Burns Bridge Meeting Liveblog

6:55pm – Five minutes before the meeting and quite a few people here (40-50 by my count). Only City of Worcester official I see is Konnie. I think the town planner from Shrewsbury is here as well. Normally I don’t mention this kind of thing, but this is a disproportionately male crowd (90%, I’d guess).

6:58 – I think I see Joe Borbone of Worcester DPW as well.

7:01 – Quite crowded now.  I’m guessing 60-70.  Still really, really male and extremely white.  Jim O’Day just arrived.

7:03 – guy from Sierra in front of me.

Other guy in front of me [he's a reporter] doesn’t seem to be from Worcester and is complimenting the city (with the guy from Sierra) on the good state Green Hill Park is in.

7:04 – more people coming in.  I’m guessing 75-80.

7:08 – Michael Dowd, project manager at MassDOT, opens the meeting.

He’s here with TransSystems, the bridge archictect, and environmental scientist [with TransSystems].

He’s going over the typical intro to the Accelerated Bridge Program.

$137 million in construction costs, design expected to begin in May 2012 and be completed in 2015.

Mario Russo, right of way rep from District 3, to introduce right of way requirements.

Typical right of way thing.  Nothing exciting.

 7:13 – continued introduction to accelerated bridge program.  I will save my fingers.

ABP expires in 2016, which is part of the impetus for finishing the Burns Bridge.

“streamlined environmental permitting” ha ha ha

7:15 – Rep Beaton & O’Day are here, Lukes is the only councilor here.

7:16 -Gary from TransSystems speaking.  going over project history, progress, design presentation, and bridge aesthetics.

I will not go over the whole project history. 

Bill going over environmental process.  He only has one slide (!!!)

Lists environmental documents and permits for the project.

There aren’t any wetlands on this project “except for the lake itself.”

7:21 – first document prepared is an Environmental Notification Form with MEPA.  describes impacts on environment, issued last year.

MEPA – Categorical Exclusion submitted to FHWA

[there are likely close to 100 people here]

3 separate Programmatic Section 4(f) Evaluations submitted — for bridge, for state park, and for recreational resources.

Section 106 process that involves protection of historic resources.  MOA signed 6/27/11

State Wetlands Protection Act — approvals from Worcester & Shrewsbury commissions.

Water Quality Certificate submitted by Mass DEP in June 2011

stormwater runoff — runs directly into the lake right now.

“our design demonstrates that we will be providing stormwater treatment”, collected on the bridge, two levels of treatment (sediment 4-bay and other thing I didn’t catch).

Applied for and received Chapter 91 license.

7:26 – Army Corps of Engineers permit for federal wetlands regs.

Article 97 land transfer for parkland is in process.

Gary from TransSystems discussing Public Outreach now.

They heard:
–recreational use is important to the communities
–should try and improve clearances
–pedestrian/bicycle accomodation is important
–construction duration should be minimized to reduce impacts to travelling public & local businesses
–public safety issues should be addressed
–improve water quality of the lake
–aesthetic appeal is important to the bridge
–lighting options are of interest
–gateway elements should be considered
–bridge should honor the history of the lake and area

[Jo Hart is here]

7:30 – gateway elements — “25% plans doesn’t have anything of huge impact.  We are working with a group of elected officials to see what might be appropriate.”

Going over roadway design — current vs. proposed.

New bridge will have a “much larger footprint” but not “overwhelming when you’re driving.”  three thru lanes in each direction, wider sidewalks.

[Kate Toomey is here.  I feel like a social secretary]

First phase will almost be entirely offline except for demo of south sidewalk.

stage two – move four lanes of traffic onto first phase (south side); north side of bridge will be constructed.

final – two sides, open median.

Roadway and traffic design:
–three lanes in each direction
–widened shoulders
–bicycle lanes on Rt 9 and on Lake Avenue
–Extended right turn lane onto bridge
–New left turn lane for Rt 9 westbound
–Re-designed intersection & signals with Lake Avenue
–HOT OFF THE PRESSES — roundabout at South Road and North Road to accomodate traffic from/to UMass [off Lake Ave North]
–Widened sidewalk on Lake Ave
–New sidewalk on west side of Lake Avenue between North & South Road
–gated access stairwell on Shrewsbury side for safety

[The chair I'm sitting in is defective and it's like I'm in one of those chairs they use to beat interrogees into submission]

Going through renderings of proposed bridge.

