Plans to rebuild a bridge to Long Island in Boston Harbor, which has served as an addiction recovery haven, bode well following a ruling by Massachusetts' highest court.
While the island and bridge are under Boston's jurisdiction, the bridge connects to Quincy, which opposes the project. But the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled on July 26 that a Massachusetts Dept. of Environmental Protection order trumps the Quincy Conservation Commission’s application denial associated with the bridge construction. The 17-page ruling notes, “the commission did not rest its determination on more stringent location provisions.”
Boston closed the structurally deficient bridge in 2014 and removed the bridge superstructure in 2015, but its piers remain. Prior to closure, the island ran a homeless shelter, drug treatment programs and transitional housing. Former Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh's administration estimated it could cost $80 million to rebuild the bridge. Other estimates have been even higher.
The closure of those facilities has left Boston searching for new housing and treatment programs to address the rise in homelessness and opioids addiction. Gensler developed a master plan to refurbish the Long Island recovery campus, which it submitted to the Walsh administration in 2020. But the report says it would cost $543 million, not including the cost to rebuild the bridge, and notes significant structural issues with many buildings that had medical facilities. Current Mayor Michelle Wu told the Boston Herald that while her administration plans to stabilize some of the buildings on the island, the Gensler plan is an “aspirational vision" that is "on the shelf” and not an "immediate plan of action." Once the bridge is built, her administration recognizes it will still take much effort to have the island up and running for recovery services.
Gensler's seven-part master plan lays out plans for rehabilitating the island with a 440,000-sq-ft campus that includes 11 buildings, including healthcare facilities, a gym, a chapel and other facilities offering recovery services. The plan also includes the addition of 500 beds to allow for treatment of residents from three weeks to 18 months on campus for stabilization to short-term and long-term recovery.
A spokesperson for Gensler declined to comment on the high court ruling.
While the court ruling represents a win for Boston in its challenge against Quincy, permitting issues remain. Before construction can begin, Boston needs approval for a few permits and Quincy has renewed its opposition to Boston’s bridge plans.