Lawmakers Propose Changes to Ease Traffic in East Boston's Sumner Tunnel

Between airport traffic, ride-share services and GPS cut-throughs, drivers in East Boston say the Sumner Tunnel is quickly turning into the most frustrating logjam in the city. Now, a few lawmakers are trying to solve the congestion with legislation.

State Rep. Adrian Madaro is one of the politicians proposing a series of bills in an effort to tackle the Sumner standstill.

"Ultimately, the goal is to reduce congestion in East Boston," Madaro said. "Their quality of life has eroded because of the congestion problem."

He helped file a package of bills with Sen. Joseph Boncore. One would reduce the tolls in the tunnel at certain travel times to try to incentivize more drivers to use it during off-peak hours.

Many of the other bills involve increasing fees on ride-share companies, what many drivers say is a large contributor to the traffic.

One bill would increase the ride-share tax from a 20-cent flat fee to a cost that would scale with your ride. Another would charge ride-share drivers a $3 fee for any trip to and from the airport where they do not have a passenger, something Madaro said happens often.

"There were 12 million trips to and from the airport last year and 5 million were what we call deadhead trips, meaning they had no passenger," Madaro said.

Both Uber and Lyft released similar statements calling the plan an "unfair burden" and calling on lawmakers to go after personal and commercial vehicles.

Those who live in East Boston said they are in favor of a fix, but with new construction adding to the congestion, they question what will make a difference.

"They have to do something because they have to make it better," resident Sal Giarratani said. "It's just horrendous."

The lawmakers proposing the legislation hope to use the money raised from ride-share fees to invest in public transportation. They also want an in-depth traffic study of the area.

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