BY TOM DALTON
---- — North Shore commuters are bracing for the closure of the Callahan Tunnel, which shuts down tonight for repairs and is not scheduled to reopen until March.
The tunnel from downtown Boston to Logan Airport carries 30,000 vehicles a day, many headed up Route 1A to Swampscott, Marblehead, Salem and points north.
With this major transportation route scheduled to go out of service at 11 p.m., commuters have been looking for new routes and other means of transportation to and from Boston.
“There are four alternatives I have identified,” said Jim Smith, a Swampscott attorney with an office in Boston’s financial district.
After rattling off his options, Smith laid down his new golden rule of commuting. “What I intend to do is not leave here before 7 p.m. at night,” he said. “If you leave before 3 and after 7, you should be OK.”
The tunnel closure will impact commuters who don’t normally take the Callahan, clogging the Ted Williams Tunnel even more than usual at rush hour — if that’s possible — and increasing traffic on the Tobin Bridge.
“Traffic has been horrendous anyhow, and the thought of giving more of my life to sitting in my car trying to get home is nauseating,” said Beth O’Grady, a Salem resident who works in the Seaport District.
For some, the tunnel closure may mean giving up a car and seeking other means of transportation.
Michael Blier, a landscape architect from Salem with an office in Boston, said he has been taking the commuter rail recently and may make that a habit.
“...Perhaps the biggest impact for me may be simply finding a quiet spot on the train in the morning,” he wrote in an email.
The state has taken a number of steps to prepare for the closure. MassDOT has improved signal timing and established detour routes to handle the increased volume of traffic to East Boston. Message boards will carry information on detour routes.
The MBTA has added a train on the Blue Line during weekday evenings.
For more detailed information, go to www.mass.gov/massdot/callahantunnelrehab.
The state is encouraging anyone going to Logan Airport to take the Logan Express or public transportation.
The $19 million Callahan Tunnel repair includes the replacement of the deck, curbing and wall panels. The closure is scheduled from Dec. 27 to March 12.
Problems in the 52-year-old tunnel surfaced last year when a wall panel fell. Although no one was injured, all of the wall panels were removed. Follow-up inspections revealed other problems, leading to the closure.
Tom Dalton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.