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Sumner Tunnel approach changes have turned East Boston into a giant parking lot, state rep fumes

State Rep. Adrian Madaro (D-East Boston) is pissed off at the way his neighborhood's roads have become gridlocked after MassDOT removed the Sumner Tunnel toll plaza and modified the approaches to it a couple weeks ago.

In a letter to state Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, he writes that rather than the "safer, smoother and more efficient commute" promised by MassDOT:

The new design has created traffic backups unseen in East Boston since the pre-Ted Williams Tunnel days. In fact, the current traffic is even worse. Beyond the impact on commuters, this increase in neighborhood and tunnel traffic has dangerous implications for emergency vehicles that cannot get through the gridlock.

In the redesign, traffic impacts to the community were not fully considered. On a daily basis, residential streets in East Boston are entirely congested, including streets that never experienced traffic before. While the transition to all-electronic tolls appears to have improved traffic flow in other areas throughout the State, this particular redesign has resulted in a tremendous step backwards. Simply, East Boston residents deserve better.

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Wish that reps from Allston would be willing to speak against MassDOT's asinine comm ave bridge replacement plan in a similar manner.

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It has to get done, I am not saying their plan is better but a temporary delay is better than a collapse.

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I know why he wrote the letter but still have to ask, couldn't he have just called her?

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He can pass copies of the letter onto the press and his constitutes. The letter also gets entered into official records.

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He probably wanted to document his complaint, for the record and all that.

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From experience, Madaro in particular has no ability to communicate with higher levels of government. I have no idea if this is institutional or just his own personal ineptitude, but I get a LOT of "well, that's above my pay-grade" excuses from him and his staff, none of whom seem to understand the fundamental concept of a representative democratic republic.

I'm all out of patience for politicians of whom the best I can say sincerely is "I guess they're not intentionally evil."

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Rep. Madaro may not be the best communicator, but in this case he appears to be doing his job -- representing the people of East Boston.

He may not get any results, but at least he tried.

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I don't get the negativity of some of the commenters. He called MassDOT out on this, which is his job.

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Btw, it is "Madaro." The typo is in both the article and the tag.

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Fixed.

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DOT did not finish their Job, very poor planning, seems like they placed a band aid and left the scene..
The bumper to bumper traffic in Eastie in the mornings is worst now than it was in the 1980s!!
If this situation is not fixed before winter , then there will be problems on Easties surface streets leading to the mouth of the Sumner Tunnel, Emergency vehicles Fire trucks and ambulances will have a difficult time responding to an emergency. If a 5 alarm fire occurred on a street or streets impacted by morning traffic there could be fatal results. ( That alone should wake up the politicians and residents of Eastie)

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Iife long eastie resident, can confirm it's a $hit show. However there's literally no perfect fix, 6 lanes of roads trying to squeeze into 2. Maybe a rotary might help.

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the solution was already in place. Put up some inoperative toll booths that slow down (without stopping) and sort traffic in a way that allows the merge of many to few happen more efficiently. The obvious problem they have created here is that they have removed the ability of knowledgable drivers to cruise through the toll booths while the more clueless get baffled and clog up a lane or two. Bottom line is unless the tunnel was backed through, there was rarely a time when one couldn't come around that corner and go through an empty lane. Bottom line, this is a created problem with a known solution.....right?

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A common "flaw" with US DOT practices today is how they design lane merges. Instead of having two lanes merge symmetrically like a zipper, they paint/stripe it asymmetrically so that either left-lane-ends or right-lane-ends. This brings traffic flow to a halt as everyone negotiates lane changes instead of merging at speed.

I don't know if this is the case at the tunnel entrance but wouldn't be surprised if it is.

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doesn't work, as it is not intuitive by approaching drivers as to who is supposed to yield. A distinct left lane or right lane drop works much better in that regard.

And if you disagree with me, look at where Route 24 in Randolph begins. The inside lanes of the ramps from I-93 end in a symmetrical merge where they join the Route 24 middle lane. During rush hours, it's a huge cluster.

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Then why are zipper merges all the rage and being phased in in many states?

Drivers can figure it out pretty easily. Especially if you include even one sign instructing people to take turns merging.

It's that simple. You take turns. That's largely why they're usually superior to a lane drop. If the right lane ends, that puts the burden on everyone in the right lane to merge into the left, while giving drivers in the left lane the impression that they have right of way and that it is up to their discretion whether or not they let someone over. This leads to impatient or entitled drivers not letting others merge, which can cause accidents and worsen congestion (because that sudden braking in the right lane ripples back quite a ways). The zipper merge puts drivers in both lanes on equal footing and should lead to fewer drivers thinking they don't have to let others merge.

The merges on 24 are not at all the same thing, because they are the inside lanes, so you don't have the shoulder in case someone doesn't take turns, and visibility is not great since they're curving together.

When it's just two lanes merging into one, visibility isn't an issue, and you usually have a shoulder to go onto if someone doesn't respect your turn.

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... for such a sensible (and fair) procedure to actually work?