Light blue color for the underneath arch part.

Trying to control the light so it doesn’t splash down on the lake.

7:44 – railing design.  “One of the things that are annoying about bridge railings…is that they end up right at eye height” if you’re driving.  The design of the railing should allow for good views.  Places to suspend lane designations for regattas.

Showing more night lighting design.

Ooh.  REALLY big areas for pedestrian bumpouts/overlooks.  Probably big enough for 15-20 people.  Each would have a theme based on history of the area.  8 areas total.

7:48 – Gary – “This is a signature bridge – I do want to point this out”

LED lighting under the arches at night.

Gary – “Could we add something…that provides a Gateway appeal?”  They have an advisory committee working through some options, do need to come to a resolution relatively soon.

The Gateway appeal thing is, as far as I can tell, the appeal to the ‘signature bridge’ crowd.

1. Pylon Concept
based on interpretation of traditional island monuments
example – obelisks.  Because they exist in Shrewsbury.  [Really?]
you can walk into those as a pedestrian and they light up inside.  [They are kind of obelisk-shaped but open archy inside.  Really really weird]

Seriously the ugliest thing I’ve seen in a long time.

2. and 3. These concepts put focus on the lake.

Number 2 is supposed to look like sails, with lighted triangular areas at the top.  Looks more like the Starfleet insignia.  Beam me up!

3. Sail shape and brings in regatta aspect.  Sail (beam me up) with two crossed oars.  Uh-gly!

I think we’re at the question and comment section.  But there is much wordiness before we begin.

8:03 – elected officials will go first.  you know the routine.

CCKT goes.  What is the source of lighting for street lights and underlighting?  What about maintenance for lights and structure underneath?  How quickly would lights be replaced?

LED are more costly up front, maintenance is relatively low.  LEDs within a solid plastic rod, very durable, should last for 10 years [!!!]

City of Worcester will power and maintain the lights.

Rep O’Day.  article he saw in the paper the other day.  “About two weeks ago, we had a significant issue with Lake Q. with some significant sewage going into the lake.”  Are there things that we as a city need to be worrying about?  How do we get a handle on the issues that could be worked on while we’re here?

Project Manager – this was as a result of the overflow.  The City of Worcester have had … overflow systems in place.  … The City of Worcester is attempting to address by separating sewer and stormwater.  What we’re doing right now will address far & above impacts.  What we’re doing will not preclude City of Worcester from doing whatever they want to do.

Rep Beaton – thanks MassDOT for a great job.  Wanted to bring up a couple of points.  Shrewsbury wants to see design phase moved in a timely manner (for bells and whistles).  Wants to minimize impact to Rt 9 corridor.  If any opportunities to make environmental improvements, we should.  Piece of North Lake Street where there is a light — maybe extend further, needs attention before construction.

Morris DePaul (sp?), selectman of Shrewsbury – decorations (obelisks) are too big, sails are not as imposing.  Why can’t we focus on the lake itself.  Would be very amenable to having nothing.

Konnie Lukes, Worcester City Council – supported a design that would make a visual impact.  Given the three proposals, with my druthers, I’d send you back to the drawing board.  The sail design (#2) is most preferred for her.  Compliments them on the use and design of light.

Michael Piper – Lake Quinsig Commission – if not now, when — concerned about never with flow off of Belmont Street area.  “We seem to have 100-year event every year.”  [draws laughs]  Could something like a color coding (for bad weather, etc.) be done.  Can be attached to a barometer.  Have paddles like clock hands telling the time.  “Allow for people to connect with the bridge.”

Comments from Gary — Stormwater treatment areas — in front of both abutments, they will push base of abutments back 30-40 feet.  In that area will be area to divert water to inflitration basin for sediment and other elements before water is discharged [for water on the bridge].  Large outfall from Belmont Street goes well beyond limits of the project.

