Traffic was so bad in East Boston last week that lifelong Eastie resident Michael Gaeta called into WROR’s morning show while stuck in traffic.
“Stay home,” he warned his fellow Eastie residents last Tuesday morning. “This is the worst traffic I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. It’s every street. Bremen Street packed! Bennington Street packed! Saratoga Street packed! Chelsea Street packed! You can’t get down the street. I can’t believe it. We got two tunnels and you still can’t out of East Boston. It’s unbelievable.”
Gaeta’s frustration is a shared frustration across the community and with school starting again residents fear it’s only going to get worse.
However, some residents have been brainstorming ideas and hope to share these ideas with MassDOT officials and engineers that have been trying to fix the congestion in the the neighborhood since the Sumner Tunnel toll plaza came down and was reconfigured.
Eastie resident Steve Passariello thinks one solution could be using one of the lanes in the Callahan Tunnel for traffic heading directly to downtown in the morning.
The Callahan Tunnel has been used for two way traffic during construction and rehab projects in the Sumner Tunnel. With very little traffic heading into Eastie in the morning, Passariello said reversing one lane in the Callahan might alleviate some of the traffic in the Sumner during rush hour.
“If you remember when there was construction, they used the Callahan Tunnel as a two way tunnel,” he said. “Let’s go to three lanes inbound using a lane from the nice empty (Callahan) tunnel and the two horribly jammed lanes in the Sumner Tunnel in the morning. I mean, try it once. Maybe it can work. At the very least it could alleviate the added traffic that is going to downtown, leaving the Storrow Drive and the 93 North traffic in the normal pattern in the Sumner. It could also be a faster path for emergency vehicles if it is successful.”
Using one lane in the Callahan could actually work as a HOV-type lane for commuters going into town and not trying to access Storrow Drive or 93 North. There is an existing ramp that would empty onto Atlantic Avenue from the Callahan’s inbound right lane. This ramp is currently only used for access by emergency vehicles. However, if one lane in the Callahan was turned around in the morning this ramp could be used.
The only hitch would be the exit heading from 93 South into the Callahan’s left lane–the lane residents are suggesting should be an inbound lane in the morning.
Eastie’s three elected officials, Rep. Adrian Madaro, Sen. Joseph Boncore and City Councilor Lydia Edwards recently called for another community-wide meeting so MassDOT can update residents on current plans to address the traffic.
“We write to you once again expressing our frustration and disappointment with the traffic patterns at the Sumner Tunnel Toll Plaza,” the three officials wrote in a joint letter to MassDOT Secretary Stephanie Pollack. “The current status of this project is unacceptable. It has become a major quality of life issue for residents of East Boston, causing a significant increase in traffic congestion, commute time, and pollution levels. The Department of Transportation must take swift, comprehensive action to remedy the situation.”
MassDOT spokesman Patrick Marvin said MassDOT has received this letter, is discussing this topic with stakeholders including the City of Boston, and expects to be responding in the near future.