DOT Officials Brief Residents on Plans when Tunnel Closes

July 10, 2013
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It’s going to be a lot harder getting back on the island come January.

At a recent community meeting at East Boston High School MassDOT officials announced that the Callahan Tunnel will be closed for three months beginning in January 2014. The tunnel’s closure will coincide with the two-year closure of the Government Center MBTA station that will begin this fall. These closures coupled with ongoing work on the Orient Heights MBTA station will make it a lot harder for Eastie commuters to get back to the neighborhood during the harsh winter months.

“It’s going to be hell,” said one resident at the meeting.

The $34.9 million project includes rehabilitation of the 52-year old tunnel’s deck, curb line, gutters and replacement of the tunnel’s wall panels.

After removing 117 wall panels from the Callahan Tunnel in December 2013 and an additional two-dozen panels from the adjoining Sumner Tunnel, MassDOT decided to remove all 2,400 panels from the Callahan.

The removal of the panels came after a 100 lb. wall panel in the tunnel fell off the wall of the tunnel and landed in the road. The panels, which date back to the 1990s, are 9 ft. by 4 ft. and replaced older panels in order to give the tunnel a better look and reflect light for improved visibility in the tunnel for motorists.

After the panel fell, MassDOT was forced to shut down the Callahan so inspectors could perform a ‘pull test’ on the panels that line the tunnel.

After the inspections it was found that 117 panels did not pass the pull test and had to be removed. MassDOT officials said the framing holding the panels in place had corroded.

“The Callahan has served motorists well since the day it opened in 1961 and was paired with the Sumner tunnel,” said MassDOT Highway Administrator Frank DePaola.  “However, every aspect of the tunnel is in fair to poor condition, and the time has come to put the Callahan in shape to last another 50 years.”

The proposed work schedule includes a full tunnel closure with detours in place and posted for approximately three months beginning in January 2014, followed by an additional 4-5 months of work requiring overnight closures between 11p.m. and 5 a.m.

At the meeting MassDOT Project Manager John Romano said the complete closure of the tunnel in the early months of 2014 will reduce the overall duration of the project, provide enhanced public safety by minimizing changes to traffic flow, and better coordinate with other local projects including Tobin Bridge work, which is scheduled to end for 2013 in November and resume in spring 2014.

He said MassDOT will use extensive public outreach prior to the tunnel closure to provide information about alternate routes and detours and during the closure implement posted detours with message boards and provide regional signs directing motorists on Route 1, Route 2, Route 3, I-95 and I-93 to use alternate routes or public transportation to access Logan Airport.

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