Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

October 3, 2011

Trucks! – Highlight of the Oct 3, 2011 Cambridge City Council agenda

Filed under: City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 12:05 am

Highlight of the Oct 3, 2011 City Council agenda

There is nothing especially significant on this week’s agenda and this should be a short meeting. There is one noteworthy item that could potentially impact quality of life and public safety somewhere down the road:

City Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 11-63, regarding the impact of the Batelle Study recommendation on Cambridge and Awaiting Report Item Number 11-110, regarding a report on the impact the proposed alternative route would have on Cambridge Non-Radioactive Hazardous Materials traffic.

October 3, 2011

To the Honorable, the City Council:

In response to Awaiting Report Item Number 11-63, regarding the impact of the Batelle Study recommendation on Cambridge and Awaiting Report Item Number 11-110, regarding a report on the impact the proposed alternative route would have on Cambridge Non-Radioactive Hazardous Materials traffic, please be advised of the following:

Boston is seeking MassDOT and FHWA permission to ban Hazardous Materials through trucks (the majority are gasoline, diesel and home heating oil carriers) from downtown Boston. They are proposing Rt. 128 as the alternate route. Although the alternative route is a positive, most trucks would use the City of Cambridge as their alternate route rather than Rt. 128. A copy of the City’s response in opposition to the Boston through truck ban is attached.

Very truly yours, Robert W. Healy, City Manager

September 22, 2011

Thomas F. Broderick, P.E.
Acting Chief Engineer
10 Park Plaza, Suite 4160
Boston, MA 02116

Re: Boston Non-Radioactive Hazardous Materials Routing.

Dear Mr. Broderick,

The City of Cambridge has a long history of working to protect residents in Cambridge from the adverse noise impacts of through trucks. These impacts are most adversely felt at night when residents are trying to sleep.

The City’s location is particularly challenging, situated between exit 18 on the Masspike (I-90) where HAZMAT is restricted east of that location and the fuel farms and depots in Chelsea and Revere; the City currently experiences a lot of through trucks and every street in the City has residents living along it.

In 1998 the City did a cordon count around the City including truck counts and recording the hazardous placards. At that time approximately 14,000 trucks passed through the City or about 2,450/week. This is more than twice the 1200 shipments per week that Batelle estimates are traveling through downtown Boston. This volume is likely to have grown. Of the hazardous materials carriers 90% were gasoline, fuel oil and diesel. Of the 25 locations with the highest number of hazardous carriers – 59% were gasoline predominately in trailer trucks and 32% were fuel oil/diesel predominately in single unit trucks. These are exactly the kinds of through trucks that Boston is trying to restrict. We believe that almost every truck that Boston restricts will end up going through the City of Cambridge unless the Cambridge route is also restricted.

The difficulty with Boston’s proposed restriction is that it is addressing a regional issue with only a local solution. Cambridge also experiences a high volume of cut through trucks which we have always advocated should be using I-93/I-95 rather than cutting through the City. However, unless Boston’s through truck restriction also restricts through trucks on the alternate routes through Cambridge that were studied, we cannot support Boston’s restriction.

We support their recommended alternative route of I-93/I-95. However, we do not believe the trucks will divert that far out of their way. The Batelle study showed that the Cambridge route did not meet the criteria for an acceptable alternate route. The Cambridge routes have more nighttime residents along them than any other route and are no safer than the route through Boston. The alternate route designation has no control over the route the trucks will choose and cannot prevent them from shifting their through route into Cambridge. Boston’s requested truck restriction does not offer a through truck restriction in Cambridge which is required if trucks are truly going to be diverted to I-93/I-95.

Through trucks volumes, especially the gasoline and fuel/diesel carriers are currently using both a routing through downtown Boston and a. routing through Cambridge. A restriction in Boston may improve public safety there but it will dramatically degrade public safety in the City of Cambridge.

Cambridge had the courage to provide a signed truck route through the City. We have tried to be reasonable and also protect residents from the adverse noise impact of nighttime trucks. If the Boston restriction is approved, the safety and quality of life for Cambridge residents would be sacrificed.

The Batelle study shows that alternative routes 2 and 5 through Cambridge do not meet the criteria for an acceptable and safe alternate route. The acceptable alternative route is I-93/I-95. However, nothing is offered that would restrict those trucks from using Cambridge as alternate route instead. The City of Cambridge is strongly opposed to Boston’s currently proposed restriction because a through truck restriction in downtown Boston would not divert trucks to the proposed alternate route (I-93/I-95) but would instead divert them through the City of Cambridge.

Very truly yours, Robert W. Healy, City Manager

The letter from Mr. Healy really says all that needs to be said. A hazardous materials truck ban in Boston could easily lead to Cambridge being a preferred cut-through – unless appropriate steps are taken to prevent this. One need only look to the fact that when the Prudential Center was built over the Massachusetts Turnpike Extension, such trucks were banned on that road, and Cambridge has been dealing with the consequences of their exiting at the Allston-Brighton tolls ever since. – RW


  1. This is just a test message for a different Spam filtering method, but….
    Congratulations to Councillor Davis for her invoking the name of former Mayor and City Councillor Al Vellucci as motivation for the idea of threatening to reverse the direction of River Street to send a message regarding Boston’s not-well-considered plans to direct truck traffic to Route 128 which will almost certainly lead to those trucks instead cutting through Cambridge to and from the Mass. Pike.

    I could tell ya stories about Al Vellucci…..

    Comment by Robert Winters — October 4, 2011 @ 9:55 am

  2. I prefer this new spam filtering method, although the math method was not bad.

    On a different topic, the issue that stuck out at this week’s meeting was the threat of prohibiting plastic shopping bags at Cambridge retail stores.

    Grocery stores offer a choice between paper and platic. Nearby Foodmaster gives customers a discount for bringing in a reusable bag. Cambridge store owners and their customers do well with freedom of choice.

    People can have many secondary uses for plastic bags. Sealing up daily cat litter, pooper-scooping the dogs during morning and evening walks, sealing used baby diapers, quickly removing raw chicken/meat packaging which quickly becomes extremely stinky, etc.

    If plastic bags are banned in Cambridge, some people (not sure what the percentage may be) will avoid Cambridge retailers and become loyal customers to shops in the surrounding towns.


    Comment by JChase — October 6, 2011 @ 12:46 am

  3. To Jeff – I had to change the spam filtering method because of a sudden spike in spam. I guess the bad guys find a way to get past every protocol eventually.

    I agree with you in principle about the freedom to use plastic bags or paper bags or any other kind of box or bag. The only reason I might see for considering a ban (or, better yet, an education campaign) is that a huge amount of labor is necessary at the recycling facility in Charlestown picking plastic bags out of the recycling stream. The bags that get through get caught in the machinery and the whole operation has to be regularly stopped so that the bags wrapped around the machinery can be removed.

    Comment by Robert Winters — October 6, 2011 @ 8:51 am

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