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Long Island Bridge demolition expedited under Regulatory permit

New England District
Published April 23, 2015
Contractor Walsh Construction removes and sorts bridge debris with barges and excavators during the demolition of the Long Island Bridge in Boston Harbor in Quincy and Boston, Massachusetts on April 6, 2015.

Contractor Walsh Construction removes and sorts bridge debris with barges and excavators during the demolition of the Long Island Bridge in Boston Harbor in Quincy and Boston, Massachusetts on April 6, 2015.

The closed Long Island Bridge located in Boston Harbor in Quincy and Boston, Massachusetts is no more.  After intense coordination and cooperation from other state and federal agencies, the New England District’s Regulatory Division expedited a permit that allowed the city of Boston to temporarily drop bridge spans into Boston Harbor as part of a controlled demolition project. 

The Long Island Bridge opened in August 1951 and connected the islands of Long Island and Moon Island in Boston Harbor. The city of Boston conducted regular inspections of the Long Island Bridge.  During a recent inspection, C&C Consulting Engineers, LCC, the company that performed the inspection determined that many of the vertical members of the trusses were found to be rusted through and several floor beams were no longer supporting the deck above.  The city of Boston closed the bridge for safety reasons October 8, 2014.

Concerns soon arose that portions of the bridge could fall off and impact boats traveling under the bridge. There is a nonfederal navigation channel under a section of the bridge, which is used by the MBTA ferries.  The decision was made that the bridge had to go.

In January, the city of Boston filed a permit application with the New England District under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act to temporarily drop pieces of the Long Island Bridge into Boston Harbor as part of the controlled demolition. Section 404 regulates the discharge of fill material in U.S. waters including wetlands.  The pieces of the demolished bridge sitting on the Boston Harbor substrate would have the effect of fill.

Paul Sneeringer is the New England District’s permit manager for the project.  The city of Boston requested an expedited permit not only because of the safety issues with the bridge, but also because they were interested in reopening activities at the homeless shelter, other social service facilities and Camp Harbor View on Long Island.  The year round social service facilities were closed in October 2014 when the Long Island Bridge was closed.  The city is considering providing ferry access to Long Island to allow Camp Harbor View to operate this summer. 

Demolishing a bridge in Boston Harbor is not an easy task.  Many state and federal agencies had to weigh in on the application.  The U.S. Coast Guard issues permits for bridges over navigable water of the United States.  Because the debris from the detonation would fall into Boston Harbor impacting aquatic plant and animal life, the National Marine Fishery Service and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries were involved.  The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection issued a water quality certification under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management was involved with the federal coastal zone management consistency review.  “The permit was very complex because of the multiple jurisdictions,” said Sneeringer.  “There were also concerns along the lines that this is one of the first major bridge detonation projects in Massachusetts.”

Restoration of the sea bottom after the bridge came down was the major concern.  Sneeringer coordinated with the other state and federal agencies to come up with a restoration plan.  Prior to any demolition, the city was required to perform a pre survey video of the ocean bottom to document what it looked like.  Once a section of the bridge was detonated, the large pieces would be removed by a barge mounted excavator.  Then side sonar scanners would be used to find smaller pieces of debris that would be removed by divers.  Once cleanup was completed on this section of the bridge, another section of the bridge could be detonated.  The sea bottom will be monitored for at least a year to ensure restoration is complete.

According to Sneeringer, coordination efforts on the permit that usually took months were completed in days and weeks.  “Everyone was very helpful trying to make the time line,” he said.  “People put a huge effort in working with the city to make this happen.”

The permit for the demolition was issued on March 10. Demolition of the bridge included detonating four 750-foot-long sections of the bridge at a time.  The first detonation phase occurred on March 23.  Due to stability concerns the final two phases were detonated on April 23.

In addition to the demolition permit, the city of Boston applied for two other permits in relation to the Long Island Bridge.  The first was to temporarily retain the 12 existing in-water bridge piers which retain could be used as part of a possible construction for a new bridge.  The other is to install a water main, an electrical submarine cable and a telecom submarine cable from Moon Island to Long Island.  The utilities, which once hung off the Long Island Bridge, provided service to the Long Island facilities and some services to the nearby Spectacle Island.  The comment periods on both permits are over and the Regulatory Division is working to complete its review of these projects.