Lower Mills residents pelted Massachusetts Water Resources Authority officials on Tuesday night with questions after learning additional details about an upcoming water main rehabilitation project that is expected to make for a difficult spring and summer for Dorchester’s southeastern corner.
Jeffrey McLaughlin, from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, appeared before the Lower Mills Civic Association at St. Gregory’s Auditorium to deliver the news on the project’s six phases, road closures, and detours.
At the outset of the meeting, Lower Mills Civic Association president Michael Skillin warned that the project will disrupt neighbors’ daily commutes and lives.
“It’s a project that needs to get done,” Skillin said. “The pipes under the roadway are older than I am, and they need to be replaced.”
Starting April 18, shovels are scheduled to hit the ground on the first phase of the project, which will clean pipeline on Morton and Washington Streets between the corner of Richmond Street and the intersection of Washington and River streets. Construction will occur by way of access pits dug along the work area, allowing contractor RJV Construction Corp. to permit one lane of traffic to remain open during the 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekday working hours. During those hours, Washington Street will be cut to one lane, heading northbound to Morton Street.
Access to Richmond Street will only be allowed via Dorchester Avenue during the construction. After the day’s work ends, said the MWRA’s Pat Barrett, the pits will be plated over and traffic both ways will be restored. A detail officer will be on duty to direct traffic through the detour and provide access to residents of the closed-off areas.
The MWRA recently held an additional meeting with local merchants after complaints from the Lower Mills business community that the water authority hadn’t given them enough notice of the scheduled detours and road closings.
Construction began on the Milton portion of the $14.5 million project last year. The MWRA aims to refurbish and rehabilitate an underground pipeline that distributes water to the southeastern portion of Boston and surrounding communities.
The second and third phases of the project are pipeline cleaning along Adams Street. In phase four, two 24-inch pipes along Washington Street will be replaced with a new 48-inch section while other portions of the line will be cleaned and scoured to restore capacity. According to the MWRA, rust build-up and pocking within the pipeline over the last century has left the lines functioning at 50 percent capacity.
Martha Blowney of Caddy Road asked McLaughlin and Barrett if pedestrian traffic would be cut off on the dug-up streets. McLaughlin said that the streets will be open to pedestrian traffic.
Barrett said that the contractor is limited to only one detour at a time throughout the duration of the construction and can only work in one area before finishing and moving on to the next section phase of the project.
Local resident Michael Mackan suggested that a “no through way” sign be installed at Butler Street to prevent drivers from avoiding the detour when Adams Street is closed to one lane later in the project.
McLaughlin said “business open signs” can be made available to inform patrons that merchants along the affected roads are ready for customers.
Joe Evans of Caddy Road asked if exposed gas lines posed a threat of vandalism and questioned if they need to be guarded during construction. Barrett said that the open pits containing any potentially exposed gas lines would be secured behind fencing or covered by plating when not being worked on.
Asked by Blowney if water usage or sewage will be affected, Barrett assured her that it would not as the MWRA is working on a delivery line and not the local Boston Water and Sewage pipeline.
The fifth phase, the relocation of a water meter at River Street and Old Morton Street, is scheduled for early October and will require the street to be shut down during working hours. Charles Balasalle of Bearce Avenue asked how traffic would be rerouted off of River Street. Barrett said that the detour will force cars over to Eliot Street in Milton.
The sixth phase will be a further cleaning of pipeline at the corner of Washington and Morton streets. West-bound traffic will be detoured during construction that is scheduled to be finished in mid-November.