By SCOTT JACKSON
The Quincy Conservation Commission will take additional time to review Boston’s proposal to rebuild the Long Island Bridge, and continued its hearing on the matter to Aug. 1 after representatives from both neighboring cities testified for and against the plan.
Boston officials and engineers who spoke at Wednesday’s meeting said the plan to rebuild the bridge between Moon Island and Long Island using existing piers would have minimal environmental impacts. Quincy officials and consultants, however, said more work on those piers could be needed, increasing the environmental impact of the project.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh in January announced plans to rebuild the bridge, which was demolished using explosives in 2015, and place a long-term recovery facility on Long Island. Boston officials have said the bridge will cost $92 million to reconstruct and hope to start the three-year rebuilding project next year.
The plan has been met with opposition from Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch, other local elected officials and Squantum residents, because of concerns over vehicular traffic in Squantum. The only vehicular access to the bridge would be through Squantum and Moon Island.
Moon Island is owned by Boston but within Quincy’s city limits, giving the Quincy Conservation Commission a role in the permitting process. Boston has already received a permit from its conservation commission, and the bridge is subject other federal and state permits.
Chris Osgood, Walsh’s chief of streets and transportation, began the nearly two-hour hearing on the bridge by saying it would be rebuilt in a fashion designed to minimize environmental impacts.
“We have taken great lengths in our plans around the means and methods of construction to minimize the environmental impacts.” he said.
Mark Ennis, a project manager with engineering firm STV, said the new bridge would be floated into place by barge and placed atop the existing piers, which were built in 1950. The same process was used to install the central span of the Fore River Bridge, he added.
The span between Moon Island and the first pier would be put into place using cranes, Ennis said. The cranes could be located on the shore or on a barge offshore. As part of that work, a temporary piling would be installed about midway between the first pier and the approach to the bridge. That steel piling would be removed once the span was installed.
Each pier holding up the bridge has a concrete core with granite blocks on its façade, Ennis said. Boston plans to re-enforce each pier by removing the granite cap on top of the concrete core and installing a tensioning bar. A new concrete cap would be poured on top of the pier – two feet thicker than the granite cap, to give the bridge additional clearance over the water – and the bar would be tensioned.
“By just using the bars, we do not impact the seabed,” Ennis said.
Two piers – those closest to the shore off each island – would not be re-used, according to Sam Moffett, a principal at engineering firm TRC Solutions.
All told, Boston officials said the project would impact 1,310 square feet of land under the Quincy Conservation Commission’s purview. That would include 80 square feet of coastal beach and land containing shellfish, 512 square feet of coastal bank, and 592 square feet of land subject to coastal storm flowage, all temporarily, plus 126 square feet of buffer zone permanently.
Quincy officials and consultants, however, said the impact could be much greater.
Tracy Adamski, a planner with engineering firm Tighe & Bond, requested a structural analysis of the piers to identify all repairs needed.
“Anything under water is likely to require that work be done in the dry, which would mean cofferdams, which would mean additional impact to land under water around each and every one of the piers within the city of Quincy’s jurisdiction,” she said.
Use of those cofferdams, she added, could impact more than 5,400 square feet of seafloor within Quincy’s boundaries.
Dave Murphy, a principal at Tighe & Bond, said his firm used divers to inspect the underwater portion of the piers and they found concrete deteriorating behind the granite blocks, missing granite pieces, and significant loss of lead grout.
“We significant quantities of lead on the ocean floor as a result of that lead coming out,” Murphy said. “We’re talking pure lead – pounds slash tons of lead – in and around those piers. It’s a significant quantity of lead that needs to be addressed.”
City engineer Paul Costello held up several pieces of lead, some up to six inches long, he said were taken from the ocean floor earlier that day.
Ennis, in response to those concerns, said all deficient grout – lead based or not – would be removed during the construction project, as would lead on the seafloor. Such work would not require the use of cofferdams, he said. Ennis highlighted several similar projects his firm was involved with where cofferdams were not used, including repairs to the Longfellow Bridge.
Jeffrey Graeber, the commission’s chairman, said a continuance to Aug. 1 was needed so board members could receive additional information on the project and to give Boston officials time to respond to concerns from Quincy officials about the piers.
“We can appreciate the applicant wanting to minimize impact by using existing structures, but if those existing structures were built in the ‘50s there are issues with them,” he said.
Quincy officials have long pushed for the use of ferries to provide access to Long Island in lieu of rebuilding the bridge and did so again at the commission hearing.
John Shea, an attorney with Boston law firm Mackie Shea, noted a 2002 report commissioned by then Boston Mayor Thomas Menino supported the use of ferries to provide access to the island and found Squantum’s roadways were inadequate to handle traffic associated with public use of the island.
“Water access was publicly studied and endorsed the late Mayor Tom Menino, but Mayor Walsh apparently has a different agenda,” Shea said.
Ward 6 Councillor William Harris, whose district includes Squantum, also spoke in favor of ferry service.
“Boston continues to undertake this project without explaining why it will not invest in the less expensive, more environmentally friendly alternative of ferry service,” he said. “Our engineers have raised a number of serious concerns, all of which go away if Boston will simply tap the existing ferry capabilities, which can easily be expanded to serve Long Island.”
Rep. Bruce Ayers, a former Ward 6 councillor, said the rebuilding of the bridge would have long-last effects on the environment.
“Boston’s bridge to rebuild Long Island Bridge is environmentally and fiscally irresponsible,” he said. “An alternative means of transportation, such as a ferry, would alleviate all of these environmental concerns that we have been discussing tonight.”