The Air Quality Impacts of Road Closures Associated with the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston

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The Air Quality Impacts of Road Closures Associated with the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston

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Title: The Air Quality Impacts of Road Closures Associated with the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston
Author: Baxter, Lisa K; Clougherty, Jane E; Levy, Jonathan Ian

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Citation: Levy, Jonathan I., Lisa K. Baxter, and Jane E. Clougherty. 2006. The air quality impacts of road closures associated with the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. Environmental Health 5:16.
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Abstract: Background: The Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Boston, Massachusetts in 2004 provided an opportunity to evaluate the impacts of a localized and short-term but potentially significant change in traffic patterns on air quality, and to determine the optimal monitoring approach to address events of this nature. It was anticipated that the road closures associated with the DNC would both influence the overall air pollution level and the distribution of concentrations across the city, through shifts in traffic patterns. Methods: To capture these effects, we placed passive nitrogen dioxide badges at 40 sites around metropolitan Boston before, during, and after the DNC, with the goal of capturing the array of hypothesized impacts. In addition, we continuously measured elemental carbon at three sites, and gathered continuous air pollution data from US EPA fixed-site monitors and traffic count data from the Massachusetts Highway Department. Results: There were significant reductions in traffic volume on the highway with closures north of Boston, with relatively little change along other highways, indicating a more isolated traffic reduction rather than an across-the-board decrease. For our nitrogen dioxide samples, while there was a relatively small change in mean concentrations, there was significant heterogeneity across sites, which corresponded with our a priori classifications of road segments. The median ratio of nitrogen dioxide concentrations during the DNC relative to non-DNC sampling periods was 0.58 at sites with hypothesized traffic reductions, versus 0.88 for sites with no changes hypothesized and 1.15 for sites with hypothesized traffic increases. Continuous monitors measured slightly lower concentrations of elemental carbon and nitrogen dioxide during road closure periods at monitors proximate to closed highway segments, but not for PM2.5 or further from major highways. Conclusion: We conclude that there was a small but measurable influence of DNC-related road closures on air quality patterns in the Boston area, and that a low-cost monitoring study combining passive badges for spatial heterogeneity and continuous monitors for temporal heterogeneity can provide useful insight for community air quality assessments.
Published Version: doi:10.1186/1476-069X-5-16
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