The city of Boston last night abruptly changed the route of this morning's Red Sox victory parade, creating a new leg that will take the team up the Charles River aboard duck boats and expand the viewing area to include the Esplanade and the Cambridge bank of the river.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino ordered the change after Boston police and some crowd-control specialists expressed concerns to the mayor that the original, 3-mile route on Bolyston Street could create a safety hazard for paradegoers and leave thousands without a clear vantage point to see the players.
The parade, predicted by Menino to draw as many as 3.6 million people, will still begin near Fenway Park and travel Bolyston Street past the Boston Common and continue past City Hall Plaza. Then the Boston Duck Tour boats will travel toward Storrow Drive and enter the Charles River near the Museum of Science.
The duck boats carrying the players will cruise along the Boston side of the Charles River, from Cambridge Street to the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge and then move across to travel along the Cambridge side of the river. The Charles will be closed to other boats. The parade will begin at 10 a.m., and now is set to end about 2:30 p.m, city officials estimated. The new leg adds about 4 miles to the route.
"We believe there is going to be an enormous turnout tomorrow and such a large turnout that the mayor suggested and the Sox suggested that we extend the route . . . by land and by sea," said Governor Mitt Romney, who joined Menino and Red Sox officials at a 7:30 p.m. news conference to announce the change.
Romney also announced that Storrow Drive and Longfellow Bridge would be closed, and, in hope of spreading the crowd over a larger expanse of land, the governor encouraged people to watch the parade from both sides of the Charles, much the same way people do to watch the Fourth of July fireworks. "We'll be able to take a lot of pressure off the downtown streets, where we thought there may be a bigger public safety concern," he said.
"Traffic is going to be a mess," Romney said. "It's going to be very difficult, so we want people to exercise courtesy and good judgment, because this is an enormous gathering without a lot of time to plan. There won't be all the port-a-potties and all the fencing that you normally expect of this scale," Romney said.
State public safety officials said yesterday that they will call in several platoons of National Guardsmen and State Police to patrol the route. Patrol boats will also cruise alongside the duck boats. Hundreds of additional Boston police officers have already been called in to work overtime. By late yesterday afternoon, all days off were canceled, said Police Commissioner Kathleen M. O'Toole.
Forecasters said that showers are likely this morning and in the afternoon, with highs in the mid-50s.
At last night's press conference, city and state officials sought to put the most positive face on the sudden change of plans. "We're making the rolling rally even better for fans," Menino said. "We came up with a better parade."
Menino spent much of the day in Pennsylvania, campaigning for Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry. Menino was on the phone at least five times with City Hall officials, he said. When he returned to Boston, he called a meeting with Red Sox chief excutive Larry Lucchino, state, and police officials.
By then, O'Toole, a city crowd specialist, and other officials had expressed concern that predicted 3.6-million people would never fit into the 3-mile parade route. MBTA officials also were expressing concern that the unprecedented crowd would overwhelm the subway, commuter railway, and bus lines. As concern mounted, city officials called Romney and his staff to participate in the discussions. The plan came together at about 4 p.m.
"As we were collaborating on it, we realized that the response is overwhelming," Lucchino said at the press conference. "As the mayor said earlier, the level of interest from the fans was extraordinary and if we can make this a better, safer, more interesting parade, then we wanted to do that. . . . This will give us a bigger and longer parade and a bigger and longer opportunity to say thank you to our fans."
The change was so sudden that it caught some local police agencies by surprise. By 7:30 p.m. yesterday, Massachusetts Institute of Technology police Sergeant Richard Sullivan said he thought the Red Sox parade would not pass by MIT. But half an hour later he was scrambling to confirm reports that the parade was heading his way. "I'm trying to find out where they're going, so I can adjust," he said.
Before the Red Sox won the World Series, the city had provisionally considered a route of 7 or 8 miles. But team officials urged city officials to stage a shorter parade. The team has a celebration at Fenway Park this afternoon.
But the 3-mile route drew criticism from some outside specialists yesterday.
Farouk El-Baz, who heads Boston University's Center for Remote Sensing, told the Globe that the sidewalks along Boylston Street can accommodate slightly more than a half-million people, not several million. Paul Wertheimer, a crowd-management consultant from Chicago who specializes in concert and festival safety, described the plan as "a very scary kind of situation."
Last night, Wertheimer said that adding to the parade route, and giving fans the opportunity to watch the duck boats from the parkland on either side of the Charles River, is a far safer plan. "This could have been a disastrous situation," Wertheimer said. "This is better."
Before the route was changed, city officials were estimating the cost of the parade at $750,000, most of which was overtime for city employees including police and fire personnel and Emergency Medical Services.
Private sponsors will pick up most of the cost, city officials said.
Though the crowd estimates led the city to change the route, some specialists said that crowd estimates from police departments and other government agencies are notoriously inaccurate, fueled by a statistically perilous combination of poor methodology and wishful thinking.
"It seems extraordinarily unlikely," said Arizona State University journalism professor Stephen K. Doig, who conducted detailed crowd-count analyses in South Florida as a reporter at The Miami Herald. "The 3.6 million figure is generous to a fault."
Stephen Smith, Raphael Lewis, and Maria Sacchetti of the Globe staff and Globe correspondent Heather Allen contributed to this report.