The Massachusetts transportation department announced a ban on trucks carrying hazardous materials through Boston between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m., a move that trucking interests say could worsen safety, not improve it.
The City of Boston announced a ban on trucks carrying hazardous materials through the city between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. The mayor's office is also considering a recommendation for an evening ban.
The City of Boston announced a ban on trucks carrying hazardous materials through the city between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. The mayor's office is also considering a recommendation for an evening ban.

It's not the first time Boston has banned hazmat trucks in the city. In 2006, Mayor Thomas Menino's administration halted all daytime permits for trucks passing through Boston with hazardous or flammable materials. But the federal government must approve hazmat routes, and Boston never consulted the U.S. Department of Transportation about it.

In November 2009, the FMCSA issued a pre-emption determination, which said "This de facto modification to the city's routing designation . . . serves to shift the risk associated with that transportation to neighboring jurisdictions by forcing hazardous material motor carriers to use alternative routes bypassing the city of Boston."

At that time, the city reached a deal with the Massachusetts Motor Transportation Association to encourage truckers to use Cross Street, rather than Commercial Street in the North End, according to published reports at the time the ban was lifted in May 2010.

An institute with experience in the field of hazmat transport was hired to review the ban and four more public hearings were held, according to the mayor's office.

The Massachusetts Motor Transportation Association says it found major flaws in that report.

MMTA's review, conducted by Visual Risk Technologies, a Tennessee/Washington, D.C.-based research firm contracted by MMTA, found that the Boston report did not analyze the correct hazardous materials route. Federal regulations require the current legal route to be used as the baseline for comparison.

"Implementation of the city's plan will increase the public health risk for a wider swath of Massachusetts residents, slow emergency response times, increase costs to businesses and raise the cost of oil and gas for tens of thousands of residents on the South Shore," says Anne Lynch, executive director of the MMTA.

Other problems MMTA says it found with the Boston report are as follows:

- The alternate route that Mayor Menino recommended has an accident expectancy double that of the through-route alternative.

- There is a difference in preparedness between the response capability in the City of Boston and the rest of the region. Boston-based response units can respond within five to 10 minutes, but getting an operational team on-scene in other areas can take up to 30 to 60 minutes, the report says. In locations where significant congestion might occur, the ability for adequate response to arrive on the scene of an accident would further increase these times. The 1996 Routing Guide instructs analysts to use a 10-minute response time to determine adequate emergency response coverage from adequately capable teams. Response times greater than the 10-minute window are, therefore, not meeting the defined adequacy.

- The Boston Report lacked discussion of the specific hazmat movements under consideration before the alternative selection process is described.

- The report used the argument that U.S. DOT regulations adequately protect the population and the environment, so there is no need to consider the increased environmental risk. Given the number of sensitive environmental areas on the proposed alternate route, including the Cambridge water supply, environmental risk must be determined.

- The analysis of the burden on commerce in the Boston Report is exclusively focused on the local transportation of petroleum products and particularly those that are moved in the greater Boston area. There are other product movements that should be considered as well, including long-haul shipments moving longer distances than those analyzed, specifically to communities in other areas that will be impacted by reduced product delivery and by increased cost.

According to The Boston Globe, the mayor's office said the transportation department is also considering a extending the ban through the evening.

To view the entire review, click here.