By SCOTT JACKSON
Squantum residents were loud and clear during a community meeting Tuesday in their opposition to Boston’s plan to rebuild the bridge to Long Island.
A standing-room-only crowd of more than 300 residents and elected officials attended the meeting at the Squantum Elementary School. At the end of the meeting, when Mayor Thomas Koch asked those present if anyone supported the bridge, a handful – at most – said ‘yes’ while much of the audience said ‘no’ when prompted.
Koch had opened the meeting expecting widespread opposition to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s proposal to rebuild the bridge, which connected Moon Island to Long Island for 64 years before it was torn down in 2015 after it was closed to traffic the previous year.
“We’re all in agreement we don’t want to see the bridge go back to Long Island,” Koch said. “You don’t have to convince anybody here that we don’t need the Long Island Bridge. We’re in full agreement with that.”
Walsh announced plans to rebuild the bridge in January and construct a comprehensive recovery campus on Long Island. Boston officials have said a proposed capital plan and other funding sources include a combined $92 million to rebuild the span. They anticipate construction starting next year and taking three years to complete.
The bridge has long been a point of contention between the two neighboring cities. Moon Island is within Quincy’s municipal boundaries but fully owned by Boston, and has police and fire training facilities there. The only municipal access to Moon Island is through Squantum. Moon Island has long been closed to the public, as has Long Island.
Those who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting were unanimously opposed to rebuilding the bridge.
“The traffic is going to be horrific and we’re not going to be able to enjoy the north end of [Quincy],” said Jim Stamos. “This bridge cannot be built.”
Stamos and other residents who addressed the crowd at the meeting said Boston has a long track record of being a bad neighbor and ignoring Quincy’s concerns, pointing to the lack of public access to Moon and Long Islands, the Boston Police Department gun range on Moon Island, and a proposal to host Olympic events on Long Island if Boston were awarded the 2024 games, among other issues.
Jay MacRitchie, a former city solicitor, said Boston previously dumped raw sewage into Quincy Bay via Moon Island.
“I say that not to gross anybody out, but just to remind people that the alignment of that bridge has had 200 years of worth of all kinds of sewerage dumped out there,” MacRitchie said, suggesting Quincy officials should have sediments under the bridge tested for contaminants during the permitting process for the new span.
Dave Murphy, an engineer with Tighe & Bond, said 15 samples were taken during the demolition of the bridge. Other hazardous materials – including asbestos and lead – could have been released into the water when the bridge was taken down, he added.
“We’ll be looking very, very carefully at all those samples and scrutinizing all the permits relating to those,” Murphy said.
MacRitchie and other speakers voiced their support for using ferries to access Long Island. Koch and other Quincy officials have long promoted the use of water transportation to and from the island in lieu of rebuilding the bridge. Boston officials have said a bridge is needed for emergency access.
Sue Struzik, a nurse at the Floating Hospital for Children, said ferries are used to transport patients from places like Martha’s Vineyard.
“I’m a NICU transport nurse and we transport babies off of Martha’s Vineyard in all kinds of weather by ferry,” Struzik said. “Ferry has been our way to go and we’ve never had any issues.”
Michael Donovan said places such as Quebec City are able to run ferries on year-round basis.
“From my experience in the marine industry, there really are no technical barriers to running ferries in icy waters,” he said. “The technology exists. It’s nothing new.”
Norfolk Country District Attorney Michael Morrissey, a Squantum resident, said Boston should use Shattuck Hospital in Jamaica Plain, which the state plans to shutter in the coming years, instead of Long Island for a recovery campus.
“You’re right next to world-class hospitals, close to mass transportation,” Morrissey said of the Shattuck Hospital site.
The district attorney suggested Quincy should raise Shattuck Hospital as an alternative to Long Island during the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act review process. City Solicitor Jim Timmins had previously said Quincy officials were looking at the MEPA process as a way to have ferries considered as the mode of transportation to the island instead of the bridge.
The MEPA review is one of the several the bridge will undergo. Timmins said the U.S. Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers, and the Boston and Quincy Conservation Commissions must also review it. An ordinance pending before the Quincy City Council would require all bridges, including the Long Island Bridge, receive a special permit as well before construction can begin.
Norfolk County Sheriff Michael Bellotti, also a Squantum resident, said Long Island is a less than idea location for a recovery campus because those in recovery should be closer to the community.
“You need these folks tied to programs in the community,” he said.
Sen. John Keenan said the money that will be spent on the bridge and rehabbing the buildings on Long Island could be better spent on recovery services elsewhere.
“Our obligation is to those who seek recovery and to provide it to them as soon as possible, as effectively as possibly, as efficiently as possible, and doing so so that the dollars we spend get as many people into the recovery process as possible,” he said. “Building the bridge and planning untold millions out there to build a center runs contrary to that.”