It may not be the Big Dig, but it promises to be as disruptive for commuters as the massive, decades-long project to put the I-93 Central Artery below ground. The two-year, $157 million Sumner Tunnel Restoration Project is intended to rebuild the one-mile underwater link between East Boston and downtown which first opened in 1934.

The tunnel will get new walls, ceilings, road decks and surfaces, along with new lighting and improved GPS, fire alarm and surveillance systems. But to do all that work efficiently the tunnel will have to be closed to all traffic for significant periods. Starting June 10, the tunnel will be closed every weekend for 36 weeks, from 11 p.m. Friday nights to 5 a.m. Monday mornings. Consider that a dress rehearsal for what will be a complete four-month shutdown of the tunnel from May 2023 to September 2023, when the bulk of the construction work will take place and the biggest traffic impacts are expected. There will be another series of weekend closures before the project is finally completed in 2024.

Massachusetts Department of Transportation officials admit increased traffic congestion is unavoidable and say that is why they are doing the work on weekends when traffic volume is lowest. Most traffic will be detoured into the Ted Williams Tunnel and onto the Tobin Bridge to connect with Route 93. Those leaving Logan Airport and heading north will be directed along Routes 1, 1A and 16 to Route 93. MassDOT promises extensive signage throughout the region to guide motorists through the confusion.

At a public hearing in Boston this week, East Boston residents acknowledged the tunnel is in poor repair and seemed resigned to the fact that their lives will be disrupted. I drive through this tunnel every day, Boston City Councilor Gabriela Coletta testified. “And for those of you who do drive through this tunnel, you understand that it is in desperate need of repairs, and it will be an inconvenience and it will impact our lives. But we want to make sure that people can drive safely through it.”

Debbie Raso, who lives near the entrance to the tunnel in East Boston, worried that MassDOT would repeat mistakes made when the old toll booths were taken down in 2017.

How can I trust you people when you say that the noise will be limited?” Raso said. “Because when the toll plaza was demolished, we were told that the noise would be limited, and it wasn't. And my small children were woken up in the middle of the night.”

MassDOT officials said some noise would be unavoidable, but the heaviest machinery would not be deployed between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. They also will be monitoring dust levels and problems with pests like rats which may be displaced during the work.

Officials say the work would take years to complete without the extensive closures.

"We're kind of ripping off the Band-Aid, so to speak, right now to do this full restoration top to bottom," said Project Manager Michael Drew, "so that we can eliminate or reduce any of the times that we have to be in the tunnel."