By John Lynds
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) will host a meeting on Tuesday, March 8 at 6 p.m. at the East Boston High School to begin discussing the take down of the Eastie toll plaza at the entrance of the Sumner Tunnel.
According to stated officials, after implementation of All Electronic Tolling (AET) MassDOT will be removing the toll plaza at the Sumner Tunnel. This project includes the reconfiguration and reconstruction of the approaching roadways to the Sumner Tunnel and adjacent intersections. The work will also include upgrades to signage, pavement markings, pedestrian accommodations, and roadway appurtenances within the limits of work.
Residents in East Boston have been clamoring for years to remove the toll booths from the entrance of the Sumner Tunnel and replace them with electronic tolling like MassDOT recently implemented on the Tobin Bridge.
This simple change could end the daily congestion on Route 1A during the morning commute. The problem, according to many, is that with only four E-ZPass lanes at the Sumner Tunnel’s toll plaza traffic in the morning has been backing up past the Neptune Road on ramp.
“This has made for a very stressful commute for many East Boston residents in the morning,” said State Rep. Adrian Madaro. “We are working with MassDOT to ensure that the scheduled date to remove the tolls is not delayed.”
Madaro said by fall of 2016 the Sumner Tunnel leading out of Eastie and into Boston will become all electronic like the Tobin.
“This will address a longstanding complaint that in this day and age and with the current technology there is no reason for the toll plaza in East Boston,” said Madaro. “Once the tunnel here goes electronic traffic should flow more smoothly during the rush hour commute.”
However, with the plan to go all electronic months away, Eastie motorists are wondering what measures can be taken in the interim to solve traffic issues in the morning at the tunnel.
The problem many drivers report is that the only existing E-ZPass lanes are located in the wrong spots. With these lanes located in the center and far right at the toll plaza, a majority of the traffic that is generated from Route 1A and Logan Airport has to cut over three lanes to be able to use E-ZPass. This means hundreds of cars are jostling for position and three lanes suddenly turn into one lane as cars, buses and taxi cabs try and cut off local traffic to use the E-ZPass lane.
Each morning very few of the thousands of cars that pass through the Sumner Tunnel’s toll plaza use the three ‘Cash Only’ lanes on the far left of the plaza.
Madaro said he is exploring ways to reconfigure the plaza’s toll booths that makes more sense.
“We will look to see if we can maybe move one of the E-ZPass lanes from the far right or center to the far left so all the Route 1A and airport traffic will have easy access to an E-ZPass lane without having to cut over and cause gridlock in the morning,” said Madaro.
All Electronic Tolling (AET) is a form of toll collection that allows drivers to pay their toll without stopping or slowing down. MassDOT’s AET program is safer, quicker, and more convenient for our customers.
The system works by replacing toll plazas with an overhead toll collection system mounted to a gantry, a frame structure raised on side supports over the roadway.
As a motorist travels under the gantry system, either an E-ZPass transponder is read and the toll is automatically charged to the E-ZPass account that the transponder is registered to or a photo of the license plate is taken and the registered owner of the vehicle receives a “Pay By Plate” invoice in the mail. Commercial customers will also see a 50 cent surcharge per toll.
For a year now tolls are now collected electronically on the Tobin Bridge. There motorists no longer need to stop at a toll booth to pay cash for their toll or slow down to pass through an E-ZPass lane.