City’s Engineers Confident Long Island Piers are Sound, Reusable

Key will now be to get peace, permit from Quincy ConCom

When it comes to the old piers for the Long Island Bridge, engineers said last week they are solid as can be even after 75 years.

However, when it comes to relations with Quincy regarding the re-use of those piers for a new bridge, things are a little shakier.

An engineering study revealed last week to the public and the media showed that the old piers used for the bridge can be re-used, accelerating the construction schedule for a bridge that will unlock the use of Long Island as a regional recovery campus. That, many hope, will relieve some of the homelessness and addiction quality of life problems that now play out in the South End and Fenway in greater and greater numbers each year.

The 500-pound elephant in the room, however, was a stalled and litigated permit from the Quincy Conservation Commission. That, Chief of Streets Chris Osgood said, is the one thing standing in the way of the Bridge.

“We need that permit to build the bridge,” he said repeatedly and succinctly at a press conference.

He did say they are working with Quincy and do expect to eventually reach agreement with them. The Long Island Bridge touches the Squantum neighborhood and any vehicles using it have to make a circuitous trip through Quincy to get to the Bridge. After it was closed and condemned in 2014, many in Quincy were ready to fight any resurgence of the bridge.

“We are certainly there at the table with our partners in Quincy and that dialog will continue in the weeks ahead,” he said. “We certainly can understand the concerns residents in Quincy have and we want to be able to hear from their constituents about their concerns with the Long Island Bridge. We’ve been to the Quincy Conservation Commission a pair of times and had a community meeting…We expect to be able to work with the City of Quincy on this to make sure we’re not just replacing a bridge, but really meeting the greater goal of re-opening a recovery campus on Long Island that will serve the entire region.”

One of the most positive aspects of the new information was the engineering report.

Mark Ennis of STV consultants reported they performed test borings of the concrete inside the piers. That old concrete was built to withstand 3,000 psi in 1949, and he said they needed a test of 3,600 psi to be satisfied. The concrete, however, proved to be much stronger, averaging 7,100 psi throughout the borings.

Now, by inserting metal rods to increase the tension in the concrete, they will cap them off with new concrete and rest 12 girder-type spans on the repaired piers. They will also use one truss span to accommodate boat traffic underneath.

“The approach we’re taking is one to minimize the environmental impact during construction on the bridge as well as minimizing any impact on abutting communities,” said Ennis. “What we’re planning on doing is assembling the pieces in the City of Boston and float them to the Boston Harbor area and float them onto the existing piers… In this case, our goal was to absolutely minimize impacts to the seashore and the surrounding seashore around the bridge. That introduces levels of complexity, but we believe we have found a solution.”

On a complexity scale of 1 to 10, he said it would be a 7 – with the Longfellow Bridge in the Back Bay being a 10.

Added Osgood, “They have a plan to take an approach that’s been used on a lot of other bridges in the Boston area to make sure those existing piers can support the superstructure we plan to use for connecting to Long Island.

It’s one of those things that can speed the construction, reduce the environmental impact and reduce the cost.”

Beyond all of that, however, Osgood said they really want to stress the purpose of the Bridge, which is to create a regional recovery campus to address the national opiate epidemic. He said that should not be lost in all of the discussion about the bridge.

That was re-affirmed by a video released earlier this month by the City talking up the programming and importance of the recovery campus for those that used it in the past, and perhaps, those that will use it in the future.

“We are talking about a bridge, but the intent is really about addressing the opiate epidemic we face in all of our communities,” he said. “We want to support all of the communities and we see Long Island as a critical component of that. The bridge allows us to open a critical set of buildings that are already there today. (A ferry doesn’t work because) the programs we’re looking to put on Long Island, the program gap we’re looking to fill, really requires ambulatory care. That requires vehicle access to the Island, which is why we think the bridge is the best solution to re-open the campus.”

Osgood said in 2018, they were able to apply for all of the permits needed on the bridge. The City did get a state environmental (MEPA) certificate for the bridge, but that is being challenged in court by Quincy. That, however, does not hold up construction on the Bridge.

The Conservation Commission permit from Quincy does hold it up, and that one was denied by Quincy and is being challenged in court by Boston.

He said design should be completed this fall, If all goes well, the $100 million construction project could begin in 2020

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