‘This is going to have a major impact’: Boston neighborhoods brace for Sumner Tunnel construction and closures

East Boston resident Andrew Pike, a board member of the Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association, said residents in his neighborhood are worried about what awaits them when the tunnel is closed.

“Everyone absolutely dreads it,” Pike said in a phone interview. “It’s going to have a major impact on people trying to get downtown.”

The Sumner Tunnel, which opened in 1934, carries traffic in one direction under Boston Harbor, bringing vehicles from east Boston and Logan International Airport to downtown Boston. The Callahan Tunnel, which opened in 1961, carries traffic in the opposite direction, from the North End to East Boston.

In 2014, the Callahan Tunnel was closed for around 2.5 months for repairs and reopened to traffic two days ahead of schedule.

When the Sumner is closed for repairs, MassDOT officials said residents of East Boston will see “more traffic, noise and pollution,” and traffic will also increase in South Boston and along the front. of sea as drivers would detour through the Ted Williams Tunnel.

Beginning the weekend of June 10, 2022, the Sumner Tunnel will close from 10 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday for 36 weeks, excluding holidays, according to the MassDOT Sumner Tunnel website. The full shutdown begins in May 2023, when the tunnel will be closed seven days a week until September 2023. Then weekend closures will continue intermittently until February. 2024, officials said.

Pike said when the Sumner Tunnel toll booths were removed in 2017 there was a “dramatic amount of traffic” as drivers were diverted through the Ted Williams Tunnel. He said he “can only imagine” what it will be like when the Sumner is closed for several months.

“Weekend closures are one thing. When it’s completely closed for months at a stretch…I think that’s going to have a significant impact on the level of traffic trying to get through the Ted Williams Tunnel,” he said.

Pike said there were also concerns about the impact on emergency services.

“There is no real hospital on this side of the tunnel,” he said. “It will increase travel time to hospitals” in Boston.

Pike said he expects more people to take public transit during the Sumner Tunnel restoration project, which “will make for a very congested T.”

The MBTA suspended service on the Blue Line between Bowdoin and Airport stations for repairs from April 25 to May 13.

Pike said he wants the ferry service that operated during the Blue Line closure to continue while the tunnel is closed for repairs. “It’s a great alternative that has been well received,” he said.

But as things stand, there are no plans to keep the ferry in service when the Sumner Tunnel is closed.

“An alternative ferry service will continue to be provided during the [Blue Line] suspension of service, although there are currently no plans to continue ferry service beyond this,” MBTA spokeswoman Lisa Battiston said.

Detour routes will be clearly marked and information signs will be posted at intersections in East Boston to inform people of Sumner’s restoration. project and when the tunnel will be closed, officials said.

In the North End, noise and vibration will be monitored and “noise suppression devices, enclosures and barriers” will be used as needed, MassDOT officials said. The construction team will use wetting agents and secure covers on trucks to control dust, officials said.

When it opened in 1934, the Sumner Tunnel was the only tunnel that ran under the harbor and it carried traffic in both directions. It was Massachusetts’ first road tunnel and remains one of the oldest in the country, according to MassDOT.

MassDOT officials said Sumner’s restoration work will address many issues, including exposed rebar in the ceiling, crumbling concrete, rusting reinforcements, cracked wall panels, broken light fixtures and poor condition. of the pavement. Ventilation, drainage, security and fire suppression systems also need to be brought up to code, officials said.

The cost of restoring the Sumner Tunnel will be approximately $157 million, according to a MassDOT spokeswoman.

East Boston resident Neelesh Batra, who sits on the board of directors of the Gove Street Citizens Association, said he understood why work needed to be done on the Sumner Tunnel.

“I’m okay with that. I know our infrastructure is old,” Batra said.

“Complete closure is going to be a headache. But it seems reasonable and we’ll get through it.

MassDOT officials have set up a specific email address (Sumner100@dot.state.ma.us) that the public can use to submit questions, comments, and concerns about the Sumner Tunnel project.

Additional information on the Sumner Tunnel restoration work and maps of the diversion routes can be viewed on the project website at www.mass.gov/sumner-tunnel-restoration-project.


Emily Sweeney can be contacted at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney and on Instagram @emilysweeney22.