Tunnel of Delays


1194275220This summer, the Department of Conservation and Recreation announced plans to repair a tunnel on Storrow Drive. The 50-year-old structure is leaking, has corroded beams, and its concrete is falling onto the road below. After fighting Back Bay residents over the plans, the DCR has delayed the tunnel repair project indefinitely.

Why the holdup? It depends who you ask.

Richard K. Sullivan Jr., commissioner of conservation and recreation, acknowledged in a telephone interview yesterday that his agency had missed a self-imposed Oct. 1 deadline to file what is known as a Draft Environmental Impact Report with the state. The report is a first step toward designing the reconstruction, and the project cannot go forward until the plan is submitted and reviewed.

“I’ve said before that I wasn’t going to rush to a date to file a DEIR until we had as much information as we could have and we could gather public input,” Sullivan said yesterday.

“It’s unclear to me why we’re going to spend millions of dollars in temporary repairs,” [Representative Martha] Walz said. “A long delay just increases the safety risk, increases the need for temporary work, and just delays a decision.”

Could it be because Back Bay residents complained about every plan the DCR had to reroute the 100,000 cars that use Storrow Drive every day?

Their resistance certainly played a part in the decision.

. . . [Sullivan] also suggested that intense public protest over the rebuilding plans has contributed to the delay.

We love the Esplanade. But we also enjoy driving on safe roadways. Unless somebody has a way to make 100,000 cars stop using a major roadway, Back Bay residents are going to have to sacrifice something in the name of public safety. It’s time for them to unchain themselves from the trees and see the greater good that will be done by fixing Storrow Drive’s infrastructure.