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If the two lanes of traffic kept moving and cars merged in in 1 place it would be better. I don't know what they were thinking with that light that cuts off a line of moving traffic and forces two lanes of moving traffic to merge into 1. I just hope it is fixed soon.

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...when the changes went in?

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Bring back the Toll booths but this time without the Hack toll takers , I'm glad that the state got rid of the Hack Toll takers , they made too much money all these years ballpark figure $110k a year w/overtime , wasteful tax dollars. They should clean up Massport next.

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Ballpark figure? How about some facts? How much do you make per year? Are you nose to the grindstone all day long for your pay or do you hang around the kitchen chatting up the young female interns? Maybe you should be downsized or even outsourced. Jackass.

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With all this traffic leading to the Tunnel , I say bring back the Coffee man , the one who looked like he was ready to take off to space, he sold coffee outside the Tunnel 25 years ago .

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I haven't been there since before the tollbooths were removed.

How has the removal made things worse? I don't doubt that it has, but removing the tollbooth making things that much worse seems counterintuitive. Even when the tollbooth was there you had many lanes merging into two.

So what is it about the removal that is making things so bad?

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Here's a video someone posted in one of the Eastie Facebook groups, and this doesn't even account for 1A traffic.

A few others also noted taking an hour to get from Orient Heights to the tunnel, and almost 90 mins from Winthrop, as well as 1A backing up to Bell circle in Revere.

The traffic light they put in is a huge part of the problem.

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That video shows a line of stopped traffic. But it doesn't show the cause of the stoppage at the head of the line.

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The traffic light they put in is a huge part of the problem.

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The MBTA bus toutes into Maverick have also been seriously screwed up by the traffic back up, as it can now take 20+ minnutes in the morning to travel a few bocks on Meridian street.

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Your post doesn't answer the question. We get it, there are huge traffic jams now. But why are they happening all of a sudden? I agree that it's counterintuitive - previously there was a bottleneck of tolls booths which forced drivers to slow down and merge. Those were removed, so how is it worse, what's causing the backup? Are drivers just merging randomly? Are there backups in the tunnel? Where is the new light and how does it affect the situation?

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The traffic light they put in is a huge part of the problem.

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Just messing with you.

Thanks for the video, by the way. I couldn't wrap my head around the issue until watching it.

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Traffic in East Boston approaching the Sumner Tunnel, from both the Route 1A viaduct and the surface roads, has ALWAYS been gridlocked during rush hour.

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I know you know your stuff in this area, but having commuted through the tunnel from Eagle Hill (where I could also see all of 1A from the cross to the Airport from my old place) and then Jeffries Point everyday for 2 years while GC was closed, I can tell you that what's happening now is on an entirely new level, and a legit problem.

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Is there a before/after diagram of what changed so people who don't deal with this on a daily basis can understand?

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they added a traffic light for those not entering the tunnel and choked off the right hand lanes from being able to merge into the tunnel lanes. if you're trying to go to the tunnel from santarpios it'll be a hard time getting over. encountered this for the first time this past sunday, it was a nightmare (the increased traffic)

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We went from having 3 lanes coming off of rte 1 (having easy access to 4 lanes of the toll-booths), and 2 lanes from Eastie using the right-most 2 toll lanes, then zippering into 2 lanes through the tunnel. On an average morning for the past 3 years, my commute took me all of 15 minutes to navigate that "nightmare".

Since the removal of the toll-booths, it takes me on average 50 minutes to traverse through Eastie into the Tunnel...Meridian became a parking lot. try a side street that has always been low-volume, they're packed. Sure, rte 1 may have a smoother transition, but the way out of Eastie into the Sumner doesn't get a pass at all. I have sat there literally for 10 minutes before 1 car could squeeze in.

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It must be bad, considering 1 doesn't go to the Sumner.

One lane comes from the 1A split with airport/90 WB and two lanes out of the airport - that's the three lanes

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My bad. Forgot the A after the 1. either way, it's become a nightmare. =)

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All of Boston and surrounding neighborhoods is gridlocked. We're like NYC without the 24-hour buzz.

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If only there were some other mode of transportation that could get these drivers downtown without going through this tunnel.

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People complaining about ambulances getting stuck in traffic...but they are the ones in cars creating the traffic that are slowing down ambulances. If they cared about ambulances so much they'd take public transit and stop clogging up the streets.

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People are allowed to complain about ambulances even if they don't own a car.

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I'm as big a transit advocate as you'll find, but not everyone commuting through the tunnels is heading into downtown. I personally commute from Eastie to Waltham everyday.

But yeah, for real, if you work downtown take the T.

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You can easily take the T to Waltham, commuter rail or express bus. I once reverse commuted to Framingham, quite pleasant with no crowds.

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How often do you commute on the Blue Line?

It's great if you live and work within walking distance of stations. But once you start adding in transfers to other subway lines and infrequent, slow buses, your commute time goes through the roof.

Criticizing people for driving when it saves them hours per day does not solve the problem. Improving the transit does.

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I used to use it every day for 4 years. Never had a problem save for some snow-related issues in 2015 that were kind of a black swan level event. Most of the people complaining (at least on the East Boston Facebook group) live within a 10 minute walk of a Blue Line stop, and I'd guess 75% of the jobs in the city are off a line with just one transfer (Orange and Green), or two (Red).

