Callahan Tunnel on track to reopen by March 12 deadline

The closure of the Callahan Tunnel is on schedule to finish by its March 12 end date — or perhaps even earlier, Highway Administrator Frank DePaola announced at a media tour of the construction site this afternoon.

Since before the tunnel was closed on Dec. 27 to rebuild its flooring, DePaola has expressed confidence that the project would conclude on time. Now, he says, the prospect that the construction crew will meet their deadline has grown into a certainty.

“It’s definitely a sure thing,” said DePaola.

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By next week, he said, officials will know if the tunnel will reopen to traffic March 12, or sometime in the preceding two days.

The $34.9 million project was prompted by the need to rebuild the tunnel’s concrete floors, which had deteriorated so badly that a manhole fell through the foundation of the deck into an air duct below.

Gone are the uneven flooring and the steel beams inside the tunnel that were exposed by demolition performed in early January. Now, a smooth blanket of light gray concrete stretches from the North End to East Boston. Soon, a layer of asphalt several inches thick will be spread atop the concrete, and after that, workers will apply a spray-on material that seals and waterproofs the asphalt.

The biggest challenge of the project was breaking apart the old concrete using high-pressure water, but DePaola said the demolition went better than expected.

“The condition of the deck was such that we weren’t sure how that would go,” DePaola said.

Some construction will continue after the tunnel reopens to traffic, part of the plan that DePaola announced last year.

Officials will close the tunnel overnight on several weekends to allow the construction team to install large wall panels onto the stainless steel clips currently bolted into the tunnel’s original siding.

Some of that work during off-peak hours will continue into the summer, DePaola said.