EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 20, 2013

Many commuters stymied in effort to get to work

Thousands of commuters stranded at home

By Alex Lippa and Mike LaBella, Staff writers
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Many commuters couldn’t get there from here yesterday.

Trains weren’t running, buses bypassed South Station and the MBTA suspended service while police searched the greater Boston area for the second suspect in Monday’s bombing.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and the New Hampshire Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management urged people to steer clear of Boston and surrounding communities.

Some New Hampshire residents who caught an early ride with Boston Express rode into the city, but never got off the bus.

“We started this morning running on a normal schedule,” said Ben Blunt, general manager of Boston Express. “When many of our passengers got to South Station, they immediately got right back on the bus and came back home.”

Blunt said yesterday would normally have been a busy day with the overlap of the end of the Massachusetts school vacation and the beginning of the New Hampshire school vacation.

“We are carrying some people,” Blunt said. “But not as many as we usually would have.”

Todd Pollack of Hudson and his family were among the few riders at Salem park-and-ride lot yesterday. They planned to fly to Miami last night and wanted to get to Boston Logan International Airport as quickly as possible.

“What’s happening in Boston is one of the craziest things, I’ve ever seen,” Pollack said. “We figured the sooner we got out of Boston, the better.”

Logan and Manchester-Boston Regional Airport both remained opened. But Logan was operating under heightened security and cars entering were being searched.

Tom Malafronte, spokesman for Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, said activity remained normal there.

But for some, the disruptions made it easy to get out of the city.

“I had been out of town and had just flown in this morning,” said Ed Morgan of Salem, N.H. “It ended up being a straight shot since we didn’t stop at South Station.”

C&J Bus Lines maintained its routes to Logan.

Many woke up yesterday morning and had to decide how — or if — to go to work, based on what they were hearing on the news.

“It’s pretty crazy,” said Peter Langlois of Derry, who works as an assistant administrator for a financial services firm in Medford. “We’re definitely monitoring it.”

Langlois said 13 of his company’s locations were closed and two people from his 10-person office were absent.

Despite the travel warnings, Langlois said, it was a surprisingly tough commute.

“It was heavier than (Thursday) for whatever reason.” he said.

Ross Webber of Derry works at Sovereign Bank in Boston. He was planning to take Boston Express into the city.

“Every morning this week, I’ve checked to see if there’s been something new, and there was obviously something new today,” he said. “When I learned (Boston Express) wouldn’t be stopping downtown, I just decided it would be better just to work at home,”

The New Hampshire Department of Transportation displayed a message to “Avoid Boston area” on Interstate 93 south yesterday.

Amtrak suspended service bwteen Providence, R.I., and Boston and halted the Downeaster in Exeter yesterday.

Haverhill’s two train stations, usually bustling during the morning and afternoon commutes, were empty yesterday. The same was true at other Merrimack Valley stops along the train line.

The Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority was operating regular bus service.

The parking lot at the train station at Railroad Square, normally filled with vehicles left by commuter rail passengers, was empty throughout the morning, as was the lot at the train station on Railroad Avenue in Bradford.

About 11 a.m., several commuter trains idled at the Bradford station.

The word spread quickly.

“It was on television and radio stations and the Internet and I think people were aware of what was going on,” Haverhill Deputy police Chief Donald Thompson.