By John Lynds
Following a series of community meetings, East Boston residents expressed several concerns over the state’s original plan to demolish and reconfigure the Sumner Tunnel Toll Plaza as MassDOT moves to All Electronic Tolling (AET) at the entrance of the tunnel.
At a community meeting held last week at East Boston High School, MassDOT officials Jim Kersten and Andrew Paul unveiled new plans for the Sumner Tunnel Toll Plaza project that addressed the community’s concerns.
Kersten said at past meetings MassDOT received a lot of feedback on certain aspects of the design. Both Kersten and Paul said some the concerns were heard loud and clear.
“We heard from the community that they did not like losing access from Route 1A to Harve Street, had several concerns of the Porter Street merge onto Route 1A into the tunnel as well as traffic calming issues into Central Square and potential traffic impacts with an additional traffic signal on Porter Street,” said Paul.
At the meeting, MassDOT said they would restore access for a right hand turn from Route 1A onto Harve Street.
Porter Street will also receive equal access into the tunnel with both Route 1A and Porter Street traffic receiving two lanes into the tunnel. At past meetings residents felt the two lanes on Route 1A into the tunnel would improve traffic for North Shore commuters but would do little for local residents trying to enter the tunnel. Concerns were also raised about inexperienced or elderly drivers who will have to merge into potentially dangerous road conditions as fast moving traffic comes down Route 1A into the tunnel. MassDOT felt with both Route 1A and community traffic each having two lanes into the tunnel would address these concerns.
There were also concerns about backups on Porter Street stemming from difficult merge conditions into the tunnel for local motorists as well as a traffic signal on Porter Street. Paul said the traffic signal has been removed from the design.
There was also concern of fast moving traffic coming off the highway into Central Square. For example, while a speed limit of 30 mph will be posted, many residents at past community meetings agreed that this is probably not feasible because cars have no reason to slow down to 30 mph if there is nothing stopping them. Compared to residential streets like Bennington street where travel at 30 mph or above is common, this stretch of road does not seem like it will be driven on at 30 mph.
Paul said to address these concerns there will traffic calming measures like the installation of a raised island as well as a reduction of lane width heading into Central Square on Porter Street.
Paul said if all goes as plan construction to demolish the toll plaza will begin in Spring 2017 but reminded residents that AET will begin on Friday, October 28 and cash will no longer be accepted at the Sumner Tunnel.