The restoration of the Sumner Tunnel has kicked off with a tidal wave of frustration from East Boston residents.

Some fear the gridlock they experienced during the first weekend of the tunnel's closure will continue throughout the two-year project. Others worry that emergency personnel and first responders may not be able to quickly reach people in need. Elected officials from the region have suggested ways the state can relieve the pressure, but the state has not responded.

"It was more than an inconvenience," District 1 Boston City Councilor Gigi Coletta said of the gridlock she experienced. "I mean the impact was felt by people just trying to move around freely in East Boston."

Like other Eastie residents, Coletta had things to do and places to be on the weekend. She had rented a car to get to a baby shower, but instead spent hours in immobilized by gridlock in every direction.

“You literally couldn’t move out of East Boston,” she said.

And that's just the first weekend of the tunnel's closure. There are 35 to go.

On a slightly brighter note, MassDOT announced Thursday that the tunnel would not close down this weekend for work as expected.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and other elected officials sent a letter on June 10 to state Transportation Secretary Jamey Tesler, who is from the South Shore town of Hingham, and state Highway Administrator Johnathan Gulliver, making recommendations to help the East Boston community cope. Among the three pages of suggestions: make the Blue Line free, resume ferry service between East Boston and Downtown, or have State Police details help manage traffic.

Wu’s office said Tesler and Gulliver have not responded.

Massachusetts Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kristen Pennucci said in an email to GBH that the agency is "mindful of the Sumner Tunnel's importance for regional mobility."

"The project’s plans were developed with extensive engagement from key stakeholders including municipal leaders, neighborhood organizations, first responders and hospitals, and other agencies including the MBTA and Massport," she wrote. "MassDOT will monitor the effects of the closure."

And of course, the repairs will make much-needed infrastructure improvements. The 88-year-old tunnel is in rough shape, with corrosion and wear and tear affecting the tunnel's wall panels and gutters. There’s exposed rebar on the ceiling and outdated ventilation, drainage and fire suppression systems, the DOT website said.

"At this point, we’re well beyond patches and repairs: the only way to keep the Sumner Tunnel in service is with a top-to-bottom restoration," it said.

Don't tell it to lifelong East Boston resident Michael Beamer Sr.

“They shouldn't have never let it get so bad,” said Beamer, a retired Logan Airport worker. “Total neglect by the Department of Transportation."

Beamer said everyone knows that East Boston is an island, and he wondered why the state didn’t undertake repairs in smaller bites across the last few decades or political administrations. He added that when he first started driving the tunnel in 1978, workers cleaned the tunnel every night, even washing the tiles.

“I haven't seen that in years and years and years,” he said.

East Boston resident Blythe Berents said she also felt trapped by gridlocked traffic. When she tried to make a trip to the Home Depot just a few miles from her home, she got so frustrated she gave up. She wondered how people in need will get emergency services, or what will happen in the event of a fire.

“You can't leave your house,” she said. “Waze and other apps take you to all the other backroads, and then those fill up. So it's a public safety issue.”

Weekend reconstruction of the tunnel is also only the beginning. Next May, the Sumner Tunnel is slated for full closure, seven days a week.