Boston abandons Long Island Bridge

Unclear what the city will do with the island and buildings

A correction has been added to this story.

BOSTON MAYOR MARTY WALSH appears to be backing away from plans to rebuild the bridge to Long Island, partly because of opposition from the city of Quincy and partly because all the homeless and drug treatment services on the island have successfully been relocated to the mainland.

A close-up satellite view from Google maps shows the abandoned main campus that housed homeless and drug treatment programs. The upper portion of the image shows a pool and fields that are still in use by a summer camp program for inner city children.

A close-up satellite view from Google maps shows the abandoned main campus that housed homeless and drug treatment programs. The upper portion of the image shows a pool and fields that are still in use by a summer camp program for inner city children.

The two-lane bridge was taken down in 2015 after the state condemned it as unsafe. Walsh pledged to rebuild the bridge and restore the services on the island, but almost nothing has been done. City officials aren’t talking about their plans, but it appears the $80 million project has quietly been shelved.

“We have no new updates as far as design and development of a new bridge,” said Walsh press secretary Nicole Caravella in an email. Caravella said city officials who could talk about the bridge were not available. All indications from city budget documents and state and Quincy officials are that building a new bridge is no longer in the offing.

The Long Island Bridge connected Long Island and Moon Island. Both islands are owned by Boston, but could only be reached by driving through the Squantum section of Quincy and across the causeway to Moon Island. Quincy officials have long opposed the island traffic going through Squantum, but there wasn’t much they could do about it.

Long Island had been the site of a 450-bed homeless shelter program, drug treatment programs for as many as 300 clients, a youth summer camp which is still operational, and several smaller public and private health and transitional housing programs. Squantum residents said a regular stream of workers’ cars as well as scores of buses made daily trips there, bringing homeless people from Boston streets to and from the shelters and programs morning and night.

The bridge had been falling apart for years and former Boston mayor Thomas Menino had vowed to rebuild it despite Quincy’s opposition because the city wanted to maintain the services on the island. But in late-2014, during Walsh’s first year in office, the state abruptly condemned the structure and forced the city to move all programs and clients off the island in a hurried exodus. Walsh, though not as strident as his predecessor, promised to find the money to reconstruct the span and keep the programs on the island.

Walsh pledged $35 million from the city toward the cost, saying the remainder would come from state and federal grants, even though the bridge is the only one in the city not under state control and the state has no obligation to rebuild it. But Quincy remained adamantly opposed, and sources at the state Department of Transportation said that opposition has influenced the agency to keep its distance from funding and rebuilding the bridge.

In the outline of Boston’s proposed 2018 city budget, $32.4 million is allotted for rebuilding the bridge, a carryover figure from the previous year. But the bridge is not included in a map of capital projects that is part of the budget and officials entered zero in the projected expenditures column.

In 2015, DOT officials and Boston agreed the state would pay half the cost of redesign for a new structure, or up to $4.4 million. But Jacqueline Goddard, a DOT spokeswoman, says the state has only sent the city a little more than $735,000 and there have been no further requests. She declined comment about DOT’s involvement and referred questions to the city on design and rebuilding plans.

In order for the project to move forward, Boston would have to file some applications and environmental reports with Quincy, but a spokesman for Mayor Thomas Koch says there has been no communication since the structure was demolished in 2015, leaving about a dozen rusted stanchions that had supported the three-quarter mile gusset bridge sticking up from the water.

“We have had no discussions relative to the reconstruction of Long Island Bridge,” says Koch’s spokesman, Christopher Walker. “The city of Boston has not reached out at all.”

Much of the pressure to rebuild the bridge has been taken off by alternative sites around the city that have been found for the services once provided there. Barbara Trevisan, communications director for Pine Street Inn, which operated the main homeless program on the island, said all the beds that had been on Long Island have been replaced around the city.

“We’ve been able to replicate those services in and around the city,” she says.

