The heavy trucks that rumble down East 1st Street in South Boston from Conley Terminal could soon be a thing of the past as the Massachusetts Port Authority prepares to move forward with its project to build a dedicated freight corridor.
The news that the project could begin as soon as next spring was a welcome update to residents who have long endured the noise, pollution, and safety concerns associated with the trucks that run through the dense neighborhood.
At a Wednesday night community meeting officials with Massport spoke with residents about the general idea behind the $35-million project, which in addition to improving shipping operations at the terminal, will increase neighborhood green space.
“This is something I’ve heard the community asking for since I joined Massport,” Deborah Hadden, port director for Massport’s Maritime Department, told the audience of close to 50 residents.
The project, in addition to the terminal expansion, will add new parking to the neighborhood as well as a nearly five-acre park along the northern side of East 1st Street.
As part of the plan operations at the terminal will be expanded onto the Coastal Oil parcel (purchased by Massport in 2008), a noise buffer wall will be constructed, and a new truck-specific access road that connects to Summer Street will be built away from residential areas.
The expansion will allow Massport to move more freight through the terminal as well as hopefully improve conditions for those that can see the containers and ships from their doorsteps.
Many at Wednesday’s meeting said they are excited to see the project move forward, but said the neighborhood must still keep a watchful eye on the expansion.
“I think it’s a good start, but there are still some things that need to be worked out,” said Lucky Devlin, a South Boston resident and long-time advocate for the community. “We need to make sure the community is still protected as it expands, but I think it is all workable.”
Although specific details of the project were not unveiled at Wednesday’s meeting, a pre-construction meeting is expected to be held in February, residents were able to get a general idea of what the project will entail.
Construction is anticipated to take upwards of two years, with the first phase of the project expected to include the construction of the noise buffer wall and demolition work at the Coastal Oil parcel. That work could begin as soon as April.
As crews prepare for construction, Massport will begin the process of introducing noise monitoring equipment to the area. The equipment will continue to be used after the work has been completed to ensure that the terminal doesn’t impact residents. In addition to the monitoring equipment, a phone line has been established to provide residents a place to give feedback about noise and other issues surrounding the terminal. That number is (617) 464-8245.
The dedicated freight corridor will run from the terminal away from East 1st Street crossing over the Coastal Oil parcel and property owned by the MBTA and Excelon. The road will eventually connect to Summer Street using a bridge to cross over the channel.
The green space component of the project will include a new park along East 1st Street from Farragut Road to the MBTA’s property near M Street. The park, which will be patrolled by Massport security and will be fenced and closed at night, will include a walking path, new trees, and a memorial dedicated to the late-Thomas J. Butler, a long-time advocate for the project and the community in general.
“This is a project he fought hard for with a lot of the civic leaders in the area,” said Thomas Butler Jr. “It’s a beautiful thing for our family.”
The curb adjacent to the park will be realigned as part of the project and the existing parallel parking will be converted to angled spaces. Currently an estimated 50-60 cars can park on the northern side of the street. Once the angled spaces have been implemented it is estimated that up to 100 cars will be able to park on the northern side of East 1st Street. During the day the parking will not be controlled, but at night it will be resident only parking.
Over the coming weeks Massport representatives said they will launch a project-specific web page and be back to the community before any shovels hit the ground.
Although residents had plenty of critiques about the project, the majority shared the opinion of Mary Hogan, an area resident.
“I think the walkway look really nice and it’s named after a great guy,” she said. “It’s an improvement.”