Semi-trucks still getting stuck in tunnel

Community calls on MassDOT for better tunnel signage

Unlike Storrow Drive or other roadways in and around Boston that have a system of signs and other fail safes to keep overheight trucks from getting stuck in tunnels or under bridges the Sumner Tunnel has historically lacked these sort of measures. 

While there are a few signs right before the tunnel entrance, community members feel there should be more signage starting further up Route 1A to alert truck drivers to the height limit. 

Before MassDOT reconfigured the Sumner Tunnel toll plaza and removed the toll booths to make way for automatic tolling the booths acted as an unofficial barrier that kept 18-wheelers and other semi trucks from entering the tunnel. 

Now that the toll booths are gone there’s nothing to prevent trucks from entering the tunnel until it’s too late. 

The problem is once a truck starts entering the tunnel and the driver realizes he’s over the height limit there’s a long and grueling process to back the truck out of the plaza. This usually involves a State Trooper stopping traffic, directing the driver to back out, turn around and head north on Route 1A. While this is all going on traffic in Eastie is at a standstill. The 10 to 15  minute process to remove the truck from the plaza means all the streets flowing into the Sumner start to back up–causing a traffic nightmare in the neighborhood. 

The most recent incident happened about a week ago during rush hour. A video posted by Dawn Manning showed a truck being stopped by a trooper just after 8:15 a.m. on Jan. 14. The incident caused huge delays in Eastie that morning as the truck had to be rerouted out of the tunnel. 

The same type of incident happened three weeks ago, again during rush hour. 

Longtime community activists Patti D’Amore said she attended the community meetings MassDOT hosted prior to and after the reconfiguration of the toll plaza. D’Amore said after the toll plaza was reopened and toll booths taken down she brought up the issue of trucks getting stuck to MassDOT officials. 

“At one of those meetings I asked if they would put signs starting at Suffolk Downs alerting drivers to the height limit,” said D’Amore. “Then another sign near Boardman Street and another before the Sumner Tunnel/Ted Williams Tunnel split. This would let truck drivers know they need to take the Ted Williams Tunnel and not the Sumner Tunnel before it is too late. Having one or two signs right before the tunnel does nothing. It’s a very simple thing that MassDOT said they would look into but they haven’t done that very simple thing.”

Luckily Mayor Martin Walsh has recently created the East Boston Transportation Action Committee that will be tasked with addressing issues like trucks getting stuck in the tunnel and what can be done to improve traffic in the neighborhood. 

“Transportation is crucial to ensuring our residents can get to their homes, their jobs and their schools, and my Administration will continue working hard to create the best transportation options for residents in Boston,” said Walsh of the new committee. 

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