By SCOTT JACKSON
Quincy city councillors on Tuesday approved the taking of easements along a portion of Sea Street, setting the stage for a state project to make improvements to the thoroughfare.
Councillors approved the takings along the stretch of Sea Street between Samoset Avenue and Palmer Street in a 9-0 vote during a special session on Tuesday evening. In a separate 9-0 vote, councillors awarded the impacted property owners a total of $1.13 million in compensation.
Ward 1 Councillor David McCarthy noted the upcoming roadwork is the second phase of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation project to upgrade Sea Street. The first phase of the project took place in the vicinity of the intersection of Sea Street and Quincy Shore Drive.
“That was a great success,” McCarthy said of the first phase of the project.
“What this is is phase two that runs from Ginger Betty’s all the way down to Palmer Street, which is much larger,” he added. “This is the same type of approach that we had with phase one where we are looking at sidewalks, handicap accessibility, ADA compliance, et cetera, poles that are in the way.
“Sea Street hasn’t had a facelift forever, so this is some great improvements for the residents all the way down to Palmer Street.”
Council President Noel DiBona said the project would be beneficial to all those who use Sea Street.
“As a Ward 1 resident myself that lives two houses away from Sea Street…this will be very helpful for not only the folks driving in their vehicles but the pedestrians as well as the business owners,” DiBona said.
“I think this is going to be a great project and kudos to everyone involved. At the end of the day, it’s about public safety and I’m glad the stakeholders, the federal and the MassDOT, is investing their monies to the city of Quincy.”
McCarthy said an open house was held at Quincy High School on Aug. 9 so area residents could meet with him, City Solicitor Jim Timmins and representatives from MassDOT to learn more about the takings. McCarthy called the open house “very successful.”
“A lot of the residents, as always when you start off with a project, have questions and there’s some concern, but once they understood that this is phase two of an improvement of Sea Street…everyone was on board,” he said.
Councillor Anne Mahoney asked if the design for the improvements along that section of Sea Street had been discussed during the August meeting because, she said, residents had expressed some concerns about the proposal during a 2019 community meeting. McCarthy said last month’s meeting was held to discuss the takings, not the improvements themselves. He said that “not much has changed” since the 2019 meeting and he would “have another meeting before the end of the year and bring everyone in and take a look at it one more time.”
Councillor Nina Liang asked for an explanation about the types of easements the city would be taking. Craig Sheehan of MassDOT said three different types of easements are needed for the project.
The first type is temporary easements during construction. Those easements will allow, for instance, the contractor to go onto private property to install sidewalks and then, once the sidewalks are finished, restore the land to its original condition. There are also temporary easements for driveways during construction. Equipment cannot be kept on the temporary easements overnight, Sheehan said, but items like pipes may be stored there.
The second type of easement is for utilities. Sheehan said utility poles would be relocated as part of the project and the utility easements will allow the wires that run between them to pass over private property.
The final type of easements are permanent ones. Sheehan said that in some cases permanent easements are needed so that ramps could be installed in compliance with ADA standards. In other cases, sidewalks were installed years ago on private property and the permanent easements are needed to rectify those situations.
Liang also asked about the timeline for the work on Sea Street. Sheehan said work on the project, which still has to go out to bid, would likely begin next March or April depending on the weather. He noted the contractor would set the schedule for the project, meaning they would determine where along Sea Street the work would begin and whether to start with sidewalks or the roadway first, for instance. The temporary easements are for five years, Sheehan stated, but he was optimistic the work would not take that long to complete.
Additionally, Liang asked if there would be a central point of contact for residents during construction. Sheehan said MassDOT assigns a resident engineer for each project to fill that role and, because of how large the Sea Street project is, two may be assigned in this instance.