By Seth Daniel
City Manager Tom Ambrosino and the City Council have submitted an eye-opening mitigation package to the MassDOT to accommodate the upcoming Chelsea Viaduct project – a major rehabilitation project of the elevated highway leading to the Tobin/Mystic Bridge.
The project is slated to be advertised in 2018 by the state.
In a letter submitted this month, City Manager Tom Ambrosino asked for a total of $1.724 million from MassDOT for various items to make up for the construction project.
“As you know the Route 1 viaduct basically bisects Chelsea, running directly through its dens, environmental justice neighborhoods,” he wrote. “Because of its overwhelming presence in the City, substantial and lengthy reconstruction of the Route 1 viaduct will undeniably yield negative impacts for the City’s residents, businesses and visitors and severely diminish the City’s quality of life.”
He said the project would have substantial disruption to the daily lives of Chelsea residents, including middle school and high school students who routinely walk in the Viaduct area to get the school.
MassDOT said it is early in the design stage and looks to be at about 25 percent by the end of the year. It is considering the letter, but had no further comment than that.
“MassDOT is currently in the early design stage, and is in the process of engaging the public in order to develop a comprehensive construction staging plan that will accelerate construction and minimize disruption to the City of Chelsea and commuters,” said a spokesman for MassDOT. “Additionally, MassDOT is in the process of evaluating the letter from the City of Chelsea and as always, will consider all suggestions that avoid, minimize or mitigate impacts to local business, members of the community and to ensure reliable travel throughout the viaduct area.”
One of the biggest asks is $500,000 to fund a decorative lighting program under the Viaduct. Ambrosino said the lots beneath the Viaduct have historically been very dimly lit and subject to blight and criminal activity. The City is asking for post construction lighting that includes typical street lighting, and also a significant public art and special design program.
“As a commanding presence, the City envisions a spatial design and public art involving up-lighting that would enliven this corridor and lessen the negative attributes associated with the highway,” he wrote.
A second ask is for funding in the amount of $300,000 to re-design and renovate the football stadium and Carter Park – which are cut in half by the Viaduct.
Other mitigation measures include surveillance for parking lots, parking lot improvements under the Bridge for the City, improvements to the Fourth Street off-ramp, residential enhancements to homes abutting the bridge, additional crossing guards for school children, and a contribution to a bike-pedestrian path on the Tobin/Mystic Bridge.