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All Things Travel: Inside The Callahan Tunnel Renovations

By Bob Weiss, CBSBoston.com Travel Contributor
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Callahan Tunnel during renovations. (WBZ-TV photo)

Callahan Tunnel during renovations. (WBZ-TV photo)

Bob-Weiss Bob Weiss
Bob Weiss’s All Things Travel reports can be heard weekly on WBZ...
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BOSTON (CBS) – The Boston media got its first look at the renovations in the Callahan Tunnel on Tuesday.

The tunnel is getting a complete makeover and, according to Massachusetts Department of Transportation Highway Administrator Frank DePaola, there have been no surprises in the first week of the $19 million contract.

More than 20,000 outbound vehicles use the Callahan Tunnel outbound on an average day. The major detour route is through South Boston on the Haul Road to Logan Airport.

The hope is that McCourt Construction will finish the project in early March.

On a bitterly cold day, you know you are in for a real experience as you are issued hardhat, safety glasses, security vest and ear plugs. You also sign a waiver for liability. That’s a first in covering the airport and Boston construction for more than 20 years.

Walking down into the tunnel from the North End, it is dark, dirty, dusty and very noisy. Whereas hundreds of workers were used to build the tunnel, now less than 50 work in two, twelve-hour shifts.

It will take twelve days to dig up five inches of roadway to make it ready for a resurfacing. Side panels are also being removed. Most of the new materials are being fabricated off-site and trucked into the tunnel.

The big machine pushing along is a huge compressed water machine on a truck from a company in Pennsylvania.

You have seen those compressed air power wash machines to clean decks and sidewalks. They have about 1,300 pounds of pressure. The machine inside the tunnel operates 36,000 pounds of pressure. The noise is intense.

DePaola seems to be enjoying himself answering every question.

“We’ve not had any surprises in the first few days and I hope we will finish the job a little early,” said DePaulo.

The best guess is that the tunnel will reopen about March 7, a few days ahead of schedule. There is a $71,000 a day bonus for the contractor to meet that date.

In the first couple of days, as people resume their post-holiday schedules, traffic through the Ted Williams Tunnel has gone relatively well.

The first real test of the alternate routes to Logan Airport and East Boston will come Thursday evening.

Bob Weiss reports on business travel on Mondays at 5:55 a.m. on WBZ NewsRadio 1030.

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