1 more time: A guide to the 2024 Sumner Tunnel closure (2024)

The Sumner Tunnel closure — round two — begins this Friday.

The second, monthlong closure is only half as long as last summer's much-hyped tunnel shutdown. However, the rest of July (and a little bit of August) is still going to be "very tough-going" for Logan Airport travelers, East Boston residents and North Shore commuters, according to Massachusetts Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver.

Here's a brief guide to the closure, how to get around it and what comes next:

Remind me: which one is the Sumner Tunnel?

It's the one that runs west from East Boston across the harbor, carrying Route 1A and linking up with I-93 North, Storrow Drive and downtown Boston. (The tunnel that goes toEast Boston and Logan Airport is the Callahan Tunnel, but you knew that.)

1 more time: A guide to the 2024 Sumner Tunnel closure (1)

When will it be closed?

The closure begins at precisely 12:01 a.m. Friday — so don't stay out too late after Fourth of July fireworks Thursday night if you need to use it. The tunnel will remain closed for a full month, reopening no later than 5 a.m. Monday, Aug. 5.

Can I drive around it?

Sure! In fact, during last year's summer closure, most motorists did just that.

The primary detour option for drivers going west from East Boston and Logan Airport is the Ted Williams Tunnel, which connects to I-93 and I-90. Drivers can also take Route 1A north out of East Boston toward the North Shore, New Hampshire and Maine. And commuters from the North Shore can still take the Tobin Bridge if they're headed toward Boston. (MassDOT has several detour maps here and along with a dashboard showing average travel times.)

But let's make one thing clear: those detours are going to be a drag.

Gulliver said drivers should be prepared for increased traffic congestion as the majority of the Sumner's 40,000 daily users disperse onto other roads.

"People tend to think that its not going to be that bad," he said. "It's not going to be easy. It's going to be exactly like last year, if not worse."

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What are my alternatives?

Mainly, the MBTA. (Cue Will Arnett.)

Officials are offering "the exact same" package of public transportation perks as last year to encourage people to leave their cars at home during the closure, Gulliver said. The program includes:

  • Free Blue Line: Fare gates will be open at all Blue Line stations, including the ones like Government Center and State that serve other MBTA lines, too. There will also be increased service and no more slow zones. Plus, $2-a-day parking at several stations in East Boston and Revere.
  • Free buses, too: Five MBTA bus routes running through East Boston, Chelsea and Revere will be free during the closure. And remember, the Silver Line is always free from Logan.
  • Discounted commuter rail: All trips on the Newburyport/Rockport Line commuter rail line will cost just $2.40 per trip. Riders can also buy a monthly pass for any zone, discounted to the Zone 1A rate (i.e. $80 for the month). Parking at most stations will be free, with $2 daily parking in Salem and Swampscott.
  • Try the ferry: The East Boston ferry will be free during the closure, while the Winthrop and Lynn ferries to Boston will slash prices to $2.40 each way. (The Lynn and Winthrop ferries also have free parking.)


What should I expect if I'm headed to Logan Airport?

Traffic, probably.

While the Sumner leads away from the airport, Gulliver said backups can cascade and have an impact on the inbound traffic flow, too. He also warned that congestion around the airport could be particularly heavy during this closure, amid what's expected to be a record summer travel season.

"There's definitely more traffic now than there was at this time last year," Gulliver said.

In addition to MBTA options like the Blue Line and Silver Line, hesaid Logan-bound travelers should consider the Logan Express bus, which will offer discounted tickets from Boston's Back Bay, Braintree, Framingham, Peabody and Woburn. (The Logan Express also offers riders a special ticket that lets them skip to the front of the security line.)

What happen after the tunnel reopens?

The work isn't quite over.

There will still be a series of weekend-only closures after the big shutdown. (That's part of the reasonofficials were able to shorten the length of this year's closure to just one month.)

Currently, MassDOT has penciled in closures on every weekend from Aug. 9 through Nov. 15 with the exception of Labor Day, Indigenous Peoples'/Columbus Day and Halloween weekend. However, Gulliversaidif the state's contractor continues to make good progress, "that'll limit the number of weekend closures that are required afterwards."

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Why is all this work necessary?

The Sumner Tunnel — which just celebrated its 90th birthday — has a long list of structural and safety issues. According to Gulliver, the two-year, top-to-bottom restoration will extend the life of the tunnel by another 50 years.

During last year's closure, the majority of the of the work was on the tunnel's crumbling ceilings. This summer, they're focusing on the driving deck

"We're going to be tearing up the driving surface as you come in," Gulliver said. "That includes the concrete and the asphalt that you drive on, and we're replacing those with new precast concrete elements and then we're going to be repaving the entire thing once they're wrapped up. ... After this is all done, we're going to have a new, smooth driving surface."

1 more time: A guide to the 2024 Sumner Tunnel closure (2024)
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