Saturday, May 25, 2024

An 18-wheeler waits on Memorial Drive in April 2009 after missing a turnoff and running into a low pedestrian bridge by the Boston University Bridge by Trader Joe’s and Microcenter in Cambridge. (Photo: Chris Devers)

Boston’s restrictions on trucks carrying hazardous materials are just going to send more trucks with hazardous materials through Cambridge, city officials said Monday.

They vowed to push back.

While Boston’s proposed ban suggests truckers use Route 128, it doesn’t prevent them from using more efficient and less costly routes through Cambridge instead, adding traffic risks to pedestrians, noise to the streets outside the homes of sleeping citizens and potential crashes or spills of materials such as gasoline, diesel and home heating oil, according to City Manager Robert W. Healy, in a response to concerns expressed by vice mayor Henrietta Davis.

“Trucks already form a hardship at the current level,” Davis said during the regular City Council meeting. “We need to figure out what we can do.”

The period for comment on the changes has passed, but Cambridge has a Sept. 22 letter of opposition on file pointing out a study showing 2,450 trucks a week thundering through the city in 1998, “more than twice the 1,200 shipments per week [estimated as] traveling through Downtown Boston, [including] exactly the kind of through trucks Boston is trying to restrict.”

The city tried to ban weekend trucking on River Street during the 1980s and was overruled by the state, Deputy City Manager Richard Rossi told the council. That led to an effort to instead check trucks for everything from their weight and size to proper registration, hoping the enforcement would be burdensome enough to force truckers to use interstates 93 and 95 instead of city routes. Results were not as good as hoped.

“We battled with truck traffic without being able to stop it,” Rossi said.

The city managers’ office will consult with the Law Department on options if Boston gets permission from the state’s Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration to institute its ban on trucks carrying nonradioactive hazardous material, Rossi said.

Davis had a suggestion on how to force trucks to Route 128 and the interstates.

“Do we have control over River Street? Maybe now’s the time to turn the street into the other direction,” she told Rossi. “You may think I’m joking about changing the direction of the street. I’m not. What are our powers?”

“We have to fight back,” Davis said.