By John Lynds
At a meeting last Wednesday night at East Boston High School, MassDOT Project Manager Eric Jones announced that a contract has been awarded for the project to revamp the Sumner Tunnel toll plaza.
“We recently awarded the contract to S and R Construction and received a Notice to Proceed,” said Jones. “The design was completed back in December and Stage 1 of the project will begin on May 5 and last through May 7.” This phase will include the removal of the toll booths, according to Jones.
Jones said that the more extensive second phase will last from May through the fall with the project being completed in November 2017.
MassDOT has already installed the vertical gantries that replaced toll collectors as the state transportation agency moved to implement All Electronic Tolling (AET) at the end of last year.
Installing AETs in Eastie called for a total reconfiguration of the Eastie toll plaza.
At last week’s meeting Jones said MassDOT has addressed several community concerns regarding the project.
Instead of Porter Street merging with Route 1A traffic motorists on Porter Street will have their own lane into the tunnel. MassDOT planned to close off access to Havre Street from Route 1A but that access has been restored. MassDOT wanted to add a traffic signal for those coming off Route 1A and entering Porter Street. That signal has been replaced with a yield sign.
Also speed calming measures like a raised island and reduced lane widths as well as additional signage and pavement markings have been added.
These changes were due to numerous concerns over safety and feasibility of the merge for local drivers into the tunnel bound lanes.
There were also concerns about backups on Visconti Way stemming from difficult merge conditions into the tunnel for local motorists with a majority residents concerned because their main ways of accessing the toll plaza now can possibly be impacted by the redesign.
Concerns were also raised about inexperienced or elderly drivers from Eastie who would have to merge into potentially dangerous road conditions as fast moving traffic comes down Route 1A into the tunnel.
Jones also said that construction will be limited to weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. However during the removal of the toll booths there will be one weekend were work will be done at night and the tunnel closed. Those days will be May 5 through the 7 from 9 p.m. Friday to 9 a.m. Saturday. Then again from 9 p.m. Saturday to 9 a.m. Sunday. And finally from 9 p.m. Sunday to 5 a.m. Monday.
Since the start of AET, instead of paying one toll on the Eastie side, the E-Z Pass toll has been split in half on the Eastie side and the North End side of the Sumner and Callahan Tunnels. So instead of non-Eastie residents paying $3 they now pay $1.50 on the Eastie side and then $1.50 on the North End side of the tunnels. Eastie residents with the resident discount pay $0.20 on each side.