Traffic on the Tobin Bridge and in the Ted Williams Tunnel was sluggish but not stationary Monday morning, as commuters began the first full work week without access to the Sumner Tunnel, though officials warned that mid-week could bring slower conditions as a slew of northern commuters push into downtown Boston after the Fourth of July holiday.
With the Sumner Tunnel closed for repairs, traffic into downtown along the Massachusetts Turnpike and on the Tobin Bridge was slow at 9 a.m., according to Mass511, a traffic information service. Delays peaked around 6:30 a.m., according to State Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver.
Speaking to Governor Maura Healey at a state Transportation Department office, Gulliver said he expected to see heavier traffic Monday afternoon and that “Thursday morning, especially, is the tough day.”
Around 9:30 a.m., trips across the bridge and through the Williams Tunnel took about three times longer than normal, according to MassDOT.
Transit alternatives, including the Blue Line, commuter rail, and a handful of Chelsea bus routes, ran without delays between 5 and 10 a.m., according to hourly updates tweeted by the MBTA.
The MBTA reported a “minor delay” on the Route 111 and Route 116 buses during rush hour. Around 11:45 a.m., it reported a roughly 10-minute delay on the Blue Line, caused by maintenance on overhead electrical wires.
On the first day of post-holiday-week traffic since the tunnel closed, Healey joined state officials for a tour of the project command center.
Dozens of live camera feeds, displayed on either side of the converted conference room, showed vehicles inching along the roads leading to the Ted Williams Tunnel and toward Logan International Airport. In some other places, like the North Washington Street Bridge, traffic seemed to flow smoothly.
Speaking to reporters outside the command center, Healey said construction was “on schedule and going well” and thanked state transportation officials, Boston emergency services, and Logan Airport for their coordinated efforts.
“This is all about teamwork, everybody pitching in,” Healey said. “We’ll take whatever steps necessary as we go forward to try to ameliorate traffic conditions.”
She renewed calls for people to take public transit whenever possible during the closure.
“This is an opportunity to take advantage of some of what we’ve made available in terms of mitigation efforts,” Healey said. “And we hope that some of that, frankly, sticks, and people will see these as really viable and great ways in terms of coming in and out of the city.”
MBTA General Manager Phil Eng said he had taken the Blue Line to Maverick station and back on Monday morning, adding that it was “running well” with headways between five and six minutes. Ridership was “light to moderate” but may get heavier in the middle of the week, he said.
“Traditionally, Mondays and Fridays are lighter because of the flexibility in workplace, and then we’ll see how Tuesday, Wednesdays, and Thursdays go,” Eng said. “You also see fluctuations in what has maybe traditionally been the rush hour, as people have flexibility to go in later or leave earlier. So we see a spreading out of the ridership, which is a good thing.”
Earlier in the morning, Gulliver had introduced Healey and Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll to the Sumner project’s monitoring team, which included representatives of MassDOT, emergency services, and the Coast Guard, among others. He gestured to a side-by-side comparison of live and typical congestion levels.
“We can see that there’s much heavier than normal traffic coming from the north,” Gulliver said, pointing to dark red lines that traced over southbound Interstate 90 and Route 1. “It peaked this morning around 6:30.”
As Healey wound through the conference room, she spoke with officials from Boston emergency services, asking how they were feeling about the closure’s impact so far.
Boston Fire Commissioner Paul Burke told Healey that the department had stationed a fourth engine in East Boston, “so we’re good on that.” He said the department’s biggest concern was construction accidents within the tunnel.
EMS officials noted that additional ambulances are being stationed in East Boston, but said call data was not available.
A pair of MassDOT data analysts showed Healey the morning’s travel times on the Tobin Bridge and through the Williams Tunnel, which were more than three times longer than they were on July 11, 2022, the Monday after last year’s 4th of July week.
At 9:30 a.m., a trip from Bell Circle in Revere through the Williams Tunnel took 23 minutes, up from seven last year. Starting at Copeland Circle, the drive over the Tobin Bridge was around 19 minutes, compared with the usual five and a half, they told Healey.
Last week, some air travelers were frustrated to arrive at Logan with hours to spare, having followed Massport’s advice to add two hours to trips to and from the airport. But Massport CEO Lisa Wieland said Monday there were no plans to change that guidance.
“We’re really looking at this week and the coming weeks to get a lot more busy,” Wieland said. “We’re, again, encouraging people to plan and prepare ahead. We think the two hour guidance is helpful at this point.”