The City Council has voiced its concern with a proposal that would force trucks carrying hazardous materials to drive through Woburn on Route 128.
Now they're asking the public to do the same.
The Council voted unanimously to send a letter to the state Department of Transportation against the proposal and asked residents to also send comments before Friday's deadline.
"An increase of the trucks with haz-mat materials on them is a concern," said Alderman Richard Haggerty.
According to a July 25 release from Boston Mayor Thomas Menino's office on May 13 of this year, the city of Boston released the results of a Hazardous Transport Study conducted by a private contractor that determined that haz-mat trucks traveling through Boston at any time present an unacceptable level of risk in accordance with federal government standards. The report strongly recommends that only haz-mat vehicles with drop-off or pick-up locations within Boston should be permitted to travel through the core of the city.
“These vehicles simply do not belong on busy roadways in densely populated areas,” Menino said at the time. “The city of Boston has worked hard over the past year to implement changes to the routing of hazardous cargo through the North End and Charlestown residential neighborhoods, as well as through the Financial District."
The potential problem for Woburn and other communities is that instead of going through Boston, the majority of the hazardous material will travel down Route 128 (I-95) and pass close to residential neighborhoods in the outlying communities and sources of drinking water, said Burlington Selectman Ralph Patuto.
"This isn’t good and it’s getting put on us from Boston," said Haggerty. "It's something we shouldn’t accept."
"We all realize how powerful Boston can be," the alderman added. "But, at the same time, we have a right to stand up for our constituents' concerns."
The letter sent to the state DOT by the nine-member City Council is reprinted below:
Secretary Richard Davey
Massachusetts Department of Transportation
10 Park Plaza, Suite 3170
Boston, MA 02116
Dear Secretary Davey:
We are writing to object to the proposed re-routing of hazardous material trucking deliveries from the streets of Boston to Interstate 93 and 95 through the City of Woburn. This proposal unnecessarily expands the risk of a HAZMAT incident from a small geographic area to a large geographic area. Moreover, it places a number of communities, and especially the City of Woburn, at substantial risk of such an incident.
This objection is based solely upon public safety.
We believe it to be undeniable that requiring vehicles to traverse a larger distance will increase the possibility of an accident. This could be caused in any number of ways such as a tire blowing, reckless driving by a third party “cutting off a driver,” or driver error. Not only is an accident more likely to happen where hazardous cargo is required, but rather, it will happen. The question is only when.
There are numerous residences and business located along Interstates 93 and 95 that would be susceptible to substantial harm in the event of a HAZMAT incident. There are no walls or sound barriers to protect the public. This risk is unacceptable to the undersigned City officials who charged with the safety of this City.
Who is best equipped to deal with a HAZMAT incident? The City of Boston is the most qualified community to deal with a HAZMAT incident. As is outlined in our state delegation’s letter to you:
- The City of Boston has what is considered to have one of the best Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in the nation.
- All of Boston’s nearly 2,000 fire and EMS personnel have HAZMAT training together with a vast array of specialty equipment at their disposal.
- MassPort Fire, a department that has the largest foam capability in the state, which is vital in a HAZMAT response, is located within the borders of Boston and very near the original route along Commercial St and the altered route along Cross St. The surrounding communities have a fraction of the personnel and resources of Boston to respond to an event.
- Boston and Cambridge are the only communities that maintain their own HAZMAT response teams. All other communities are dependent on the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services Regional Hazardous Materials Team of which there are six across the state.
- Absent adverse traffic conditions, it would take a regional HAZMAT team at least sixty minutes to respond to an incident on those sections of Routes 95 and 93 being proposed by Boston as HAZMAT routes. Common sense dictates that if there were a HAZMAT incident on Routes 93 and/or 95, which are operating over designed capacity, there would be a gridlock situation that would make it near impossible for a timely response to a HAZMAT incident.
- The Department of Transportation has acknowledged that the Route 95 and 93 interchange has significant safety issues and is among the top five worst crash sites in the state. The addition of hundreds of trucks a day carrying hazardous materials poses a real and significant threat to the communities along these roadways.
At the present time HAZMAT is successfully transported on existing routes with limited, if any, incident. The transportation is conducted within easy reach of HAZMAT teams and has the added benefit of limiting the time that HAZMAT is on the public ways of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. To make a change as proposed unjustifiably expands the risk of harm to multiple communities.
We respectfully request that the proposed request be denied. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration.