State environmental regulators (known as MEPA) on Wednesday cleared the way for the reconstruction of the Long Island Bridge over the many objections of elected officials from Quincy, marking a major win for the South End community and Mayor Martin Walsh.
Officially, Matthew Beaton – secretary of Health and Human Services – ruled that the City did not need to file any further documentation in the form of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and awarded the City a MEPA certificate. In doing so, he said essentially ruled that there was no further state review necessary and the Bridge could move on to the state and federal permitting stages.
“The Notice of Project Change (NPC) has sufficiently defined the nature and general elements of the project change for the purposes of MEPA review and demonstrated that the project’s environmental impacts will be avoided, minimized and/or mitigated to the extent practicable,” he wrote. “The reconstruction of the superstructure will not expand the project or change the project site. It will require new Agency Action and it will result in relatively minor increases in environmental impacts compared to the Original Project; however, the City is reconstructing the bridge within the footprint of the previous bridge and the NPC includes sufficient information regarding the change, potential impacts and associated mitigation… I hereby determine that no further MEPA review is required. Outstanding issues will be addressed during State, local and federal permitting.”
With the issuance of the MEPA certificate, the City said it would move forward with state permitting, including the filing of a Chapter 91 license application, and appeal the Quincy Conservation Commission’s decision to deny our permit request. The Quincy Conservation Commission recently denied the permits needed for the project, and that denial has been appealed.
“In our effort to rebuild the Long Island Bridge and create a long-term recovery campus to tackle the opioid crisis, the City of Boston has committed to a bridge construction plan that is efficient, safe, and, most of all, minimizes the impact on both the environment and on abutters,” said Chris Osgood, chief of streets. “We are pleased that MEPA has reviewed our NPC and issued the City of Boston a certificate to proceed in the comprehensive state permitting process. We look forward to moving ahead in our efforts to rebuild the Long Island Bridge so that we can strengthen the continuum of care for one of our region’s most vulnerable populations.”
The Bridge reconstruction has been wildly popular in the South End and Fenway, in particular, since Mayor Walsh announced his intention to rebuild it in his Inaugural Speech last January. The Bridge was shut down in 2014 due to structural concerns, and that basically shut down the recovery and homeless programs on Long Island. Those programs and a new shelter were located in the South End, and many have said that has led to the massive opiate and homelessness problem that now exists there, especially in the Worcester Square area.
Many in the neighborhood initially cheered the news that MEPA had approved the project and given the go-ahead.
The nuts and bolts of the approval were basically looking at the construction methods most recently proposed. The City has proposed repairing and re-using all of the existing granite pilings from the old bridge, and then rebuilding a superstructure on top using a Delta Frame Girder design. It will allow two 12-foot travel lanes and a six-foot sidewalk. It will also allow for the expedited construction of the bridge.
To reduce truck traffic, the parts of the Bridge will be assembled at Pier 4 in Boston and floated in on Barge.
“Existing piers will be reused, with the exception of Pier 1 which will be used for temporary support and then abandoned or removed,” read the filing. “Bridge spans will be floated in and installed onto piers by barge at high tide. The replacement will include demolition and reconstruction work to the top portion of the piers, and repointing of the granite facing.”
The decision also cited that time was of the essence in getting recovery services re-located on Long Island.
“The City proposes to construct the bridge on an expedited basis to support re-opening of the public health facilities on Long Island,” read the decision.
The decision was also accompanied with scores of letters from Quincy elected officials and residents who opposed the re-construction, with some favoring the idea of using a ferry system instead of a bridge.
The environmental engineering company, Tighe & Bond, submitted a lengthy report on behalf of Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch calling for the extended MEPA review through an EIR.
Quincy officials and residents oppose the Bridge as the only way to access it is by traveling through Quincy and its Squantum neighborhood.