I’VE READ WITH GREAT INTEREST recent news stories that may signal a shift in Boston’s hard-lined stance on the Long Island Bridge issue. It seems that Boston’s acting mayor, Kim Janey, is willing to do what previous administrations would not: explore alternatives to rebuilding the bridge.
Boston’s goal to expand addiction treatment and recovery services is an admirable one, as well as necessary. What isn’t necessary is jumping to the conclusion that the only way to accomplish this is to rebuild the Long Island Bridge. As Janey noted, a ferry service could be a logical solution.
Long Island is already home to an existing pier and dock structure. There’s also recent precedent for a ferry service: when the bridge was demolished in 2015, Boston worked with the long-standing Camp Harbor View to ferry children to the island.
Water transportation is economically friendly and environmentally responsible. It represents a fraction of the cost associated with rebuilding the bridge, and could also serve the public at-large, opening up a jewel of Boston Harbor for public enjoyment.
However, water transportation is not the only solution. If Janey’s administration truly signals a shift in Boston’s ideology on the matter, there are other steps the city should consider as well.
The major reason Boston has focused on establishing these services on Long Island is the existing facilities. However, a comprehensive study on the condition of these outdated buildings, including whether or not they are sufficient for Boston’s plans, as well as the cost and time associated with repairing or outright rebuilding them, has not been performed.
In other words: if rebuilding the bridge inevitably becomes merely the first step in a massively expensive process, the price tag here could far exceed the estimated cost of rebuilding the bridge – a figure that alone is already daunting. The most recent estimates from Boston, back in 2019, put the cost of rebuilding the bridge at approximately $100 million; but over the last year, the price of steel has dramatically increased. New estimates could be in excess of $125 million – and the longer the process takes, the more the price goes up.
Rather than expending this exorbitant cost on a bridge, Boston’s new mayor should consider deviating from the direction previous administrations have laid out. There is no reason Boston should be solely focused on Long Island as the only place to establish these services – Janey does not need to be committed to the ideas of her predecessors.
In this regard, Boston could look to the state as an example, specifically with the closure of the Lemuel Shattuck Hospital in Franklin Park. Recent reports noted that the state plans to transfer the land and facilities to a developer or non-profit organization on a 99-year lease, with the transfer language specifically calling for the site to be used for healthcare services.
There’s no reason Boston can’t consider something similar, and look to other properties within the city itself. Establishing these programs in closer proximity to home – as well as closer to public transit, hospitals, and emergency services – would be fiscally responsible, convenient for patients, and time-effective. By comparison, rebuilding Long Island Bridge is a project that could take years and involve more hidden costs, especially where it’s still tied up in the early stages of legal challenges.
When it comes to this issue, two things are abundantly clear: first is that Janey is at least open to one alternative (though how open she is to others remains to be seen). Second is that either a ferry service, or a total relocation of the proposed treatment facilities, would be far more responsible than rebuilding the Long Island Bridge.
At the end of the day, Boston has options, and I sincerely hope they continue down the path of exploring all of the alternatives. Their due diligence would save on costs, save on time, and most importantly, save lives.
Bruce J. Ayers is a state representative from Quincy.