By SCOTT JACKSON
Boston’s proposal to rebuild the Long Island Bridge cleared a major hurdle this week with the issuance of a key state permit.
Quincy officials are expected to appeal the decision.
Boston officials on Thursday announced the city had received a Chapter 91 license from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to rebuild the bridge, calling it the
“most significant state approval required in [the city’s] years-long efforts to rebuild the bridge and restore access to the 35-acre public health campus on Long Island.”
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said she hopes the new bridge would be rebuilt in four years, at which time the first phase of a planned recovery campus on Long Island would be ready to open.
“With this major state approval in hand, our work to rebuild the Long Island Bridge and bring back this critical health care campus can truly begin,” Wu said in a statement.
“This is a transformative opportunity to support families and meet the needs of individuals and communities across the region. We’re ready to move forward in partnership with health care, recovery, and housing providers, alongside our governmental and philanthropic partners, and the many community members who believe in the enormous potential of this unique resource to help meet our most urgent challenges.”
With the Chapter 91 license issued, Boston officials said they can move onto the final two reviews required for the bridge project. Those are a federal consistency review by the state Office of Coastal Zone Management and a bridge permit from the US Coast Guard. The Coast Guard earlier this summer gave Boston favorable preliminary determinations on the navigational and historic preservation efforts of the city’s proposal.
Speaking at a press conference Thursday, Chris Osgood, Wu’s senior advisor for infrastructure, said those processes could be finished by the end of this year.
During the press conference, Wu said she had spoken to Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch on Wednesday and she anticipates the city of Quincy would appeal MassDEP’s issuance of the Chapter 91 license. The appeal is not expected to have a major impact on the timeline to rebuild the bridge; Boston cannot break ground on the bridge while the appeal is pending but can begin mobilizing for the project.
“We are bringing on the project managers, we are getting going with everything proceeding with the DEP permit as the sign that we are good to go and start moving forward,” Wu said. “The actual construction bit of the process is going to be the last stages of it, so we have plenty to do and to work on…before breaking ground and we will get going on that.”
Osgood was optimistic Boston would ultimately prevail should Quincy appeal the decision, noting all other appeals Quincy has filed to date have been decided in Boston’s favor.
“We have similar confidence if there is an appeal [of the Chapter 91 license], we would still be successful,” he said.
Officials from Quincy and Boston have been at loggerheads over the proposal to build the new Long Island Bridge since 2018, when then Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced plans to rebuild the span and open a recovery campus on the island. The bridge would connect Long Island, which is within Boston’s city limits, with Moon Island, which is within Quincy’s limits and fully owned by Boston. Moon Island is accessible via a causeway from the Squantum neighborhood in Quincy, though the island is not open to the public.
Quincy officials have raised concerns about the impact the bridge would have on traffic in Squantum and other neighborhoods and have urged Boston to consider water transportation to access the island.
Wu on Thursday said Boston is striving to be a good neighbor, as the recovery campus on Long Island would provide services to residents of Quincy and other area communities. Boston, she added, will do its best to mitigate the impact the bridge has on Quincy.
“We are going to continue doing what we can do to…minimize those impacts,” Wu said.
Quincy officials have also voiced their concerns about potential commercial and residential development on Long Island should the bridge be built. At Thursday’s press conference, Wu said such developments are not part of Boston’s plan.
“That is neither the plan nor defined in the permit application where we had to specify the use of what the bridge would eventually lead to,” she said.
The city of Boston has set aside $81 million for construction of the bridge. Osgood said the bridge would likely cost over $100 million to construct, though the final cost won’t be known until the project goes out to bid.
Wu said she recently met with service providers, many of whom had operated on Long Island before the original bridge closed, to begin planning for the campus there. The city of Boston’s budget for fiscal year 2024 includes $38 million to repair and stabilize the existing buildings on the 35-acre public health campus on the island. These improvements are expected to be bid later this year with construction, via barge, anticipated to start in the spring of 2024 and completed in 16-24 months.
The total cost for the campus on Long Island won’t be known until planning for the site concludes, officials said.