Morton St. facing bridge work in 2011

Officials from the state’s Department of Transportation (DOT) briefed Mattapan residents this week on a proposed bridge reconstruction project that could prompt the closure of a key stretch of Morton Street for 10 days next year. The plans — laid out before the membership of the West Selden and Vicinity Neighborhood Association at the Mildred Ave. Community Center on Monday evening —centered on replacing a bridge that ferries motorists and pedestrians across the Fairmount commuter rail tracks. The project is part of Governor Deval Patrick’s Accelerated Bridge Program, a plan in which bridge sections are built off-site and then quickly installed in place, cutting an estimated 42 months from a traditional bridge construction.

Current plans call for the bridge replacement work to be done over 10 days beginning on October 7, 2011. Traffic on Morton St. — a state roadway that also carries the name Route 209— would be detoured through Norfolk St. and Evans St. during that time, according to the project director, Matt Scott.

The state plan also includes the demolition of an adjacent former Boston police station that has long been considered an eyesore along the Morton Street corridor. The building and surrounding lot include many contaminants, including asbestos and lead piping which raise biohazard concerns. Scott assured residents that building contractors will be held to high safety standards.

Residents at Monday’s meeting expressed concern over potential problems generated by the closing of the major artery, including safety, traffic congestion, and pedestrian access along Morton St.
City Councillor Charles Yancey pushed for close collaboration between fire, police, EMS, and the DOT to ensure a smooth flow of emergency services.

“Ten days may seem like a short time to build a bridge, but if we lose just one life in that time, then we will have done a disservice to the families and the community,” Yancey said.

Others were critical that the DOT had only recently opened a dialogue with city department to coordinate plans for the replacement project.

“It just didn’t sit right with me that all those departments were not contacted,” said community activist Barbara Crichlow.

Morton St. business owners expressed concern over obstruction of the shops near the bridge, including a planned shift in the bridge’s elevation that would allow for larger MBTA trains to pass underneath on the tracks below.

Haris Hardaway, whose family owns a business in the Morton Village district, said the plans remain incomplete.

“[These issues] shouldn’t be looked into…They should already be planned.”
The DOT will be holding another public meeting on June 24.. Watch for further details in the Reporter.