One of my favorite things is people complaining about potentially having to take the train, and having to pay for their insurance, excise tax, etc., while also having to get a T pass. You know, that reasonably cheap thing that will save you hundreds a month on gas, parking, and time spent in traffic. It's tough to have empathy when the "issue" is that a single person with a five+ seat automobile is complaining that it's taking longer to commute, when *THEY* are a big part of the reason traffic sucks.

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Took me 90 minutes to commute from Charlestown to Eastie the other day using only public transit. I can drive it in 20 minutes most days.

While it was frustrating, I don't have any kids or other things that I needed to get to and from. You can't just assume that everyone in that FB group have the ability to deal with the weird whims of public transit and sometimes need to drive to certain things.

It is also a problem with cars spilling into more neighborhood type streets and potentially causing issues of accidents or people getting hit on them. The streets are fairly small in some of these places and we already deal with trucks making stupid turns sometimes which brings traffic to a standstill.

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To be honest, East Boston to Charlestown is better driving, but that's because the public transport to Charlestown blows, particularly to the Navy Yard area (though there are shuttles from North Station that alleviate that a bit). However, I was referring specifically to workers downtown. I know quite a few that work near the four Boston proper-side Blue line stops, and still drive (and complain about the traffic). There are very few areas of EB that are more than a 30 minute commute to these points, walking included. There are people for whom, logistically, driving makes sense, but for a lot it's a selfish thing where they need their personal space and personal chariot whisking them to work each morning, and these non-carpoolers are who are exacerbating the issue, and generally complaining the loudest.

You live in East Boston, not Newton, so I'm not sure why taking the T with the unwashed masses is so beneath you.

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A traffic jam is far worse for bus service than it is for people in cars. When you get stuck in 20 minutes of traffic in your car, you're 20 minutes late. When a bus gets stuck in a 20 minute jam, not only is everyone on that bus late, but the bus is off schedule for the rest of the day.

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What makes you think even 2% of these people's final destination is Downtown Boston?

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I take public transit to get to work, but if I'm going North, then the tunnel is the easiest way to get that way. Not everyone is going downtown, either. Some are working in Medford or Somerville or heading towards another highway north.

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"Simply, East Boston residents deserve better." says the State Rep. But are they willing to pay for it? With the resident discounted toll rate of $0.20 per crossing (less than 1/10th of a subway fare), you may get what you pay for...

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Not that I'm a fan of resident discounts, but...it's not at all the case that the state had a solution to this problem, but didn't build it because they lacked the funding because of the resident tunnel discount.

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That's not the point. The point isn't the lost revenue because of the resident discount, it's the fact that the toll for Eastie residents is less than a tenth of the T fare. Take that away, and a lot more of them would choose the Blue Line, and traffic would be a lot better.

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Assuming everyone driving from Eastie works downtown / on or near the T...which, of course, they don't.

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If they are paying $20 a day for parking, is an extra $1.10 a day really going to push them toward a more fiscally sound choice of commuting?

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How many other neighborhoods in the city cost $1.50 (or whatever the new rate is for non rez), or require you to drive through 3 other towns just to get back to the same city you started in, just to leave and come back to?

Housing costs used to make the tradeoff more than worth it, not the case now. And many of the people coming through are from the North Shore–residents have noted seeing a lot of non-resident transponders in backed up traffic on local residential streets.

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Form as many people as you can , Be heard, Take Action, Make Signs, and start protesting this Saturday morning on the footbridge and areas around the Sumner Tunnel.
This will get the higher ups at Mass Dot to have a sit down with the residents of Eastie and discuss what needs to be done to correct the traffic patterns leading into the Sumner Tunnel.

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Form as many people as you can , Be heard, Take Action, Make Signs, and start protesting this Saturday morning on the footbridge and areas around the Sumner Tunnel.
This will get the higher ups at Mass Dot to have a sit down with the residents of Eastie and discuss what needs to be done to correct the traffic patterns leading into the Sumner Tunnel.
Protesting will also get the attention of the media.

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Why should Eastie residents pay for a tunnel in our neighborhood to get into our own city and not people coming in from 93 and 95?

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Because tunneling under the ocean costs more.

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Because that tunnel was more expensive to build, and is more expensive to maintain, than I-93 (outside of the Central Artery).

Because you live across the harbor from the city.

Because that tunnel, and that toll, has been there for 83 years, and you knew it was there when you moved to Eastie. It's not like this is some new injustice being foisted on you.

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The traffic on 1A now has a choke point where only one lane of traffic can now go through. Within that one lane of traffic many drivers get confused (lots of visitors coming from the airport) and believe that the light applies to them.

Because the traffic is so backed up from the airport many drivers from the airport are resorting to taking back streets. From the airport it's gridlock all the way back to the terminals. That is why local East Boston streets have become so bad.

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How much of this comes from snarl that is the city/developer construction over on Meridian St (is that called Central Square)? I drove through there the other day - some genius had installed a stop sign at a yellow flashing signal.

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