Area Officials Oppose Haz-Mat Trucking Proposal
Many against plan to truck dangerous materials through the city.
On Tuesday, officials from area communities, including Burlington, met with residents and state officials in Waltham to discuss Mayor Menino's plan to re-route trucks carrying hazardous materials out of the city and instead have them travel down Route 128.
Every attendee at the public hearing on hazardous material transport routes agreed on two conflicting facts: the trucks need a route to travel, but nobody wants that route to run through his or her town.
Exactly how to rectify those two viewpoints was the subject of the hearing held at Waltham's Arthur J. Clark Government Center on School Street on Aug. 30, where Massachusetts Department of Transportation officials heard testimony from local residents on a plan to divert hazardous material transport trucks off of Route 93, (which travels through Boston) and onto Route 95/128 (which travels through Waltham and many neighboring suburbs.)
Currently, haz-mat trucks, carrying fuel or other flammable delivering materials at coastal destinations use Route 93. Since hazardous materials are not allowed to drive through the Tip O'Neill Tunnel that diverts the highway under the city, the trucks are forced to drive through Boston’s residential streets. The idea, proposed by Boston officials, asks that any truck not making deliveries or pickups within Boston use Route 95/128 to avoid the city.
Boston officials say that the city's dense population prohibits haz-mat trucks from travelling through the city. But, officials and residents from Waltham and other towns bordering Route 95/128 complained that the proposal only solved Boston's problem by inflicting it on other towns and put their communities in danger.
Officials Oppose Plan
Waltham Mayor Jeannette McCarthy said that merely transplanting Boston's haz-mat problem to Waltham and other suburbs was wrong.
"If I were to ask federal and state officials to exclude any haz-mat from 128, I don't think the answer would be yes," she said. "The road was created for personal and commercial use."
McCarthy pointed out that Route 95/128 already has a fair amount of haz-mat trucks transporting materials through the region.
"We'll take our fair share [of haz-mat transports], but what we don't think is right is to say, 'you take it.'"
Burlington Selectman Ralph Patuto, who is the town's representative member on the Route 128 C3 Committee, also expressed opposition to the idea.
Boston's proposal suggested that since so many people live and work in Boston, routing hazmat transport through the suburbs would be safer. Patuto argued this is a fallacy, since so many people work along I-95.
Patuto pointed out that in Burlington, there are two elementary schools within 1/8 mile of the highway, and that tens of thousands of people work within close proximity to the road as well, including 20,000 people who work at the Lahey Clinic every day and the several thousand people who work and shop at the Burlington Mall on a daily basis. He also argued that since the town's water supply resides directly under the highway, it would be an added danger to have so many more haz-mat trucks running along the route.
Patuto also cited a statistic from a Metropolitan Area Planning Council study, saying that 128 was already at 130 percent of its capacity, and any new traffic would be a huge danger.
"This proposal would only exacerbate a tenuous situation," he said. "There are already too many of these trucks on 128."
Haz-Mat Trucks On City Streets
Waddick also voiced a popular concern at the hearing - that Route 95/128's regular gridlock would regularly push haz-mat vehicles onto Waltham's roads.
"What assurances would we have that haz-mat trucks won't use Waltham streets?" he asked.
Waddick and City Councilor Robert Logan both cited a Metropolitan Area Planning Council study that showed Route 95/128 was already at 130 percent of its current capacity.
"Even with its recent developments, it is far beyond its design capacity," Logan said. "I urge you not to add to the problem."
Waltham resident and firefighter Andrew Mullen pointed out that the proposal didn't take into consideration any haz-mat transports that already use Route 95/128.
"Nothing in this study addresses what kind of haz-mat is already on 128," he said. "One more tanker is an increased risk."
He also questioned how many haz-mat trucks would end up on Waltham streets.
"Will it be one, or 1,000?" he asked.