Boston plans to float in parts for bridge to Long Island

Says barges would ease road traffic; Quincy still opposes

Support for the demolished Long Island Bridge in Boston Harbor.
Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff
Support for the demolished Long Island Bridge in Boston Harbor.

The Walsh administration said Tuesday that it will move forward with plans to rebuild the Long Island Bridge by floating in parts of the structure on barges — hoping to assuage officials from nearby Quincy who are worried about noisy construction vehicles rumbling down their roads.

Administration officials called the plan the more environmentally friendly and cost-efficient way to build a new Long Island Bridge, and also keep some construction trucks off Quincy’s streets. They defended its replacement as necessary to provide rehabilitation services to fight the region’s growing opioid epidemic.

“The intent of this is really so we can do the critical work . . . around the activation of the recovery campus,” said Chris Osgood, Boston’s chief of streets, transportation, and sanitation, in a briefing with reporters.


But Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s ambitions to rebuild the Long Island Bridge — closed in 2014 for structural concerns — has angered officials in Quincy, where one end of the span is located. Quincy officials have vowed to block the project, including a ban on construction vehicles on the roads leading to the bridge site.

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“We’re very mindful in all of our construction projects, no matter where they take place, to minimize any disruption — any disruption to the environment, any disruption to abutters, any creation of traffic,” Osgood said. “So our intent is to actually build the spans off site and actually float them into place.”

Osgood said the city will file a notice of intent with the Boston Conservation Commission on Wednesday for work on the Long Island side of the bridge span, which is governed by Boston. The city will then seek a permit from the Quincy Conservation Commission for construction on the Quincy end of the span. And then they’ll seek required state permits.

He said the permit process could take a year, and construction, if approved, could begin in early 2019. Rebuilding the bridge would take about three years, and the project would cost $92 million.

The Walsh administration’s most recent plans drew quick opposition from Quincy officials, who have opposed the bridge’s construction and criticized Boston for not seeking community input.


Chris Walker, a spokesman for Quincy Mayor Thomas P. Koch, complained that Boston’s barge plan is a sign the city is acting without informing its counterparts in Quincy.

“We’re ready, as a community, to do what we need to do to fight this ill-conceived project,” Walker said on Tuesday.

The route to the bridge starts in the residential neighborhood of Squantum in Quincy, where, in addition to proposing a ban on construction trucks, city officials have discussed giving themselves more power over permitting decisions — another effort to halt the rebuilding of the bridge. One councilor also proposed taking the unusual step of subpoenaing Walsh to testify before officials in that city.

Osgood said the Walsh administration officials hope to work with their Quincy counterparts during the application process.

“I think we have an entire year of substantive conversations in front of us,” Osgood said.


Osgood said the construction work and the need to access the bridge site through Quincy would also be reduced because of the plan to float in the structure.

The plan would use 13 of the existing 15 piers that remain in the harbor and are structurally sound, and the new span would be erected atop those piers.

“That’s the best way we can actually reduce any impact to the sea floor and reduce any disruption that may occur as part of our reconstruction process,” Osgood said.

The new bridge, at two-thirds of a mile, would replace the span originally built in 1951. The bridge’s 2014 closure forced the relocation of services for the region’s most downtrodden, shutting down 742 beds for the homeless, and 225 beds for recovery services.

Boston officials said those beds have since been replaced by services scattered in other parts of the city, but the disruption of the campus on Long Island exposed shortcomings in what they said needs to be a regional approach to recovery programs.

Walsh, in previous interviews, has opposed the relocation of homeless people to Long Island, saying the region’s desperate should not be kept in the “shadows” of the city. But his administration is envisioning a campus for another population — drug addicts who are seeking rehabilitation and who would benefit from the serenity of an isolated campus.

“The closure of the island has really forced us in a way to change the system,” said Jen Tracey, director of Boston’s Office of Recovery Services. “We will really assess the footprint of the city . . . what are we providing, how are we doing that, and how do we improve our services?”

The city has already allocated $1 million to examine what a recovery campus on Long Island should look like in four years.

“It’s about thinking holistically about the needs,” said Marty Martinez, the city’s chief of health and human services. “It includes looking at the bridge . . . but making sure services meet the needs.”

The island also houses Camp Harbor View, a summer camp and youth program center that typically uses ferry service. City officials argue that form of transportation is too unreliable for the needs of a recovery campus.

The bridge would, like its predecessor, have two lanes, one in each direction, along with a sidewalk and lighting fixtures. City officials estimate it would last 75 years.

Milton J. Valencia can be reached at milton.valencia
. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.