Mayor Marty Walsh kicked off his new term by vowing to rebuild the bridge to Boston’s Long Island. The price tag? Up to $100 million. He’ll use as much as $30 million in parking meter revenue. He’ll consider selling bonds to raise money.
And he tells me he’s open to a third way: finding a developer to cover part of the bill.
The city had used the island to accommodate hundreds of homeless residents until Walsh’s administration abruptly closed the crumbling bridge for safety reasons in 2014. A separate summer camp for inner-city kids continued, but only by hiring a ferry to transport campers there.
Now, Walsh wants to reopen the 225-acre island for a unique addiction recovery campus, a crucial tool to fight the opioid epidemic. He says that’s the driving reason behind the new bridge plan, not the development potential. But private-sector cash sure could help.
Boston Harbor Now chief executive Kathy Abbott says her group always considered development of Long Island a possibility. She says redeveloping a portion is unlikely to require the Legislature’s approval because its primary use has been for public health, not public parks. She could be fine with development there if it improves access to that island and others; right now, the harbor’s biggest island is vastly underused.
But Walsh will need a détente with Quincy officials. The bridge was connected to the mainland through Quincy’s Squantum neighborhood, where many residents are unhappy about the traffic.
The island’s isolation makes construction challenging, it’s not exactly a straight shot to downtown, and housing and a recovery campus may not be a marketable mix. But those unparalleled views of Boston’s skyline might be able to attract a developer who shares Walsh’s vision.Jon Chesto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @jonchesto.