Sumner Tunnel changes driving East Boston nuts

State transportation officials tonight detailed their latest plans to ease the traffic woes that have beset East Boston since the Sumner Tunnel toll plaza came down in May and was replaced by a new configuration of roadways, but skeptical residents were having none of it.

At a meeting at East Boston High School, some residents even called for the return of a toll-plaza-like configuration of multiple lanes being forced to come to a near or complete stop before the tunnel entrance, because when that was in place, it wouldn't take them 45 minutes to get from one side of the narrow neighborhood to the other.

"That wasn't broke, but you 'fixed' it," one angry resident said. "Go back to the drawing board and redo it!" another said to applause from the audience of roughly 75 residents.

State transportation officials quickly rejected the idea of bringing back something like a toll plaza because the old one had the highest crash rate of any toll plaza in the state.

Instead, they detailed plans, to go into effect Sept. 5, that will give East Boston residents coming off London and Porter streets and Visconti Road dedicated access to the tunnel's right lane for 19 hours a day, including the morning rush hour, which is when residents said they find themselves unable to even get off their own blocks due to neighborhoodwide gridlock. Motorists coming off Rte. 1A or out of the airport will funnel into the tunnel's left lane - and will have one of the two lanes from that side blocked off to minimize the odds of them scooting over into the "neighborhood" lane.

Between 3 and 8 p.m., when 1A and airport travel hits a peak, the blocked lane will be opened, giving 1A traffic a bit more capacity but also forcing East Boston residents to have to merge into traffic.

State officials allowed as how the initial traffic configuration in May caused backups and that they had to go into overdrive to work with traffic engineers and local residents to come up with the new plan.

But residents openly snorted and laughed when MassDOT project manager Andrew Paul said the current configuration means traffic is now flowing nearly as smoothly as it did a year ago. Two residents said they'd make him coffee - one said she'd throw in breakfast - if he'd agree to stand in front of their houses in the morning rush hour and see just how smooth the traffic really isn't. Others accused the state of fixating so much on the tunnel "portal" that officials were ignoring the tie ups in the surrounding streets.

"We are miserable with the traffic, and quality of life has to be a metric," resident Jesse Kahn said.

One by one, residents recited a litany of complaints they say the new alignment has caused, partly, they say, because local residents have a harder time getting to the tunnel, partly because North Shore commuters are now getting off 1A at Day Square because they, too are being jammed up and trying to get to the tunnel on local roads such as Bennington Street.

"No matter which street I take, I'm stuck," a Saratoga Street resident said.

Another resident, a teacher, said that in the last two months of the school year, she had to pay $100 a week extra because her child-care provider had to come an hour earlier so she could get to school on time.

A Webster Street resident said it has taken him 45 minutes just to get into the tunnel. "It feels like I can swim (to downtown) faster," he said.

Among the residents expressing angst was a man who knows more than most about the Sumner - John Vitagliano, who oversaw the operation of the Sumner and Callahan tunnels for five years and who served as transportation commissioner under Mayor White.

The "incredible increase" in traffic on local roads "is completely unacceptable," Vitagliano said.

Other residents wanted to know whether MassDOT could somehow detour North Shore commuters to the Ted Williams Tunnel or 93 or 16, or block 1A motorists from getting off at the exit towards Central Sqaure.

One resident, who lives near the tunnel entrance, had a non-congestion complaint: The new height-warning alarms the state installed to keep the drivers of trucks too tall for the tunnel from smashing into it now frequently go off for no reason - and none of the workers on site ever come out to check when the alarms go off - she said.

Another accused the state of contributing to blight in the area by not cleaning up their "craphole of a project," one he said is now full of weeds and trash - including a prominent diaper that has been there going on three weeks now.

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Comments

It's almost as though Eastie

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It's almost as though Eastie residents have some reason to be tired of shouldering the entire city's transportation burdens and might have reason to mistrust state officials...

Crazy, i know!!

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Governor Baker controls

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Governor Baker controls Massdot , he is using this situation as a political tool.. Eastie residents you want this situation fixed , vote for him again.
He will be running again for the Governors seat,
He will desperately need people in this district to vote for him again, just like the days when he had a team of desperate hacks who were later rewarded With good jobs with the state along with 6 figure wages, its time to wake up Eastie residents, this is a political ploy..

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Huh?

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tired of shouldering the entire city's transportation burdens

What? You make it sound like they rerouted 93 north through both tunnels.

How in the world did you come up with this?

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Take the blue line instead.

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Take the blue line instead. It's consistently the most reliable line that the MBTA operates.

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Traffic jams on local streets

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Traffic jams on local streets still have serious negative effects on residents even if the residents don't drive.

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Do I have an alternate

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Do I have an alternate account posting my exact thoughts?

All of the snowflakes driving themselves and only themselves to a downtown office are the ones causing the issue. Should they just never do this work because they're unwilling to take what is probably the easiest MBTA commute in the city?

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Except that some of us aren't

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Except that some of us aren't just driving to work. Some people are driving to visit their families who don't live in the city or going shopping or just, I don't know...working at a place that doesn't have a t station near it.

And sometimes you need to drive to work for something AFTER it that isn't at your house or near a station.

