Callahan Tunnel to close after panel falls
BOSTON (WHDH) -- The Callahan Tunnel will be temporarily closed in the midst of the holiday rush due to a metal panel that fell in the tunnel Friday night.
“We apologize for the inconvenience for people that will be traveling to the airport or the east Boston area," said Frank Depaolo, MA Dept. of Transportation.
The panels that line the walls are about four feet wide and nine feet high. They’re largely decorative but with age they’re becoming dangerous. The Department of Transportation said all of them need to come down, but that won’t happen as soon as people would like.
“We'll physically yank on every panel. But after we do that, we’ll step up our inspections,” said Depaolo.
The Callahan Tunnel will be shut down from 9 p.m. Sunday until 5 a.m. Monday. More than 20 workers looking for signs of trouble will inspect more than 2,800 sheet metal panels.
“I never think of not being safe and that's very frightening,” said a resident.
The Department of Transportation said rotting supports behind one panel caused it to come crashing down Friday night. It landed in the left lane but no one was hurt.
“It wouldn't have caused significant damage to a car but something that large would have distracted a driver and likely led to an automobile accident, which we don’t want to have either,” said Depaolo.
The Callahan Tunnel was built in the 1950s. The metal panels have been in place for more than 20 years. The DOT said it's time for a total tunnel overhaul, but that isn't scheduled to start until 2014.
“We have to make sure we're not working on all roadways at all times and end up making it so there’s no mobility around the city,” said Depaolo.
Holiday travelers now have to think ahead with crews scheduled to work inside the tunnel Sunday night. After that, the DOT said it'll do more frequent inspections to stay ahead of problems with aging panels.
The DOT inspects most tunnels once a year, but due to recurring problems with the panels, the Callahan Tunnel is inspected about four times a year.