Nearly four decades after longtime East Boston activist, the late Marty Coughlin came up with the idea for a bypass road to remove Logan Airport related traffic from residential streets, Massport joined federal, state and local officials to officially Monday open the $23.5 million road named in his honor.
“The opening of the Martin A. Coughlin Bypass Road marks a significant milestone in Massport’s commitment to minimize Logan Airport’s impact on our East Boston neighbors,” said Massport CEO Thomas Glynn. “Thousands of airport-related commercial vehicles will no longer use East Boston’s streets. Massport is proud to make Mr. Coughlin’s vision a reality for East Boston.”
The road will provide limited commercial access between Logan Airport and Chelsea Street, near the Chelsea Street Bridge. The new road is expected to improve traffic on residential streets significantly by removing commercial airport traffic from Eastie streets, and improve air quality by reducing vehicle emissions such as volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen.
“The Martin A. Coughlin Bypass Road is a great example of the quality of life improvements that can be made by thinking creatively and collaboratively about abandoned infrastructure,” said Massport Board Chairman and MassDOT Secretary & CEO Richard A. Davey. “The new roadway also complements the new Chelsea Street Bridge by allowing traffic in the area to flow more efficiently.”
In honor of Coughlin, the Eastie community organizer who was a long proponent of the idea until his untimely death, Massport named the roadway the Martin A. Coughlin Bypass Road. Coughlin died in 2000 at the age of 56.
Eastie’s former Little City Hall manager John Vitagliano resurrected Coughlin’s vision in the late 1990s. In 1996 Vitagliano was standing in the middle of the service road at Logan Airport trying to figure out a way to bring the Coughlin’s idea of alleviating the daily gridlock occurring in Day Square, especially Neptune Road, to fruition.
Vitagliano thought back to 1972 when Coughlin had the vision of diverting airport traffic consisting of cabs, buses and 18-wheel trucks on a bypass road under Day Square using the Conrail right-of-way, an old railroad route that stretched through the neighborhood.
“I was there brainstorming and thought ‘this will definitely work,” said Vitagliano. “It’s a great spot because the route would run along Route 1A, under Neptune Road and parallel to Chelsea and Bennington Street taking the traffic out of the square. It’s great because the road basically already exists.”
In the early 2000s Vitagliano began lobbying state and federal officials to get funding for the project.
Massport estimates the bypass road will reduce bus and truck traffic on Neptune Road by 64 percent and on Chelsea Street by 54 percent.
The two-lane roadway will be used by airport-related commercial traffic only and will consist of Massport shuttle buses which transport airport workers to and from a 1,500 space garage in Chelsea, taxis and MBTA buses serving Logan Airport and cargo vehicles.
“The completion of the bypass road is a fitting tribute to Marty Coughlin, who advocated so strongly for it,” said U.S. Congressman Michael E. Capuano. “I thank Massport for its work on the bypass road, which will take trucks off residential streets, improve air quality and enhance local neighborhoods. I have advocated for this project since taking office and I am happy to celebrate its completion.”
As Coughlin envisioned in the early 1970s, the road runs along an abandoned rail corridor between Frankfort Street and Lovell Street. The northern end of the bypass, which will run about one-half mile in length, will split with northbound traffic intersecting Chelsea Street via a former rail spur slightly north of Beck Street. Southbound traffic will enter the bypass roadway at Beck Street. Other local amenities include landscaping along Frankfort Street and a bicycle and pedestrian path linking the East Boston Greenway through Bremen Street Park with the Bennington Street Neptune Road area.