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A neighborhood in gridlock: Sumner Tunnel changes leave East Boston drivers with plenty of time to ponder mortality and stuff

Saratoga Street this morning

Saratoga Street, just past Brooks, this morning. From this 311 complaint.

More than a year ago, state transportation planners showed off their plans to ease congestion at the entrance to the Sumner Tunnel after the toll plaza was removed, and promised residents would soon see relief.

Whatever they did, didn't work, residents say.

Alison Frisby reported it took her almost an hour and a half this morning just to get from her home to Chelsea - a distance of under 2 miles.

The problem, residents say, is that drivers heading to the Sumner back up into the neighborhood, creating impassable intersections that block even people not heading to the other side of the harbor - all made intractable by local drivers' propensity to jamming themselves into intersections they can't get through before the light changes:

John in Eastie is fed up:

How long is it going to take to fix the Sumner Tunnel entrance? Been over a year since the last update and it’s still a mess. Traffic today was terrible.

EastieStrong adds:

No one seemed to look at the traffic patterns as they are today, instead relied on what was asked for years ago. The back up on London St now creates more gridlock.

Cty Councilor Lydia Edwards (East Boston, Charlestown, North End), feels people's pain, but acknowledges there's a limit to what she can do given that so much of the problem is based on state-owned roadways, such as the tunnel entrance - not that the neighborhood's elected state delegation has been able to get any action, either:

East Boston delegation also very frustrated, continuing to speak up about this. In addition to short-term tunnel traffic fixes, need public transit investment, tolling/fare prices that encourage people to ride MBTA instead of avoid it.

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Comments

If only there was a law of some kind against blocking the intersection and someone to enforce it.

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Voting closed 61

Yes! Why does BPD never enforce this very serious rule? So many backups and jams are either started or made worse by people who carelessly drive into the box and block others from moving. What is the point of having laws like this on the books if they are never bothered to be enforced?

Wake up BPD!!

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Voting closed 42

keeps having hearings about lowering the speed limit. What we really need is a discussion of having BPD enforce traffic laws and maybe (!) expanding to other city agencies to enforce traffic laws. Up the fine and give out $500 dollar block the box tickets for a few months consistently and people will learn to not do it.

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IE. Baker can only hire directors with transportation experience. Pollack & Ramirez are a complete failure

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https://commonwealthmagazine.org/transportation/pollack-solid-stunning-c...

Pollack was quite experienced.

Maybe if people in Eastie didn't insist on driving everywhere ...

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Voting closed 14

The problem isn't people in Eastie driving everywhere. It's a backup from the tunnel entrance.

Even people who never drive anywhere are seriously affected by major stopped gridlock in their neighborhood.

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Being a silver spooner advocate doesn't make you an expert

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Voting closed 4

When the toll booths were up and standing cars were flowing through with not even an ounce of traffic!!!
Baker becomes Governor and he eliminates toll takers
then the toll booths disappear for an electronic toll system (like the State is making more money from it) and creates a commuter nightmare for Eastie residents.
People place the blame on the increase of housing in Eastie, Airport traffic, and north shore commuters.
Blame the engineers on this disaterous project. Do not blame the ongoing housing development in the area .
They should have left the toll booths up .
Bottom line.

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Voting closed 4

Things are a lot worse than they used to be, but as somebody who got caught in more than one traffic jam at the toll plaza, I think it's a bit much to say traffic always flowed smoothly before the plaza was taken out.

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It was much, much better when the booths were up.

It's surprising that removing a constriction made things so much worse. It's also surprising that the state hasn't found a way to reduce the problem, even though it's a big enough problem to warrant major resources and attention, and they've had more than a year.

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is that MassDOT didn't keep the swing gates / orange barrels out on 1A going into the tunnel which caused local traffic in East Boston to lose their dedicated lane to the tunnel and had a very difficult time merging onto 1A. This cause a ripple effect throughout East Boston.

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Voting closed 8

They did not open up the barrels and EB does have its own dedicated lane (ease to check by looking). The problem is that it causes back-ups so everyone drives through the neighborhood to get around it, causing more back-ups.

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So glad I can use public transportation to get to work and have now started to use on weekends for groceries etc. The T may have its issues but traffic is ridiculous it seems at all hours any day you never know....sucks for decent respectful drivers

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If you take an the 116, 117, or 120 MBTA buses however, your ride has now gotten much longer, and already lack luster rreliability has sunk to new lows, at least in the AM peak

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Cty Councilor Lydia Edwards (East Boston, Charlestown, North End), feels people's pain, but acknowledges there's a limit to what she can do given that so much of the problem is based on state-owned roadways, such as the tunnel entrance

The roads with blocked intersections seem to be city-owned. While the City Councilor may not have any say on the tunnel entrance, surely she could push for increased enforcement of "don't block the box". The fines are steep enough to be a deterrence, if only anyone were ever asked to pay them.

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Voting closed 28

The city can start by posting DON'T BLOCK THE BOX signs, like the ones in NYC.

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that list how much the fine is. But signs only work if there's enforcement.

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Any existing boxes are already completely unenforced. The city could make roughly 5 billion dollars a day* from Atlantic/Essex outside South Station if it wanted to, but it literally never enforces the intersection. I have never once in my life seen intersection enforcement in Boston.

* accurate to the nearest 5 billion dollars, rounded up

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Voting closed 3

Use a traffic camera to capture the vehicle, plate, and driver. Have a cop on the scene to verify, and hit a button to mail the ticket.

This would work in terms of why MA doesn't use unattended traffic cameras.

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If only East Boston had some sort of people-mover that completely allowed downtown workers bypass any and all traffic...

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Voting closed 28

The city should really just put a blue line in the sand to say, "This is something we need!"

