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Chelsea overwhelmed by traffic from Sumner Tunnel closure "it feels utterly chaotic"

Sumner Tunnel closure impacting traffic in Chelsea
Sumner Tunnel closure impacting traffic in Chelsea 02:24

CHELSEA -- Only five days into the Sumner Tunnel closure and some communities just can't take it any longer. Residents and businesses in Chelsea are struggling with the all the extra traffic. 

Sumner Tunnel traffic

"It's every man for himself," said Chelsea resident Jennifer Adamson. What usually takes five minutes to get to the top of the Tobin Bridge from her house in Chelsea now takes 45 minutes, making her consistently late for work. "It feels utterly chaotic," she said.

Adamson blames in part the city's poor planning, saying there's no traffic cops in sight or help for neighbors.

"What's going on to try to help the residents of Chelsea?" Adamson asked.

The small city of Chelsea sits in the chaotic crosshairs of commuter rail crossings. 

Request for additional police officers

"We're getting inundated with tunnel-related traffic," said Chelsea Police Chief Keith Houghton

With two drawbridges to East Boston and construction on either side of the Tobin, it's the epicenter of traffic. The understaffed department can't keep up.

"So when those gates come down, you're stuck," said Houghton. "It could take 40 minutes for that to filter out."

Houghton said they've requested additional officers and help from MassDOT, but the lack of resources is a statewide issue.

"We're struggling to fill regular shifts and to provide services to the community," he said. 

The Chelsea Police Department is so desperate for staff that they're calling in retired officers to help. "We just had to order them in to do so many hours because we need them," Houghton said.

Bad for businesses

Chelsea can't take much more of the traffic -- it's bad for businesses. Bill McNeil, who works at Franks Auto Repair just a couple hundred feet from the Tobin, says he can't test drive freshly fixed cars and customers aren't coming in. 

"It definitely is getting a lot worse," he said. "This intersection does deter a lot of people from coming through due to the back up all the way down Marginal Street."

McNeil hopes their customers are patient for the next couple of weeks and has faith that it will all be over soon. "We do have a lot of loyal customers," he said.

MassDOT is asking residents to take mass transit in hopes of alleviating traffic until August.

The Sumner Tunnel is set to reopen August 5, 2024. 

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