Mass. Highway Chief: Sumner Tunnel Repairs Going “Very Well”

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BOSTON (State House News Service) — The $160 million project shuttering the Sumner Tunnel on weekends for extensive repairs is "going very well" as it approaches the one-third mark, and drivers so far have "settled in" to the new routes required during closures, the state's highway chief said Wednesday.

The megaproject, which might have fallen off the radar of some commuters over the past month during the unprecedented 30-day Orange Line shutdown, remains on schedule in its 11th week of 36 planned weekend closures.

"This was a little bit of a sleeper over the summer on account of the excitement going on with the Orange Line, but the Sumner Tunnel has been chugging along," Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver told the Department of Transportation's board. "For the most part, this project has been going very well. Traffic has settled in, which is something we expected, that after a couple of weekends, people would get used to this being closed. They understand where they need to go to avoid the closure and get to where they need to go efficiently."

"Work is getting done, and they're keeping on schedule and a little bit ahead in some areas," he added. "So far, this is going very well for us."

One technique officials deployed is the use of a "priority lane" at Logan International Airport, which Gulliver said flushes traffic straight through the airport's roadways into the Ted Williams Tunnel while the Sumner -- a major connector linking the airport and points west -- is offline.

"At the outset, if you're driving by, it looks like a lane drop, it looks like we're removing capacity. But what we're actually doing is providing priority to move traffic out of the airport so that it will not back up onto connecting roadways in East Boston and it actually keeps those other lanes flowing," Gulliver said. "It's been incredibly effective, and we're going to continue to use it throughout."

Officials warned this year that the 87-year-old tunnel carrying traffic westbound from East Boston to downtown is in a state of "disrepair" and needs extensive work to remain in service.

The project will close the tunnel from Friday night through Monday morning for about another two dozen upcoming weekends, though it will remain open several weekends in that span involving holidays, followed by four continuous months next year and another series of weekends in late 2023.

Written by Chris Lisinski/SHNS

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