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Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority seeks Corps of Engineers permit to reconstruct railroad bridge in Gloucester

Published April 21, 2020

CONCORD, Mass. – The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is seeking a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District to conduct work in waters of the U.S. in conjunction with the reconstruction of the railroad bridge in Gloucester, Massachusetts. This work is proposed in the Annisquam River near 61 Riverside Avenue in Gloucester.


The proposed work involves the complete reconstruction of the railroad bridge, which has reportedly reached the end of its useful life. The proposed work includes: (1) Installation of 9 drilled shafts within vertical casings, 7 feet in diameter, totaling 346 feet² to support the new bridge; and to replace 138 existing timber pilings that currently support the bridge; (2) removal of the 138 existing timber pilings, 12 inches in diameter, cutting them approximately 2 feet below the river channel mudline, thus gaining 138 feet² of waterway; (3) removal of the existing fender system, 128.5 linear feet on the east side and 150 feet on the west; and removal (or cutting 2 feet below the mudline) of its 121, 12-inch pilings; (4) replacing the fender system with a new fender system, 200 linear feet on the east side and 180 feet on the west side of the channel that will be attached to 96 timber piles, driven into the river bottom, such that the bottom rails of the fender system will be set at mean low water elevation, affecting an additional 164 feet² of waterway; and (5) installation of a 575-foot-long sheet pile retaining wall and associated backfill along the south side of the West Causeway, totaling 16,000 feet² below the high tide line (12,000 feet² below mean high water) in order to allow for construction of new track. 


Work will be done such that only one of the two tracks will be taken out of service at a time, so that train operations can continue during construction.


As mitigation for the proposed net of 16,402 feet² of wetland/mudflat loss, the applicant has agreed to provide funds to an in lieu fee program managed by the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game.


The dredging portion of this project will impact approximately 402 square feet of Essential Fish Habitat (EFH). Habitat at this site can be described as subtidal mudflat. Loss of this habitat may adversely affect species that use these waters and substrate. However, the Corps has made a preliminary determination that the site-specific adverse effect will not be substantial. Further consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service regarding EFH conservation recommendations is being conducted and will be concluded prior to the final permit decision.


The application for the federal permit was filed with the Corps in compliance with Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act, which provides for federal regulation of any work in, or affecting navigable waters of the U.S.; Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, which regulates the discharge or fill of material in U.S. waters, including wetlands; and Section 14 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 USC 408), which regulates altering existing Corps civil works projects.


The activities proposed herein will also require permission from the Corps pursuant  to 33 U.S.C. 408 because it will alter or temporarily or permanently occupy or use a Corps federally authorized Federal Navigation Project (FNP) known as the Gloucester Harbor and Annisquam River. The proposed alteration involves permanent occupation of the FNP by spanning it. A permit pursuant to Section 10/404/103 shall not be granted until the Section 408 permission is issued.


The public notice, with more specifics on the work proposed by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, can be viewed on the Corps website at https://www.nae.usace.army.mil/Missions/PublicNotices/.


Public comments on this work proposed by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (file # NAE-2013-01925) should be forwarded no later than May 21, 2020 to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, Regulatory Division (ATTN: Alan R. Anacheka-Nasemann), 696 Virginia Road, Concord, MA 01742-2751. Additional information is available from Permit Project Manager Alan R. Anacheka-Nasemann at 978-318-8214 or toll free 800-343-4789 or 800-362-4367 (if calling from within Massachusetts) or by email to: alan.r.anacheka-nasemann@usace.army.mil.

Tim Dugan

Release no. 20-030