Every morning, many people wake up to the ringing of an alarm clock, and maybe the smell of fresh coffee.
But not for the residents of Baker Street in West Roxbury. Oftentimes, their mornings are accompanied by the jostling rumble of trucks going down the street, every few minutes.
It’s something residents have noticed over the last few months, especially with so many working from home while offices remain closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve noticed over the past I would say three to six months … but maybe even a little longer than that, an increase in very large truck traffic,” Tamarra James-Todd told Boston.com in a recent phone interview. “A good number of them are dump trucks, some of them are even some of the larger 18-wheel trucks.”
It’s not unusual for trucks to go down a residential street. But, it’s the frequency that’s brought on the frustration. James-Todd said during the peak hours of the work day, there’s 20 or more trucks per hour. That’s a truck every three minutes, or less.
Neighbors are unsure of the cause, though one factor could be a newer exit off of I-95, among a few other theories.
‘The monster truck show’
James-Todd said the noise has caused her 13-year-old to become upset and anxious, while nightmares plague her 8-year-old. For James-Todd herself, working from home has become challenging. She said even the quietest room in her home is close enough to the road that the rumbling can be heard.
Her husband, Jonathan Todd, meanwhile, has abandoned the idea of working from home completely. He drives to a library, parks in its lot, and gets to work within his car.
“It’s just too much for him,” James-Todd said.
The Todds aren’t the only Baker Street residents who are frustrated by the constant rumbling.
Will Kavanaugh, his wife, Casey, and their 18-month-old daughter live near the Todds close to the corner of Baker and Lasell streets. The couple has lived there for four years, and both now work from home.
“Needless to say I wear headphones when I work,” Will Kavanaugh said, noting that Zoom, the virtual meeting program, picks up on the truck sound. “It is loud enough that when I’m on mute, and a truck goes by it thinks I’m trying to talk.”
Kavanaugh’s home office happens to be facing the street, and when a truck rumbles past, his home literally shakes.
The baby monitor is cranked up to 90 decibels since anything under that will trigger a notification brought on not by the baby, but by the trucks, he said.
Then there’s the fact that now that the weather is getting nicer, Kavanaugh said it’s impossible to comfortably keep the windows open. The central air conditioning, meanwhile, is used to compensate.
“I’m using that a heck of a lot more than I’d like to,” Kavanaugh said.
Nearby, Kostas Kofitsas said he really began to notice the trucks about a month ago, and thought it was a temporary nuisance.
“It’s gotten so bad that I dubbed it the monster truck show,” he said. “You no longer have to take a child to the arena to see this.”
Kofitsas, like his neighbors, also works from home. He also can’t open his windows due to the noise.
“I hear these trucks rumbling all the time,” he said.
Besides the noise …
Aside from the disruptive rumbling, and the screeching of truck brakes, the neighbors said they’re concerned about safety.
Catholic Memorial High School lies just down Baker Street from their homes. Little League baseball fields are nearby, according to Kofitsas.
There’s also a bridge over MBTA tracks, and James-Todd said she’s concerned it can’t handle the weight.
“We’re quite worried it will crack under the weight and frequency of those trucks,” she said.
Then there’s the pollution and environmental concerns. James-Todd happens to work for the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health as an environmental epidemiologist and has colleagues that work in noise and air pollution.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says environmental noise should be limited to 70 decibels over 24 hours. The trucks, meanwhile, have been measured to generate over 90 decibels, James-Todd said. Prolonged exposure can lead to health conditions like depression and anxiety, plus higher blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
There’s also air pollution. Sometimes the trucks idle, according to James-Todd, and at times there are three or four of them.
“The amount of air pollution, we can’t even open our windows anymore,” she said, noting that air pollution can have negative effects on health, too. “ It’s really not OK that they’re coming through a densely populated neighborhood.”
Boston City Councilor Matt O’Malley, who represents the area, said he first was made aware of the issue last Thursday. He said his initial move was to get the local district of Boston police to patrol the area and monitor the activity.
O’Malley also said he’s looking into whether heavy trucks are even allowed on Baker Street, especially near the school and over the train bridge. If trucks are prohibited, they will need to find an alternative way to get where they’re going.
Neighbors raised a few potential factors that could be causing the traffic – a new I-95 interchange or traffic to a nearby quarry. O’Malley noted, however, that the quarry has been in operation for decades. He said it could also be GPS devices telling drivers that using Baker Street is the most direct route.
O’Malley called the issue a “huge negative” for residents.
“It’s enough of a pattern to be taken seriously,” he said, noting that his office will deal with it. “We’re committed to finding an answer and finding a solution here.”
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