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Why are you going through the

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Why are you going through the tunnel if they don't live in the city? Going north, west, and south of the city aren't where the problems are. I've never seen 1A North, 90 West, or 90 to 93 backed up in the AM.

And again, I am not criticizing those who have to drive because they have no other choice. I am saying those who live right next to the train, and work right next to the train are the ones causing this issue (which is a good chunk of those commuting from East Boston). Yet people like you get mad at me for calling them out, when they are causing the traffic issues because driving is their favorite, damn the consequences of their relatively selfish (and expensive) act. Get mad at them for fucking your shit up.

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So replacing a toll booth

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So replacing a toll booth with a free-flowing configuration created a major problem. Super-saturated traffic is an interesting physics problem.

Aren't there any ways to design a merge for slow but non-turbulent flow, besides a toll?

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The crux of the problem

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The crux of the problem appears to be with assigning all right-of-way to 1A traffic.

They probably should've gone with a rotary.

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All True

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And these "just take the T" folks can give those of us who need cars a stable, full-time position that takes place when the T runs and actually goes. My 3 part-time gigs all over the city plus full-time school require a car, and Eastie still (for now) is one of the most affordable neighborhoods for rent.

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Alternately

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These "I need a car" folks can accept the fact that every other driver in traffic feels the exact same way and that's how it's gonna be

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Karen outline she has 3 part

Karen outline she has 3 part time jobs to go around. Making driving the most time efficient way to get to each place (with assumption not being walking distance or maybe biking). You just told her that she should just accept it - including that a year ago this problem didn't existed. Maybe you meant in-general, but her point wasn't representative.

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So what do *you* propose?

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Anything that makes driving easier/faster/cheaper will induce more demand, resulting in more total autos and the same sucky congestion. Perhaps we should have a HOV lane that includes "works 3 part time jobs" as a potential criterion?

Unemployment rates have gotten significantly lower over the past few years, and Help Wanted signs are popping up all over the place. Certainly some of the 3-part-time-jobs people could reduce their total travel time by substituting a part-time-job closer to home or the other two, or finding a job that allows for eliminating two or more of the other jobs.

We all co-optimize our homes, jobs, and transportation options. Not just you. I'm sorry that your current outcome is crummy, and I hope that you're able to fix it. But given that you've got four things within your control (you could move, or eliminate any one of the three jobs), I don't recommend holding your breath for less congestion in Boston to solve your problems.

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Except that a year ago, Karen

Except that a year ago, Karen's commute did had less congestion. Perhaps that does not mean she expect or hope to get that life back, but the unsympathetic "suck it up" I can sense from your post doesn't help either. It reflects more of the hostility of cars rather than a willingness to search for optimization. Citing induce demand does not mean accepting the congestion for everything - especially since it not exist a year ago with only one variable we know that has changed.

Or maybe it did... but we don't know. The only factor we know between last year and this year is the toll booth are gone. Maybe the greater convenience is inducing demand - with greater level than before - level of congestion. Or maybe it is shifting congestion more to the local roads. Or the toll booths actually lead to traffic flowing faster.

But we don't know. And since we don't know, no solution or proposal is possible. We can't prescribe anything (including suck it up) if we don't know what to diagnose.

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Get mad at the people who don

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Get mad at the people who don't need a car to commute that are causing the problem (who the "take the T" people are specifically addressing).

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All the discussions and

All the discussions and complaints of the residence. Can anyone explain the cause of the increased congestion post-toll booths? Is this a case of induced demand with more people driving now the inconvenience of the toll booths are done despite the tolls remains? Did the toll booths had some kind of effect in the geometry of backs up that now its absence leads to more spilling into side streets? Could it just be a coincidence and traffic volumes was growing anyways? Or is traffic just flowing slower without booths like some kind of car version of how people actually exit faster when there's actually a column to go around in front of a door? Despite MassDOT claims to the contrary of traffic flow.

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The problem is that the

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The problem is that the tunnel has two lanes, and DOT gave right of way for both lanes to Route 1A traffic. Traffic entering from EB must merge into the 1A traffic which is moving at speed and not eager to yield.

With the tollbooths, cars approaching from every direction had to stop and negotiate right of way with each other.

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what is the actual problem

That's where my thinking was going. The synopsis just complained about the local traffic, but no details on what is happening. Are the 1A people blazing through so fast the local traffic can't merge in edgewise? Satellite view still has the tollbooths, but is the problem exacerbated by the fact that you have 4 local streets all funneling into the tunnel? (Are East Bostonians fighting themselves, never mind 1A, to get into the sumner?)

I'm also as surprised as others here to see that many people from EB are tunneling into the city - does the DOT have/provide stats on tunnel use? (1A cars/h and EB cars/h)

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The toll booth essentially

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The toll booth essentially metered the traffic entering the tunnel itself, but not really enough to actually make a difference (given how high a percentage of drivers use E-ZPass).

It'd be interesting to see some actual before-and-after numbers. I doubt volume has actually grown.

I could definitely see funneling all traffic coming from 1A down into 1 lane causing significant backups, though that is the most practical way to ensure vehicles entering from Maverick Square actually have access to the tunnel.

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So, once this new lane configuration

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is in place, how long will it be before people in East Boston start complaining about all the cut through traffic from Route 1A (which will now be backed up beyond Bell Circle) looking to take advantage of their special direct access lane.

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