EAST BOSTON - For Spinelli's catering and functions in East Boston, the Sumner Tunnel is a lifeline for access to their business. Operations specialist Celeste Ribeiro-Hewitt sees challenging times ahead.
"I would say 80% of our business is within a 45-minute radius. Now we're talking about doubling and tripling those travel times if have to find ways around the Sumner Tunnel and the additional traffic it will cause," said Ribeiro-Hewitt.
Starting Friday and for 36 weekends the Sumner, the tunnel that carries vehicles from Logan Airport and East Boston to downtown will be closed 11 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday mornings.
"It's our busiest time, graduation season, wedding season, we're a full-service catering facility," said Ribeiro-Hewitt.
The problem is the 87-year-old tunnel is deteriorating and needs a major overhaul, everything from chipped concrete, to cracked walls to broken lights. Traffic will be rerouted through the Ted Williams tunnel or winding routes through Revere and Chelsea.
Logan Airport cab driver Ademola Stainless says the inconvenience will be considerable, especially sitting in expected traffic jams with gas prices already high. "You go through hell to fill up your car, when you sit in traffic for 45 minutes it's a drain on your pockets," she said.
The weekend closure is just the beginning. Starting in May 2023 the Sumner Tunnel will be closed completely for four months in phase two.
Matthew Barison with the Harbor View Neighborhood Association says the tunnel should not have gotten to this point. "People don't feel goodwill," Barison said. "Had MassDOT been on top of maintenance people would cut them more slack."
MassDOT admits increased traffic congestion is unavoidable for the two-year $157 million dollar restoration project. It's not the Big Dig, but it will still be a big disruption for months to come.
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