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Route 128 group slams hazmat truck diversion plan

Posted by Leslie Anderson  June 23, 2011 12:18 PM

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The prospect of hundreds of trucks carrying hazardous materials being diverted from the streets of Boston onto Route 128 has raised the hackles of a prominent highway advocacy group.

In a letter this week to Secretary of Transportation Jeffrey B. Mullan, the 128 Central Corridor Coalition cites the potential for increased risk of accidents on an already traffic clogged highway should the hazmat truck diversion win approval by the state.

The rerouting of more than 300 trucks a day carrying chemicals, gasoline and other hazardous materials “compounds an already dire situation by increasing the risk of accidents,” writes Jeanne Krieger, chair of the coalition, which is made up of selectmen from Burlington, Lexington, Weston and Waltham Mayor Jeannette McCarthy.

The coalition also raises other concerns as well.

The towns along 128 don’t have dedicated hazmat disaster teams that can respond to emergencies in a matter of minutes, as their urban counterparts do, notes Krieger, a former Lexington selectwoman.

There is also the threat that a hazmat spill along 128 could contaminate the area’s water supplies as well. Water supplies for Cambridge, Burlington, Weston and others all are within the half mile from the highway.

The coalition’s letter comes in response to a new study commissioned by Boston officials that recommends barring trucks that carry gas, chemicals, and other hazardous materials from cutting through city streets to Interstate 93. Instead, the plan would send the trucks on a wide swing south along Route 128/Interstate 95, through the heart of the western suburbs.

The proposal, backed by Mayor Thomas M. Menino, has won accolades in Boston, where the new restriction would divert an average of 317 big trucks every weekday from city streets after they pick up loads at a depot in Everett.

The coalition’s letter was also addressed to Pamela Stephenson, chief administrator of the Federal Highway Administration.

Scott Van Voorhis can be reached at sbvanvoorhis@hotmail.com.

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