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Boston Democrat convention poses commuter nightmare

(Reuters circulated the following story by Mark Wilkinson on April 1.)

BOSTON -- A major train station will be closed and an interstate highway through Boston's center will be shut down in the evenings during July's Democratic Convention as security fears have worsened after the Madrid bombings, officials said on Thursday.

The four-day convention, which starts on July 26, is taking place in the Fleet Center, which sits atop North Station. Boston police and the U.S. Secret Service said the station will be shut down on Friday, July 23 until the end of the convention.

Two subway lines, commuter trains to outlying towns and Amtrak passenger trains all use North Station, which serves about 24,000 commuters daily. Commuter rail passengers will be ferried into the city from other stations by bus.

Interstate 93, a major artery which runs by the Fleet Center on Boston's northern tip, will be closed to its daily 200,000 drivers in the evenings, although no firm hours have yet been set.

City officials said they are taking no chances, noting that any major national event carries has an inherent security threat. During the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics, for instance, a bomb killed one woman and injured dozens.

And fears of attacks have only grown deeper in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and the March 11 train bombings in Madrid, which killed 191 commuters and injured 1,500.

"I think the level of concern in the post 9/11 world makes the measures warranted," said Tom Tinlin, deputy commissioner of the city's transportation department, in an interview. "If Madrid has taught us anything it's that we need to do what we need to do to maintain security."

Many Boston commuters were unimpressed by the plan and some said they plan to take that week off to avoid delays and gridlocks on secondary roads into Boston.

"They (Boston officials) of course have to be prudent," said James Jay Carafano, a homeland security expert at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

"There's always going to be terrorist attacks in the United States and you're never going to stop every Timothy McVeigh," he said, referring to the man who bombed the Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people.

The Republican Party will hold its convention ahead of this year's presidential elections at New York's Madison Square Garden. That arena sits above Pennsylvania Station, one of New York's busiest commuter hubs.

Friday, April 2, 2004

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