Despite promises to have the Town Brook relocation project set by March 1, weather delays have pushed back the deadline a week.
Even with the delay, city officials say the project will be finished well before the smelt-spawning season, set to begin March 15.
City officials have spent the better part of the last year jumping through hoops to get permits and documents in place in order to transform the 1700-foot-long brook from within the city borders to a 1200-foot-long waterway alongside the Walter Hannon Parkway.
The goal has been to move the stream to make way for the $1.6 billion downtown redevelopment.
The problem? The brook isn’t just a bubbling waterway that provides ambiance and urban character, but is an ecological necessity where smelt fish come to spawn every spring.
Clearing a pathway for the fish, which start their spawning in March, has been the end game since the project started last June, and city officials promised the new brook would be in place before the fish took theirs.
Though that promise has remained intact, the timeline has been slightly shifted.
“We had a couple major blizzards the couple of weeks, which cost them a couple workdays,” Hines said. “They were delayed because of these weather events, but will still have a cushion before the critical period of the spawning season.”
Hines said crews did what they could to keep the deadline intact, including coming in the Sunday after Nemo to remove snow from the project.
The team has even been working a few weekends to get the project done – all on the contractor's, not the city’s, dime.
“[There are] no additional cost to the city,” Hines assured.
The project was initially anticipated to cost $15 million, paid for by state grants. Hines did not have the final cost figures on hand.
Rather than push the contractor even further to finish by March 1, Hines and others secured approvals from both the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and the Department of Environmental Protections to push back the construction season a week, Hines said.
“They can work and work around the clock and get it done, but do you want that?” Hines said. “Quality could be affected. You don’t want that. You don’t want to artificially rush them to meet a date and have the structural integrity compromised…we opted to do it right rather than throwing it together to meet a deadline.”
Some watching the project point to other problems besides the weather as the reason for the delay, manly the discovery of home heating oil during the excavation in the initial tunneling process under Hancock Street.
Yet Hines said the issue didn’t result in any “meaningful delay in construction,” and that the dirt was removed by a licensed professional and work continued shortly thereafter.
One the brook relocation has been completed, city officials have said, the construction of several “pocket parks” around the brook, along with landscaping and finishing touches, will happen after the smelt-spawning season ends.
The brook relocation is the first of three major infrastructure projects set to occur in the downtown as part of the overall redevelopment.
Plans are also progressing to construct a green space in front of City Hall, called Adams Green, and to construct a Burgin Parkway Access Bridge.