I’ve heard from many constituents asking questions about the plans for the Storrow Drive Tunnel — the long underpass after the Arlington Street Exit from Storrow eastbound.
It is well known that the tunnel is near the end of its useful life. About ten years ago, repairs were made that extend its life, but it is expected that soon the tunnel will begin to require heavy maintenance and ultimately, replacement.
Representative Livingstone, Senator Boncore, Senator DiDomenico and I recently convened a meeting to check on the status of plans for the tunnel. Commissioner Roy of the Department of Conservation and Recreation and Administrator Gulliver, Highway Administrator for MassDOT participated. The meeting included representatives of the South End, the Beacon Hill Civic Association, the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay and the Esplanade Association.
Here are some of the takeaways from the meeting:
- The tunnel is safe — it is subject to regular inspection by engineers who are deeply familiar with its structural characteristics.
- The tunnel is approaching the point where increased maintenance is likely to required, but it is not as far along in deterioration as some other major highway structures.
- DCR and MassDOT are beginning to discuss the tunnel’s future and to develop options for replacing it.
- It is expected that those options will be sufficiently articulated to start a public discussion about them in approximately one year.
- All are concerned to manage the impact of traffic diversion during construction. This concern is heightened due to the volume of major projects in the area.
- MassDOT, in particular, recognizes the need to coordinate the construction with the major I-90 project in Allston.
- DCR and MassDOT recognize the enormous sensitivity of this project adjacent to both dense residential neighborhoods and iconic parkland. When options are ready to put on the table, they will engage in a very robust public process around the major decisions.
- It is unlikely that construction could begin on this project before 2024.
DCR owns the Storrow Drive and the Tunnel, but for a highway project of this complexity is likely to seek the leadership of MassDOT in construction. Fortunately, MassDOT’s Highway Administrator led the previous process of reconstruction of the tunnel as a DCR engineer (before transferring to MassDOT). The two agencies collaborate well and both will remain involved throughout the process.