One week it was a broken-down bus. Another week it was a stuck semi-truck. Then on Monday it was a car accident in the Sumner Tunnel and MassDOT road crews forgetting to install the cones to form the ‘swing lane’ during the rush hour commute.
It seems every week there’s another issue at the mouth of the tunnel and each excuse has not been enough to quell the angry residents that have to sit in traffic for almost an hour every morning to get out of East Boston.
The residents are restless and now vowing to take action.
Already, flyers are being circulated in the community with the names, phone numbers and email addresses of elected officials, MassDOT officials and transportation officials. Residents are being asked on the the flyers to flood these offices with pictures and videos of Eastie’s traffic nightmare.
Now there’s talk of taking it to the streets like residents did here in the 1960s and 1970s with protests that blocked the tunnels, as well as well organized traffic ‘slow downs’–where residents drive at a snail’s pace around Logan Airport keeping the airport related traffic out of Eastie.
“The entire neighborhood is a gridlock today (Monday),” said resident Fabricio Paes. “Took me 25 minutes to drive to (my son’s school) which is no more than a five minute drive. It’s time to get an organized neighborhood movement going. Kids are late to school. People are late to work. All due to poor planning on this tunnel entrance.”
Paes said complaining on social media about the traffic is not going to solve anything for residents here.
“We need to come together as a neighborhood, get organized and force people to solve this,” he said. “We need to show up in large numbers to whatever meetings we need to. Let’s start taking videos and sharing them. It’s easy to brush this off as people exaggerating, but that is not the case here. Enough is enough. Our kids are late to school. Our community is late to work. We bear the burden for all trying to get downtown.”
Another resident, Devon Marie, said she left her house at 6:40 a.m., which is five minutes away from the tunnel entrance to get to work and it took her 40 minutes to get into the tunnel.
“My commute to work, once I get through the tunnel, takes way less than that,” she said. “Something needs to be done about this tunnel, it’s absolutely absurd.”
Pat Frangolini said he has lived in Eastie for over 50 years and has never seen the traffic this bad.
“Today it took me 44 minutes to get from Frankfort Street to the entrance to the tunnel,” he said.
One of the major issues during Monday’s commute was the lack of the ‘swing lane’ that merges the two lanes of highway and airport related traffic into the tunnel’s far left lane. This leaves the center lane closed so Eastie residents can easily maneuver into the tunnel without having to yield to oncoming highway traffic. With the addition of Boston Police traffic control officers directing cars at the mouth of the tunnel traffic has been somewhat calmer these past two weeks.
However, there was a big question in the neighborhood as to why the swing lane wasn’t put in place Monday.
Sources say that MassDOT and Massport made the call to eliminate the swing lane because they feared traffic was going to be extra heavy at Logan on Monday with people returning from the holiday weekend. In fact, before the rush hour commute, traffic at Logan was backed up to Terminal E as an influx of cabs, Ubers and Lyfts all descended on the airport to pick up travelers.
District A-7 Captain Kelly McCormick, who ordered a traffic detail each morning at the tunnel a few weeks back, confirmed that according to MassDOT, that the numbers the airport is seeing are roughly 68,000 Uber and Lyft trips in and out of Logan per day.
However, MassDOT maintains that a worker responsible for installing the cones for the swing lane each morning punched out and forgot to do so.
While an employee error is the official story, residents fear that if the former story is at all true it will be a slippery slope if MassDOT and Massport get to decide when the swing lane will be put into use.
The neighborhood, during design meetings for toll plaza reconfiguration, was adamant at having the swing lane in place every morning so residents can easily access the tunnel without having to yield to the onslaught of highway and airport traffic and the state agreed. If the state can just arbitrarily decide to eliminate the swing lane to favor airport related traffic over the community–residents say there’s going to be big problems in the future.
“The Boston Transportation Department will continue to advocate to ensure that the swing lane is closed by MassDOT at agreed-upon times moving forward to ease the burden from regional traffic on the East Boston community,” said BTD’s Tracey C. Ganiatsos in a statement.