Massive closing of roads set for convention week
City encourages firms to give vacation time
By Anthony Flint, Globe Staff | May 21, 2004
The staggering scope of the security measures for the Democratic National Convention became clear yesterday, as state and federal authorities detailed changes that surpassed the worst fears of many residents and businesses: nearly 40 miles of major roadway closures, a vehicle-free zone around the FleetCenter, and parking bans that will extend through the Back Bay.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino formally asked employers to allow workers to take vacations during the convention, from July 26 to 29, or let them telecommute or work earlier in the morning so they can leave before the road closures start at 4 p.m. State Police said they need lighter-than-usual trafﬁc for vehicles to ﬂow smoothly through the detours and warned that they could expand the closures even farther outside the city.
Although authorities announced in March that Interstate 93, which runs directly by the FleetCenter, would be closed during the convention for security reasons, details of the transportation plan -- and the extent of the roadway closures in particular -- drew gasps, grimaces, and gallows-humor laughs as state, city, and public safety ofﬁcials spoke at a packed brieﬁng for businesses and media at the Federal Reserve bank auditorium yesterday morning.
"It's a harsh reality," said Joseph Curtatone, the mayor of Somerville, where drivers seeking alternative routes home are expected to flood streets. "We understand the security concerns, but the traffic, the congestion -- it's going to be a nightmare."
Nearly every corner of the transportation system in the city will be affected and several business executives said yesterday that they are exploring options such as flex time for employees or setting up remote work sites. Commuters, meanwhile, were left contemplating drive times that could triple or staying home. And with so many workers likely to avoid the city, the economic impact will have a ripple effect throughout the retail and service industries, from large stores to small restaurants that cater to the lunch crowd.
City officials advised restaurants to stock up on supplies to reduce the number of deliveries that need to be made. Police will be randomly stopping trucks and sport utility vehicles to inspect them for explosives. Many commuter trains will stop well outside the city, because North Station will be closed, forcing riders to transfer to buses and the subway. All high-occupancy vehicle lanes will be restricted to use by emergency and authorized vehicles only starting Friday July 23.
The easternmost end of the Charles River will be closed to all boat traffic, as well as 50 feet of Boston Harbor near the Charlestown Bridge. Also closing during the convention are the North Station commuter rail service, the North Station stop for the Orange and Green lines, and the Lovejoy Wharf water transit service. Some 200,000 vehicles travel on I-93 every weekday, 24,000 people use the commuter rail from the north, and 200 people use the water transit.
The effect of the road closures will be particularly dramatic close to the city. Route 1 southbound near Chelsea will be closed, as will the Tobin Bridge southbound, the Sumner Tunnel, Storrow Drive eastbound from Western Avenue to Leverett Circle, and Memorial Drive from the BU Bridge to the Longfellow Bridge. The McGrath-O'Brien Highway will terminate at Land Boulevard and drivers will have to turn right to go into Cambridge or left over the Gilmore Bridge into Charlestown. There will also be lane restrictions on the Massachusetts Turnpike from the Allston-Brighton tolls into Boston.
The shutdown of I-93 will extend from Route 128 in Woburn to Route 128 in Braintree. Drivers will be encouraged to use alternate routes inbound to Boston at those intersections. All local entrance ramps to I-93 north from Braintree to Boston will be closed, and all local entrance ramps to I-93 south from Woburn to Boston will be closed.
Any northbound drivers on the interstate who ignore signs to seek alternate routes between approximately 4 p.m. and midnight on the four nights of the convention will be diverted at Exit 20 for Frontage Road, where they can head west on the Massachusetts Turnpike, take the Ted Williams Tunnel, or continue into Boston at the South Station area via Atlantic Avenue. Southbound drivers on I-93 will be diverted at Exit 32 for Route 60 in Medford, where they can travel east to Route 1-A and the Ted Williams Tunnel, or pick up Route 28 and Route 16 and use local routes to get to Boston.
At the briefing, State Police Major Michael Mucci strongly advised drivers to use Route 128 and avoid central Boston altogether. "If you're going from Reading to Marshfield, use Route 128," he said "Circumvent the city if at all possible."
In Boston proper, Boston Police Superintendent Robert Dunford said at the briefing, nonemergency vehicles would be banned from the Bulfinch Triangle district, the city blocks bounded by Merrimac, Causeway, and North Washington streets. Causeway Street will be closed to all vehicles. Delivery trucks will have to park outside that triangle and drivers will have to walk or wheel goods and packages into businesses before noon. They will not be permitted in after noon during convention week.
No parking or stopping will be allowed on a stretch of Beacon Street between Charles and Arlington streets, on Boylston Street from Massachusetts Avenue to Arlington Street, on Massachusetts Avenue in the area of Boylston Street. That is to keep traffic flowing on those thoroughfares, especially shuttle buses taking delegates from the Back Bay hotels to the FleetCenter, Dunford said.
Convention organizer Julie Burns said an intensive public awareness campaign would continue through the 67 days remaining until the start of the event, labeled "Let's Work Around It," encouraging people and businesses to adjust their travel plans. She said updated information on roads and transit would be available at the website www.boston04.com and by calling the SmarTraveler traffic monitoring company at 617-374-1234.
"What is about to happen in Boston is the continuation of the democratic process and the American way, at a time when the country is at war," said Scott Sheafe, special agent for the United States Secret Service, which led the planning in coordination with the city of Boston, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority police, the Boston Police Department, the Massachusetts State Police, the Executive Office of Transportation and Construction, and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.
Anthony Flint can be reached at [email protected]. [IMAGE]
© Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company