shouldn’t be…placing one community’s safety above another’s.”

The proposal is before the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. If the department recommends the plan, it would go to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, who is the final authority on prohibiting routes and changing vehicular traffic.

Despite the concerns, Tom Tinlin, the commissioner for Boston Transportation Department, has maintained it would be the best for the city.

He said it would eliminate the very severe risk of a spill in Boston – something that could have far-reaching consequences for the thousands that work and live in the city – and that only a small percentage of trucks would be affected by this - those going through the city at night. The majority of trucks already take Route 128 route.

Rachins scoffed at the thought that not many people would be affected.

“If I have to change my rates, then okay. But the people on the front lines are the people who get yelled at for higher gas prices -- the people at the gas station,” he said. “It depends if you live [outside of Boston], and it depends if you want to pay more money.”

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