After delaying the Sumner Tunnel weekend closures for two weeks, the closure of the tunnel this past weekend caused a traffic nightmare in East Boston on Saturday and Sunday.
As all southbound traffic from McClellan Highway was rerouted into the Ted Williams Tunnel, the lack of promised police details at choke points throughout the neighborhood caused gridlock in Day Square, Central Square and on many Eastie side streets.
Drivers using the Maverick Street gate, which can only be used by Eastie residents trying to access the Ted Williams Tunnel, were met with huge delays along Tomahawk and Harborside Drive on Logan Airport property.
Without a police detail at the Harborside Drive light, the intersection became a free for all as Eastie motorists, Silver Line buses, taxi cabs and airport-related traffic all jockeyed to enter the tunnelâ€“many ignoring the light changes.
â€œI can’t Imagine if an ambulance had to get to the city,â€ said Alisha Sumehrta Tamari Sunday. â€œ(Itâ€™s) absolutely crazy a five minute ride is now one hour on the weekends. You canâ€™t even go to the airport to get to the terminals either because that’s bumper to bumper due to the traffic backed up to the Ted Williams Tunnel.â€
Lettie DiNocco said, â€œThis is ridiculous. Traffic was brutalâ€ and asked â€œWhere are all the state police? They should be patrolling the streets around the airport.â€
Lisa Antrim said there should be more police details on the streets of Eastie when the Sumner is closed to make sure intersections are not being blocked.
â€œMeridian Street was horrible due to the tunnel closure,â€ she said.
During meetings leading up to the planned Sumner Tunnel closure MassDOT officials Mike Fielding and Gary McNaughton were on the record saying police details were going to be an integral part of alleviating traffic in Eastie when the Sumer is closed on the weekends for the next 36 weeks.
â€œWhile we’ve been conducting tabletop exercises in meetings with the emergency responders and ambulance services to support their operating procedures,â€ said Fielding in June. â€œWe will have tow trucks in place during any of the closures as well as police details.â€
MassDOTâ€™s traffic engineer McNoughton said MassDOT would target areas in the vicinity of the Ted Williams Tunnel entrance with police details. McNaughton said in the case of an emergency the detail cops will direct traffic away from the tunnel entrance to allow emergency vehicles in.
However, there was not a single police detail on site in Eastie on Saturday and Sunday.
When asked about the lack of police detail, MassDOTâ€™s spokesperson Kristen Pennucci simply said in a statement, â€œMassDOT monitors traffic volumes throughout weekend closures. Upon the conclusion of weekend work, MassDOT also conducts a review and analysis of the projectâ€™s traffic mitigation plan with a focus on opportunities to make improvements. MassDOT continues to remind drivers to plan for extra travel time during weekend closures, consider the Blue Line or Silver Line as an alternative to driving, and stay informed by signing up for email updates through the project website.â€