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The vacation’s over — and the real Sumner traffic has just begun

Sumner Tunnel closure causes mass traffic build up
On Tuesday the tunnel restoration project caused build up as far north as Suffolk Downs. (Randy Vazquez and Olivia Yarvis/ Globe Staff) (Olivia Yarvis/Globe Staff, Randy Vazquez/Globe Staff)

Commuters faced significant delays Tuesday morning on the Tobin Bridge and in the Ted Williams Tunnel — including some twice-as-long commutes — as workers on hybrid schedules returned to the office in force during the first non-holiday week since the Sumner Tunnel closed.

Shortly after 6 a.m., traffic backed up around Logan Airport from the north and south, with delays persisting through much of the morning.

At the peak of congestion around 7:30 a.m., trips from Bell Circle in Revere through the Williams Tunnel took an average of 39 minutes, 18 minutes longer than this date last year. Driving from Copeland Circle in Revere over the Tobin Bridge took about 46 minutes, more than double the usual 20 minutes, according to data collected by state transportation officials.


In East Boston, traffic leading toward the Neptune Road onramp was backed up through at least two intersections, with dozens of cars lining Bennington Street. Someone honked for a few seconds, and a pair of State Police troopers directed traffic, waving cars toward the standstill.

The 89-year-old tunnel, which links East Boston and downtown, closed last week for repairs until Aug. 31. Highway officials have said the closure is likely to cause delays in the Williams Tunnel, which carries the Massachusetts Turnpike under Boston Harbor, and on the Tobin Bridge, connecting Charlestown and Chelsea.

The Sumner Tunnel carries southbound traffic on Route 1A, but the effects of its closure — and the vehicles that would usually travel it — spilled onto surrounding roads.

It has been closed for dozens of weekends since construction began in June 2022, but now weekday commuters must deal with its absence. Traffic was relatively smooth on Monday, the first day after the July Fourth holiday week, but officials warned that more workers would return to the office during the next few days.


At Logan Airport, Alex Ozine stood outside a Black Cadillac Escalade around 8 a.m., waiting for his half-dozen passengers. The driver said he has been battling traffic every day since the Sumner Tunnel closure began last week.

“But last week compared to this week is totally different,” Ozine said. “Big time.”

Ozine cut through the central parking garage to shave off some time. Even with the shortcut, the usual two-minute trip from drop-offs to arrivals took about 14 minutes.

“You have to know your way around here,” he said.

Around 8:15 a.m., an UberX from Logan to the Aquarium MBTA station — just two stops away on the Blue Line and right across the harbor taking the Sumner Tunnel — cost more than $73 and the trip was expected to take nearly 40 minutes, according to the app.

Marisa Veseli, visiting from Columbus, Ohio, sat on a bench at Logan’s ride-share pickup, messaging with her Lyft driver. She had not heard about the tunnel closure but was still suffering its effects.

“My guy is telling me he can’t pick me up,” she said. “He said he’s not moving.”

Veseli was heading north from Logan to Peabody, the opposite direction of the shuttered tunnel, but that did not spare her from the congestion. A map on her phone screen showed her driver on the other side of the harbor, being routed through the Williams Tunnel. The trip would cost about $65.

“Other people are getting picked up, so I’m assuming it’ll happen at some point,” she said.


MBTA general manager Phillip Eng got off an outbound Blue Line train at Aquarium Station in downtown Boston shortly before 7:30 a.m., greeting the train’s driver as he passed. The Blue Line, which carries traffic to and from the airport and into Revere, is free while the Sumner is closed in hopes of reducing the number of drivers on the road.

Eng said Blue Line ridership “continues to be smooth, and everything continues to be moderate.”

“People are probably waiting to see how everyone else goes,” Eng said. “All in all, there are people taking advantage of the options.”

He searched for a piece of wood to knock on, settling for a route map. Trains were coming every five to seven minutes, a solid clip.

“That’s what we can do,” Eng said.

Across the Aquarium Station tracks, Scott Larson, 55, got off the Blue Line around 7:10 a.m.

Passengers boarded a Blue Line train in Wonderland.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Usually, he transfers to the Silver Line at Airport Station, but Tuesday he decided to take the train into downtown and walk the rest of the way to his job in the Seaport, “just right over the bridge,” he said. That morning, the MBTA had reported delays on Silver Line routes 1 and 3 during the latter half of rush hour.

“After hearing today how bad it is, I decided to walk from here,” he said, stepping onto the escalator. Larson said he appreciated the extra exercise.


Officials have urged commuters to take public transportation while the tunnel is closed, and many Blue Line passengers reported a smooth ride into the city on Tuesday.

Stephany Medina, a student at Wentworth Institute of Technology, said she hasn’t noticed significant changes in ridership since the Sumner closed. People have a hard time giving up driving, Medina said.

“Everybody wants a car,” she said.

William Hoysradt, who commutes into the city from Salem, said he had no trouble finding a parking spot at Wonderland Station to complete the last leg of his journey to work. The Wonderland lot is among a handful offering $2 parking while the Sumner is closed.

“It was pretty easy,” he said.

Not so for Mirzo Custovic, who sat in his unmoving car on Bennington Street in East Boston at around 6:50 a.m.

“It’s crazy,” he said. For the past week, he’s had to leave 45 minutes to an hour early to get to Cambridge from his home in Revere, he said.

“It’s terrible,” Custovic said. “Cambridge is six miles [away], and I need more than one hour.”

Custovic said he has taken the same route for two years, but Tuesday’s traffic was the worst he could remember.

By 6 a.m., congestion had become severe on parts of the westbound Mass. Turnpike near Logan. Shortly before 7 a.m., the drive time along Route 1A from the intersection of Tomasello Way in East Boston to Government Center was estimated to be 24 minutes, according to Mass511.


With his truck at a standstill just before the turn onto Neptune Road in East Boston, one driver offered a resigned view of his fate.

State Police were on the scene directing traffic around the Ted Williams Tunnel entrance. David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

“It is what it is,” he said through an open window as he sat at a red light.

Rania Abboud, a lawyer, usually drives from Lynn to her job in the Seaport District. But on Tuesday, she took the ferry to Long Wharf in downtown Boston, and plans to do so again before summer’s end.

“What a great way to enjoy the weather,” she said of the 30-minute trip.

But public transportation has its drawbacks, too.

Sharelle Davis, who began her day with a bus ride from Lynn to the MBTA’s Wonderland Station in Revere, said the slow zones on the subway line were noticeable.

“The Blue Line is definitely dragging,” said Davis, who was commuting to her job in the Fenway.

On Monday, a round trip on the Blue Line took about 4½ minutes longer than it would have without slow zones, according to the latest data by advocacy group TransitMatters.

But as the inbound train approached Airport Station, Davis said, she could see the bumper-to-bumper traffic heading toward Logan.

“Don’t want to be stuck in that,” she said.

Laura Crimaldi, Michael Bailey, and John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

Daniel Kool can be reached at Follow him @dekool01.