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East Boston residents grumble about Logan bypass road

Posted by  December 17, 2013 10:54 AM

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After 40 years of planning, Massport finished construction on the Martin A. Coughlin bypass road last year in the hopes of relieving East Boston of airport traffic. But despite the bypass’ $23 million price tag, residents say it hasn’t lived up to its promise.

Residents complain that empty taxis continue to roam local streets, blocking roads, honking horns and sometimes illegally charging residents extra fees for using their services.

This has become a recurring problem for Marley Carmona, 46, who works at La Sultana Bakery, often through the night. After baking until the early morning, Carmona returns home to get some rest. eastie1.JPG

“I live on one of the main streets, Chelsea Street, and my bedroom window faces it. The taxis make so much – too much – noise. It’s awful.”

But Massport CEO Thomas Glynn defended the new roadway and its impact. In a prepared statement, he called the bypass road “a significant milestone in Massport’s commitment to minimize Logan Airport’s impact on our East Boston neighbors.” The road, which runs half-mile along an unused railroad corridor between Lovell and Frankfort Street, is reserved for commercial vehicles only. These include MBTA buses, employee shuttles and taxis.

While residents were relieved to see it open last November, cab drivers have been wary of the new costs to them. A toll fee of $5.25 must be paid every time a commercial vehicle returns to Boston from Logan Airport via the bypass road.

To avoid the toll, many cab drivers have reportedly been turning to alternate routes, such as Meridian and Chelsea, then Route 99 back into Boston. Meanwhile, some taxis have used alternate routes, but still charge their patrons for the toll, violating Appendix IV of the Hackney Meter Rates code, according to the Boston Police Department Hackney Carriage Rules and Flat Rate Handbook

“The more and more they raise the tolls, the more and more cabbies and other motorists are going to find ways to beat the system,” City Councilor Sal LaMattina said in an interview with the East Boston Times. “It’s always Eastie and our residents that have to suffer the additional traffic and pollution. Something needs to be done about this.”

But while Massport can mandate that its own employees use the bypass road, it has no control over non-Massport vehicles. So despite being a nuisance to East Boston residents, unofficial taxis aren’t breaking any laws.

Houer Osorio, 36, a cashier at Bella’s Market in Maverick, said registered taxi drivers aren’t the only ones taking advantage of the alternate routes. He says residents prefer to use “ghost taxis,” or unmarked vehicles, because they don’t charge the additional $5.25 that official taxis do.

“They don’t have the official taxi sign, so they don’t have to pay any toll,” he said. “It costs less, but it’s not legal. The community is using them because they’re more economical.”

Carmona agreed that the accessibility of “ghost taxis” isn’t helping the neighborhood.

“They are the ones who most damage our streets because they’re the ones that work until dawn, and they make more noise,” she said. “More than anything they don’t pay for parking, they don’t pay taxes, nothing. That’s the problem.”

This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and Emerson College.

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