By John Lynds
It’s no secret that traffic in East Boston has gotten worse, not better as a result of MassDOT’s All Electronic Tolling (AET) program that removed the toll booths from the mouth of the Sumner Tunnel. The removal of tolls and subsequent re-configuration of the plaza has led to a traffic nightmare that MassDOT traffic engineers have tried in vain to correct for months.
Recently, an East Boston resident reported it took her nearly 45 minutes to travel from her Orient Heights residence to the Sumner Tunnel toll plaza. Many other EastBoston residents have reported late arrivals to work, being late to drop their children off to school and general frustration over trying to navigate Eastie’s streets during the morning commute.
“The traffic seems to be starting earlier and earlier,” said City Councilor Sal LaMattina. “They should be reconfiguring the plaza in the next few weeks and we’ll just have to wait and see if there is an improvement. I share my neighbor’s frustrations because I’m sitting in the same traffic every morning as everyone else.”
MassDOT spokesperson, Patrick Marvin confirmed that MassDOT crews are at work to get the new configuration up and running as soon as possible.
“Crews are continuing with roadways reconstruction operations at the entrance to the Sumner Tunnel, and expect that in the coming weeks, the traffic pattern will be adjusted so that vehicles traveling into the Sumner Tunnel will be closer to the median area meaning a straighter approach into the tunnel.” he said. “The timing of this traffic pattern adjustment will be dependent upon the progress of construction work and weather conditions.”
The reconfiguration that MassDOT thinks will solve Eastie’s traffic problems is to extended the neighborhood’s access to the tunnel from Visconti Way closer to Porter Street. MassDOT plans to eliminate the local exit onto Harve Street from Route 1A South. There will be a designated local access lane into the tunnel during most hours of the day. This will involve a system of swing gates that will shut down one lane coming from Route 1A and allow Eastie motorists to breeze into the tunnel from the far right lane.