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Callahan Tunnel Closure 2014

The Callahan Tunnel, a critical piece of infrastructure connecting the expressway and downtown Boston to East Boston and Logan Airport, will close to all traffic beginning December 27, 2013 and will not reopen until March 12th. The closure is a necessary measure to permit the refurbishment of the deck, curb and the inner walls of the 52 year old tunnel which is one of only two highway connectors to the airport and the only connector with full ramp access from I-93 and Route 1 headed south into Boston. The other tunnel of course is the much newer Ted Williams tunnel which has no direct ramp access coming from the north, only from the south.

Construction Timing and Planning

Like the I-93 Fast 14 project, the Callahan project has written into the contract incentives for the project to be finished early (and disincentives for finishing the project late). The I-93 fast fourteen project was considered a success, replacing 14 major overpasses north of the city in record time. No doubt that the Big Dig fiasco that now sits in the books as one of the longest and most over budget public works projects in the history of the United States has put some pressure on the Mass DOT to do a better job of planning reconstruction. And we are cautiously optimistic that lessons have been learned and that good leadership and innovative programs will both accelerate the project, minimize budget overages and still maintain the integrity of the work. A good overview of the tunnel project can be found here at the Mass DOT website.

Traffic Impact During the Closure of the Callahan Tunnel

Thanks to the newer Ted Williams tunnel connecting points south from I-93 directly to East Boston, traffic coming north on the expressway will not really have to do anything differently. However, the expressway between the Ted Williams and the Braintree split is already known to be an insufficient piece of infrastructure plagued at all hours of the day with snarls of traffic. And while this traffic may not necessarily increase due to the construction, the impact of traffic coming from the south to loop around at Frontage Rd is likely to create a nightmare bottleneck at Exit 18. So, the question is, will the Mass DOT take steps in anticipation of that extra volume or just simply let it all pile up?

And for traffic coming in from the north, which does most definitely rely on the Callahan Tunnel as it's direct route to the airport, getting off at Route 16 and sitting on Route 1 is going to be no picnic. Commuters in Revere should expect that portion of Route 1 towards the airport to become a parking lot at many hours of the day.

Commuters from the tony W towns and other points west will see no change. The Ted Williams tunnel will be a bit more crowded but really it won't be much different for them during this project. And thus the reality will be that if you can get to the airport via the Mass Pike, and many do, that this will remain a good bet with only city traffic at rush hour being your issue. However remember that the Mass Turnpike has no eastbound entrance between the Allston/Cambridge tolls and the expressway. And that means that the entire Back Bay, Copley and Fenway areas really have no particularly good way to get to the TW tunnel.

Public Transportation

The MBTA and the water shuttle are still good alternatives to driving to the airport. For those coming from the city areas this will be your method of choice, especially if it wasn't before. But those using Logan Express from Woburn and Peabody, will get no respite from the traffic snarls as both of those services need to come in from the north.

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