Paul, 70-year lifetime resident of Lake Avenue South and Lakeview – has seen a lot of things happen at the pumping station on Lake Avenue.  Once again, the facility was overwhelmed.  Perhaps with the construction of the new bridge, we could consider a pumping facility for surface stormwater.  Eventually the catchbasin will overflow.  It’s been going on for his 70 years, a long time before, and will happen a long time after.

Ray Sansoucy – five days ago, would not have considered coming to this meeting.  Went to WWII reunion in Pittsburgh.  The bridges are a nightmare (all made out of steel), all elephants for maintenance.  [Um, you needed to have come to meetings about a year ago, my friend.]  What’s the alternative to this?  Concrete in the water.  [I think he's singing Kate Toomey's tune right now.]   Should have been built with stone bases.

Drive down Merritt Parkway.  Every bridge is beautiful stone — maintenance, just like when they built them.

The roadway, the fencing, is gorgeous.  His problem is the underneath.  He says we make this out of granite built in New England.

Debbie Malone, from Worcester, representing people with disabilities – she sees really quickly that the sidewalks will be nice and wide, will there be space for two wheelchairs to pass by.  On overlooks, can two people on wheelchairs pass by each other?  She is visually impaired and needs audible pedestrian lights.  If we do audible lights, make sure they tell which direction it’s ok to cross.

[Good for you, lady!]

Project Manager responds — please provide written comments as soon as you can.  [If you need a copy of the form, I can get you one!]

Joe Borbone, director of engineering, DPW – on behalf of City manager and commissioner Moylan, thanks MassDOT.  City of Worcester is happy with bridge structure, North Lake Ave and Lake Ave.

8:31 – Mutual thanks.  Much love.  pedestrian and bicycle access.

Steve Genetassio – owns a business – four years is a long time.  [But this won't be four years!]  Can some of the work be done at night?

response — trying to find a lot of ways to minimize impacts to businesses on Lake Ave South.  Trying to reflect it in all their designs and put it into design-build process.

Evening construction?

response – typically 40-hour work week.  Something they can bring to the administrator and see if there are times they aren’t going to be impacting residences.

Rick Stavros, something about high school in Worcester – final materials – graffiti?  You have created a lot of graffiti walls.

response — would need to look at graffiti-proof finishes.

O’Day – likelihood of work done 100% locally or 100% MA?

response – steel is US steel, requirement of federal highway.  “Keeps descendants of the Carnegie-Mellon family in business for a while longer.” (reference to gentleman who spoke about Pittsburgh)

I had two comments: one was that all the design elements really sucked. 

And I asked about the Telegram article and why they requested waivers from the feds.

response — inaccuracy in Telegram — didn’t request waiver in environmental impact studies from feds.  They have filed permits with compliance agencies.  [So what did they request to be waived? I don't know.]  By no means have we requested any waivers.  Fully vetted process with the way MassDOT does its projects.

Mark Durphy – remembers when bridge was reconstructed in early 80s.  Mass Highway said they had to improve safety.  So they reconstructed the bridge.  Couldn’t believe how poor the pavement was at the beginning.  “Not a road engineer” – but in high traffic areas, asphalt grooves.  Can they put in that all expansion joints be exactly flush with the pavement?

“just general shoddy work the highway department” has allowed to go on on perfectly good roads.

Late 80s/early 90s — Mound of asphalt in right lane — Mass Highway had a Bobcat to grind off the asphalt.

state doesn’t seem to make abutments to align with bridge decks.  [I think they're going to be doing this on the project, but that's my own impression]

Highway markers — big 2′x2′ sign, but the state only puts one post on it.  Can it be stabilized by having two posts?

will submit comments in writing.

Jo Hart!  I was just about to ask where she was in her commenting?  Asks about bumpouts.

Jo is complaining about the types of materials used because they are too hot in the sun.  Recommends smooth versus bumpy materials.  I am super confused at this point.

Feels that the bumpout design forces one to look in only one direction.

“I’m the only public transportation person in Worcester.”  Single best Jo Hart quote ever.

Re-mentions putting trolleys over the brudge.

Nancy Saul of Worcester from Pioneering Healthy [ier?] Communities.   Supports bridge because of plans for bicycle acommodating shoulders and sidewalks.

Jo Hart adds one more thing.  Keep it simple.  As Nicole said, “the designs are grotesque.” 

And we’re done!

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