WOBURN — With the future of the New Boston Street bridge project at stake, it took the City Council just minutes this week to sanction a series of land takings along and around New Boston Street.
During a special meeting in City Hall on Wednesday, the aldermen quickly and without rancor added their signatures of approval to the various permanent and temporary easement right agreements negotiated between City Hall officials and North Woburn landlords over the past year.
“You’ve worked on this hard to get this bridge back up. It’s the key to North Woburn right now. With all the activity going on over there, it will be a godsend to get it back up and we’re now a couple signatures away from getting that done,” said Ward 2 Alderman Richard Gately, who credited various city officials for their commitment to the project.
As Mayor Scott Galvin and City Solicitor Ellen Callahan-Doucette explained, all of the land takings need to be recorded by last Friday in order for the city to meet a federal deadline for securing the necessary permissions. Had the council not OKed the final drafts of the land takings, the $25 million New Boston Street bridge project could have been further delayed or in extreme circumstances, cancelled altogether.
Work on the bridge project, which earlier this year was scheduled to begin this summer, is now expected to begin next spring.
“We have to be on record by Friday or we risk losing out on the funding. That’s how many iterations of [these easement deals] we’ve gone through that we’re now up against that deadline,” said City Solicitor Ellen Callahan-Doucette, who presented a handful of minor changes to the deals before the council vote on Wednesday night.
“[All of these final versions] involve the same parcels and the same square footage that we’re taking for the road widening, the installation of the bridge, guardrails, and drainage,” added the city lawyer.
According to Galvin and City Engineer Jay Corey, the city first began seriously negotiating the legal pacts nearly 11 months ago, when state officials, eyeing a possible ground-breaking on the project this summer, indicated they were ready to go out to bid for the undertaking.
In a memo to the council early last month, the mayor explained the city is looking to secure temporary land use rights so that contractors can stage equipment and materials and provide clear access to the work site. For those temporary easements, the city’s rights would expire after a five-year period.
At least one of the permanent easements will result in the loss of a handful parking spaces for a private landowner at 317 New Boston St., but as city officials point out, the abutter will also benefit from the bridge construction by obtaining direct access to the new right-of-way.
For all of the arrangements, land owners will retain the right to use the easements, so long as that “use does not interfere with or impair the city’s rights in said permanent easements.”
With local officials for decades now for the bridge restoration, Corey has been trying to convince the state to fund the New Boston Street connection between East and North Woburn since 2004 — when the estimated pricetag for the undertaking pegged at $4.5 million.
With construction materials and costs escalating since the arrival of COVID-19, the total budget for the New Boston Street Bridge work climbed by nearly $1.5 million over the past few two years.
According to Corey, with the easements representing the last obstacle to moving ahead with the work, he expects Mass. Department of Transportation (MassDOT) officials to go out to bid for the project later this month.
The original New Boston Street Bridge, which connected an industrial area in North Woburn to East Woburn by Commerce Way, was destroyed in a fire nearly a half-century ago.
The new bridge is expected to divert as many as 17,000 vehicles per day away from smaller residential side streets in North Woburn and neighborhoods in nearby Wilmington that lead to the industrial district.