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It's a damn shame too because the Blue Line really is by far the best line in terms of rider experience, reliability and overall comfort.

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It's only comfortable because all those fools choose to drive.

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It's not that great during rush hour in the morning and evening, particularly if you get on at later stops. I agree it's one of the best lines but I have watched it get more congested - and leading to longer commutes - as you have to wait for the next-next train to fit on.

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It's a damn shame too because the Blue Line really is by far the best line in terms of rider experience, reliability and overall comfort.

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The Blue Line is without a doubt way more reliable.

This is just a random sampling from early August through this AM.

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Oh, anecdotes. Thanks. I'm sure the minutes lost due to these random, rare events makes up for the hundreds of extra hours commuting, and vehicle-related expenses, and parking costs the daily drivers rack up. Meanwhile, every. single. day Eastie drivers are complaining about the added time to their commute. Yet they do nothing about it. I mean, other than continue to not carpool and be the traffic that they are complaining about.

I hope all those folks trying to get to work on Thanksgiving ("way"), and the day after Thanksgiving ("doubt") were okay. Oh, and these "ten minute delays" you link to, the tunnel would still be faster.

Back of the envelope, but between the opportunity cost of a longer commute, a car payment, car insurance, gas, and parking, you're suggesting people spend tens of thousands of dollars a year just to avoid five examples of workday train delays (which would still beat a car stuck in traffic) in about six months. That is what they call a horrendously shitty use of one's time and money unless they are pulling in $100K+ (or if you think 15-20% or more of income should go to commuting). Or you could pay $84.50 a month and save thousands and get to work, on balance, a lot faster. Tough choice, but people want their "own space" and to avoid the riff raff on the train.

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Voting closed 2

Those are the only examples of delays in the last few months. And two major power problems in two days time, and consistent "minor" power issues are nothing to worry about, everything is fine over here.

You also assume the people driving are going somewhere that is easily accessible by T. This tunnel does lead directly to 93N, and it's not like you can't use the Ted Williams (which is nowhere near as problematic) to get into the city or across to the Back Bay.

Just so we're clear, you're talking to someone who has a 20-25 minute commute via car and 45 to an hour via transit, but chooses to take the T most days because it's cheaper than parking (I'll give you that)...but regrets that decision 2-3 days/week.

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Voting closed 4

Maybe it's YOU breaking the T? I kid. But for the record I walk to work, so what dog do I have in this fight? That said, I took the Blue Line most days for four years, and I'll take that experience every day of the week over the Green.

However, I think you're a bit of an outlier as it relates to the typical driving commuter. Most of the jobs in the city are concentrated downtown, so it follows that most likely half of the tunnel commuters end up somewhere in walking distance (or quick transfer from) of the four BL stops in Boston proper. Those are the commuters I'm pointing the criticism at. The Orients Height Yacht Club crowd that wouldn't be caught dead on the Blue Line, ever.

I mean, I'd ponder getting a car if I had ever gained employment in Brighton or Watertown, for example, but driving to City Hall for example? I just can't wrap my head around it.

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Not all jobs are downtown. There's Kendall, Longwood, the various universities...

Anywhere near Storrow will be quickest to access via the Sumner.

Plus all the jobs out on 128.

How would I fix North Shore to Boston commutes? DMUs every 10-15 minutes on the Commuter Rail. And better management of the Green Line, so you don't sit around at Park Street or Government Center for 15 minutes waiting for a North Station or Lechmere train.

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The aforementioned school is usually 5 minutes away. Oh and I had to drive because the T bus that we take down our street was taking over 30 minutes to go down about 7 blocks. I take public transportation to work and to drop of my son at school in Eastie. The problem is that you can't move through the neighborhood due to all of the North Shore coming though the neighborhood to get downtown.

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As soon as MassDOT said they were introducing a traffic signal here, I had a feeling it was going to royally screw things up. The old configuration was a bit chaotic, but it was very efficient. Drivers simply negotiated and took turns. I think only a solution that is more similar to the original configuration will reasonably work here.

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Voting closed 15

as bad as traffic congestion is, recording video in 640x1040 vertical resolution is even stupider.

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tear down the single family housing and make em 6 unit condos!
Tear down the triple deckers and make em 10-unit condos!
Build more parking garages!
Make 2 lane roads one lane with car-sized bike lanes....ON BOTH SIDES!
Add more traffic lights, cones, and lines drawn on the street!
Under NO circumstances do you bolster public transit, add more buses, or do anything to support the 10 pounds of shit you just crammed into a 5 pound sack!

The SOUTHIE part 2 experiment is going great so far!

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Maybe if people weren't forced to live in the suburbs they could take the train downtown from Eastie instead of having to drive through it!

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Would this be the same crack transportation planning team that told Rozzie/JP residents that they would be able to ease traffic when they took down the Casey Overpass at Forest Hills?

it's worse now than ever - Fail

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And now they are reaching out to residential streets. The closing of lanes on 1A means everyones GPS routes them down residential streets, which become gridlocked. Blocking the intersections is more of a symptom than the problem. Very bad for everyone involved and I would be pretty mad if I were a resident. The Mass Highway Dept doesn't seem to know that this is why a massive highway ramp was built to fly over the neighborhood in the first place.

I know there are plenty here who think that cars should not exist on planet earth at all, but I advise you to find a more practical solution.

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There was a similar issue, on a smaller scale, going on in Rozzie when the Casey Overpass was being taken down. Apps like Waze we’re sending cars down Cummins Hwy as an alternate route. No joke, I’d routinely see backups in both directions up to Sacred Heart Church.

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Voting closed 7

I got stuck in this traffic this morning. I’d heard plenty about how bad it can get but Man this really sucks they need to figure this out

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