Muddy River rehab to roll this year

By David Taber
Gazette Staff

After years of delays, an Army Corps of Engineers-led project aimed at rehabilitating the Muddy River is scheduled to go out to bid this fall, city and federal officials told the Gazette this week.

The project involves a significant redesign of the Sears Rotary to “daylight”—or uncover—a section of the river there that currently runs under ground. That work was, at one point, expected to start in 2008.

The rotary, northeast of the Longwood Medical Area, is the intersection Park Drive, the Fenway, the Riverway, Brookline Avenue and Boylston Street.

The second phase of the project will be dredging the river between Wards Pond in Jamaica Plain and the Back Bay Fens, near its terminus at the Charles River, Michael Keegan of the Army Corps of Engineers told the Gazette. Design work on that will start in the fall, he said. The final designs will be based on a feasibility study conducted in the early 2000s, he said.

Eliminating the six-foot-wide pipes under the rotary and dredging the river, including removing invasive phragmites— reeds that grow thickly choking many sections of the river—are intended to stem flooding, Margaret Dyson of the city Parks Department told the Gazette.

Daylighting the river, and removing invasives and heavy metals that have been deposited in the riverbed will also make the river and adjacent park a healthier habitat for wildlife, Dyson said.

“A lot of the permitting and technical work that we had hoped would go quickly ended up taking a lot longer than we had hoped,” she said.

Developing a traffic plan for the rotary project and coordinating work between four jurisdictions—Boston, the town of Brookline, and the state and federal governments are all involved—have been the main complicating factors, Dyson said.

There likely will be a public meeting to review the traffic plan before work starts, Keegan said.

Funding for the $80 million project “has been one thing that has not been an issue,” Dyson said.

Keegan said that each phase will likely take two or three years, and the entire project is likely to be done in five to six years.

The dredging will be complicated because the river is much smaller than other waterways the Army Corps of Engineers normally works on, he said.

“When we are dredging the Boston Harbor, we could do 10,000 cubic feet a day. For the Muddy, we are going to be doing about 800 cubic feet a day,” he said. Efforts to dredge the harbor have been ongoing for the last decade.

In 2004, the city spent $10 million dredging the Muddy in the Charlesgate area, where it empties into the Charles.

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