Stadiums and ballparks are welcoming fans back at full capacity. Restaurants can seat guests indoors and outdoors with no minimum spacing requirement or maximum party size. And in yet another sign of the state’s progress after more than a year in a state of emergency, roadway congestion is again crushing commuters across the region.
Traffic evaporated in the early days of the pandemic as many professional workers with the flexibility to do so shifted to remote work and schools closed their doors to the public. But now, Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver said Monday, transportation officials are “seeing a return to a lot of previous travel times.”
“Traffic, for all intents and purposes, is back to about 2019 levels on most roadways in Massachusetts at this point,” Gulliver said in a presentation to the Department of Transportation’s board.
That analysis came with a handful of caveats. Traffic on the Massachusetts Turnpike is still “running a little bit lower” than before COVID-19 hit, Gulliver said, particularly closer to Boston. Fewer motor vehicles are traveling through the tunnels to and from Logan International Airport than before the pandemic.
As has been the case for much of the COVID era, commuting patterns remain shifted. Gulliver said Massachusetts residents appear to be taking shorter trips and traveling more frequently during midday. While morning and evening rush hours are still crowded, he said, they do not last as long as they did before the pandemic.
“I think we’re in for a really major adjustment period that’s going to occur throughout the fall and early winter before things settle,” Gulliver said.
In 2019, Greater Boston earned INRIX’s dubious designation of having the worst congestion in the country. The Legislature had appeared poised for major debate on transportation policy shortly before COVID arrived and absorbed virtually all of the attention.