On December 14, 2022, A Better City welcomed Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver to provide an update on the ongoing Sumner Tunnel Restoration Project and impending full closure in Spring 2023. He was accompanied by John McInerney, District 6 Highway Director, which covers Boston, who oversees the Restoration Project.
The Sumner Tunnel is a major transportation route for the region. It is key link from East Boston and Logan Airport and carries 40,000 vehicles a day (pre-pandemic). During the last triennial inspection of the Central Artery System in 2018, MassDOT determined that the structural integrity of the tunnel was at risk with visual evidence that key infrastructure elements (as indicated by spalled concrete, corroded rebar, and rusted support beams) were reaching to end of their useful life. Restoration of the tunnel was subsequently identified as a top priority.
In the Spring of 2022, MassDOT began work on the Sumner Tunnel Restoration Project with weekend closures from Friday night at 11 p.m. to Monday morning at 5 a.m. Limited closure of the Tunnel has allowed MassDOT to advance some targeted work and minimize traffic and economic disruption to the region. The more significant tasks, including replacing the tunnel ceiling, demolishing and replacing deck and roadway surface, will necessitate longer full closure periods.
A fourth-month full closure of the Sumner Tunnel is currently scheduled to take place from May to September 2023. This work will require a much more substantial mitigation plan to effectively address traffic and safety impacts. A mitigation plan is currently under development that would include alternative routes, modes, and public outreach. A Better City is actively engaging with MassDOT to provide input and recommendations on the plan, specifically related to alternative transit options (rail, ferry, rapid transit), alternative route options and traffic flow recommendations for alternative routes, potential flooding mitigation tools, and emergency vehicle access to hospitals.
Traditionally, MassDOT would rely heavily on mode shift to public transportation as part of its mitigation plan. Given the operational and safety challenges the MBTA currently faces there may be significant and possibly insurmountable hurdles that would require an alternative plan to undertake the remaining restoration work. A Better City will continue to monitor the progression of this project and report back to members.
To learn more, see event slides here and an event recording here, or contact Tom Nally, Senior Advisor at A Better City.