As Lower Mills rehab lags, merchants mostly make do

Workers remove huge ledge from Washington St.Workers remove huge ledge from Washington St.The rehabilitation of a pipe under the streets of Lower Mills is weeks behind schedule as construction crews have hit underground boulders, including a piece of ledge the size of a car that was taken out of the ground, said Michael Hornbrook, chief operating officer of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, the agency overseeing the project slated to last into November.

The $14.5 million project, which started in April, includes the rehabilitation and replacement of a water pipeline built in the 1900s. The rehab of the pipeline, which distributes water for Quincy, Milton and the southeast corner of Boston, is necessary because of its age and rust build-up, MWRA officials say.

Traffic disruptions are expected to ease by September, when construction on Washington and Adams streets is scheduled to be finished with the crews moving onto the River Street portion of the project, Hornbrook said, where the agency will do some cleaning, replace a valve, and begin work on two pits in front of the Shaw’s supermarket.

Crews will return in the spring to grind down asphalt, Hornbrook said, adding that he expects streets to be closed temporarily for a few days during that work.

The scheduling delay is drawing a mixed reaction from area businesses.

At Spukies N’ Pizza, located smack in the middle of the shut-down portion of Washington Street, Steve Retzos shook his head. The air smelled of tar and pepperoni pizza as a construction truck idled in front of the store he has co-owned since 1997.

“Not good for us,” he said in a heavy Greek accent, as across the street, signs reading “CLOSED” hung in the windows of a coffee shop and a boutique store. During the second-to-last week of August, he shut down the store entirely.

“This is the worst summer I’ve seen,” he said in an earlier interview, warning that he may have to shut down permanently.

Nearby, Chris Orozzo, the owner of Milton Hill Sport & Spa, said he has seen an estimated 30 percent decline in business because of the construction.

“With so many detours, it’s not very accessible to our patrons,” he said. “We’ve seen a decline in not only membership but also attendance to our facility.”

Orozzo, who has been in the location for three-and-half years, said he will be seeking compensation from the MWRA. According to the agency, businesses can provide them with financial statements and state and federal tax returns showing the level of sales or receipts on a daily or monthly basis for the past three years, and compare them with sales and receipts during construction to show any negative impact.

Orozzo noted that the MWRA is “diligent” in informing merchants about the construction and Hornbrook said the agency is attempting to keep the streets open, particularly on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, and also putting up signs saying the shops in Lower Mills are open for business.
“We’re trying to do everything we can,” he said.

Ice Creamsmith owner David Mabel said police officers have kept traffic moving.

“We expected it to be disruptive for the whole summer and it wasn’t,” he said from at his Dorchester Ave. ice cream store. “You know they have to do the work, so you just put up with it.”



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