Tag Archives: Boston

How to drive to and from Logan without a toll

I’ll depart from my usual genre of pointless complaining to actually put up something of use. Well, at least of use to the 1% of my readers who live in Boston. (Which prompts the following Zen koan-like question: what is 1% of ten people?) So, if you don’t live here, may I suggest you read my fascinating take on Sarkozy’s fight with labor unions? Nothing entertains like dated editorials on French politics.

So, you live in Boston? You’ve probably figured out by now that the only thing Boston hates more than an outsider is an outsider in a car. There is a secret office of the mayoralty tasked solely with making life difficult for people who are visiting. They are the ones who make sure less than half the streets have signage, and of those that do, half are incorrect. They are also the creative minds behind the five-way-intersection-without-a-light. Not to mention my personal favorite: the InstaMergeâ„¢ whereby two (sometimes three) lanes suddenly turn into one. (Check out Route 2 entering Cambridge for a prime example. The first time it happened to me I thought I’d missed something. It took me three trips before I caught on that I was just no longer in civilization, and not suffering from occasional blackouts while driving.)

Boston is designed to be learned, not taught, and once the initial grieving process is completed, the truth is living here can be enjoyed as a series of small triumphs as you learn the ropes. What once held you back now holds back others, and the unintentional (or is it?) genius of Boston’s hostility to outsiders becomes apparent: the obscurity of the city is just a tax on newcomers, with the dividends going directly to the natives.

A perfect example of this is the toll tunnels and bridges to the airport. Blindly following the advice of the road signs leads one to pay about $7 in tolls when picking up a friend from Logan. However, it’s quite possible to pay nothing if you know which ones to use, though it’s hard to find them. I suspect this is not an accident. Fortunately, nobody reads this blog, so I’m not going to ruin the secret by publishing it here. (Note to my fellow Bostonians: if this blog actually starts getting more than 300 visitors per day, I promise I’ll take down this post.)

To get to Logan: This one is fairly easy and probably fairly well known. Take 93 South from any point north of Storrow Drive (or take Storrow Drive itself) and you have the option of the Callahan tunnel, which is toll-free outbound from the city to Logan. You can also access the Callahan tunnel from downdown Boston by following signs for Route 1A. Not only is this free, but it’s actually often quicker than taking the more advertized Route 90 East tunnel. If you have a GPS it will probably take this route if you ask for directions to Logan and tell it to avoid toll roads.

To get back from Logan: This is the hard one, and is best explained by a map. Here the evil Sumner tunnel and Tobin bridge duo conspire mightily against the thrifty driver. You need to drive towards Revere on Route 1A and take the first exit (it comes quickly). Take the Chelsea Street Bridge from Route 145 out of the airport. Then cut through the industrial blight and get to Route 99, where you’ll take the Malden Bridge to freedom. It’s a bit out of the way if you live in Boston, but actually quite direct if you live in Cambridge or north. I know this sounds confusing, and it’s even more so in real life, so just check the map I linked above. The best way to do this is to enter the route into your GPS ahead of time by telling it to go to the two bridges enroute to your final destination; the GPS will likely figure out the rest. (As an added bonus, you get a tour of Boston’s old working waterfront area, including the main food distribution centers and our energy infrastructure. If you’re like me, it’s fascinating to see the machinery behind the Boston economy, and it’s amazing that it it is hidden so well, so close. At some point maybe I’ll write an article with photos on all the interesting infrastructure hidden across the river in Chelsea.)

Granted, the return trip makes for about two miles of extra driving, but it’s not about the time or the measly $3.50, it’s about the moral victory. Enjoy. By the way, it’s one thing to publish this secret on the internet, but for godsakes don’t tell anybody about it.