As Commonwealth commuters are aware, Boston’s Sumner Tunnel - a major artery for Boston that connects East Boston and Logan Airport with the city's North End and I-93 - is closed to traffic through the end of August while work continues on an ambitious, two-year restoration of the Depression-era underpass. Major construction on the tunnel is on track to conclude by the end of 2024 and is the responsibility of lead contractor– and NECA Boston member – J.F. White Contracting Co.


“J.F. White is proud to tackle this rehabilitation of such a critical piece of infrastructure,” said Pete Rush, vice president of the company’s electrical division. “Our tradespeople, subcontractors, construction management staff, designers, and other participants are working hard to minimize disruption while still providing a higher quality tunnel for the commuting public. Working 24/7 has a personal impact on our craft and staff, and we deeply appreciate the hard work, time, and care they are putting into this project.”


Based in Framingham, MA, J.F. White is one of the region's most lauded, versatile, and respected contractors, with a history going back even further than the Sumner Tunnel. Originally a one-truck road building enterprise started by Joseph F. White in 1918, the multi-generation business quickly expanded to foundation excavation and quite literally laid the groundwork for much of Boston's modern skyline, including the Statler Hotel & Office Building, the Sears Building, and Harvard Business School, as well as the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge.


Surviving the Great Depression and building on the post-WW 2 economy, J.F. White emerged as an in-demand heavy/civil contractor, taking on ever-larger projects such as the Ted Williams Tunnel and the Central Artery Tunnel Project. Today, J. F. White is a multi-disciplined contractor with strengths in design/build, electrical, mechanical, and deep foundation systems. The Sumner Tunnel project calls for every skill in the firm's arsenal.


"The Sumner Tunnel required a top-to-bottom restoration," said Marshall Hook, Communications Project Manager at the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (DOT), who detailed the project's scope:


  • Remove and replace the tunnel ceiling and repair the overhead arch
  • Demolish and replace the tunnel deck and roadway surface
  • Repair tunnel walls and install painted fireproof panels
  • Install new LED lights inside the tunnel
  • Upgrade CCTV and fire alarm systems
  • Install new utility conduits and cables under the bridge deck
  • New vent buildings and pumps which will reduce air pollution and improve storm preparedness


According to Rush, progress has been substantial, and the company is working hard to minimize the impact on commuters. “After months of weekend closures, we moved into the full shutdown schedule,” he said. “The ceiling replacement is the focus of this construction season. Alongside this, our electricians and our subcontractor, Chapman Construction Group, have been working hard to get the lighting and life safety systems in place. They’ve been flexible about working around so many trades while the ceiling progresses, and still find a way to get their work completed.”


Once completed, the restored Sumner Tunnel will provide long-term public benefits, “including improved tunnel safety, a smoother, more durable roadway surface, new lighting and security systems, and better cell phone, GPS, and radio service inside the tunnel," MassDOT said in a statement. "With this work, we expect to keep the Sumner Tunnel in service for another century or more."