The detox and treatment services have also been spread out around Boston and most of the other services have been absorbed in other public and private agencies.

Former state senator Michael Morrissey, a resident of Squantum and a strong opponent of building a new bridge, said now that most of those services have moved elsewhere, there’s no need to rebuild the bridge. He noted the summer camp leases a ferry to bring the children back and forth to the island. He said if Boston decides to develop the property or place other services out there, rebuilding the piers out there and either leasing or buying a ferry would be much more cost-effective. But in the meantime, there is nothing there requiring land access.

“It shouldn’t happen,” said Morrissey. “I’m more disappointed that when they took the bridge down, they didn’t take the stanchions down. They would have been basically building a bridge that goes nowhere.”

Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

Morrissey, who is now the Norfolk district attorney, says he and his neighbors never had a problem with the programs housed on Long Island, just with the way the city accessed them with what he says is little regard for residents.

“Boston always treated us like second-class citizens,” says Morrissey. “The programs didn’t bother anybody, it was the traffic.”

–JACK SULLIVAN

An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Victory Programs as operating the detox program on Long Island. Victory operated a 47-bed women’s recovery program on the island.

  • QuincyQuarry.com

    The City of Boston knuckles under opposite Quincy Mayor Koch?

    The late Boston Mayor Tom Menino is surely spinning in his grave.

    Oh, and be careful what you wish for Squantum: image what Boston could rake in from selling of Long Island for private redevelopment, along with a fair chunk of Long Island? After all, the views from both are spectacular.

    Per my reckoning, Boston could see way more than enough to pay for a new bridge AND still beef up Boston’s “Rainy Day” fund something serious.

    • FRPSR

      It is quite understandable . However , in overlooking the arguments voiced by Squantum residents whose value of increased traffic places the undesirable aspects of the former bridge from Squantum to Long Island in clear , understandable language feels disingenuous . Perhaps the intention of being a bit vague is the point . Vagaries with a purpose of changing the subject ?
      The virtue of placing (money) speculation over the existing complaints of the residents , and their representatives , is that it magically removes those same complaints for the wealthy , or aristocratic investors , because , magic (money) . Issues which in speculative terms have a life that may be persistent beyond mere magic , as they belong to the voices of the residents . Find a means of sharing the magic with the community , not mere dodgy window dressing , and maybe the anger , and the consequent degradation will find a coping mechanism . Responses to threats is the best way I know of cutting the air supply to the sources of noise .

      • QuincyQuarry.com

        Huh? I read your text multiple times and yet I am still not sure what you are trying to say. That and for some funny reason I suspect that I am not alone in this view.

        In any event, Squantum residents can say what they may, but the City of Boston owns both Moon as well as Long Island and can thus do with them as it sees fit and as might be allowed by law.

        Conversely, if Squantum’s NIMBY’s – with an assistant from Quincy’s City Hall – wish to continue to see Boston thwarted from ready as well as lawful access to its property on the islands, just wait until what the rest of Quincy might feel about them if the City of Boston then opts to set up a road block – or at least a tollgate – on its side of the Neponset Bridge.

        Seriously, you might care to note that the City of Quincy has already been whacked at least a million dollars in court-ordered damages payments in recent years for denying local property owners of their rights to use their property in ways lawful and may soon be hit with perhaps several million more in damages for doing so.

        Oh, and you might care to note the city undertook these later found to be illegal actions on the behalf of – yes – some local NIMBY’s.

        In turn, image – if you can, what the City of Boston could seek in the way of damages from the City of Quincy because ultimately but a small fraction of Squantum homeowners don’t care to have an ultimately manageable amount of traffic pass in front of their homes?

        And speaking of traffic, do you have any idea what the current administration in Quincy’s City Hall has done to make traffic in Quincy a nightmare given all but unbridled approval a massive wave of local housing developments without concurrently enhancing local transpiration capacity?

        Oh, and what’s next for Squantum residents? Demanding that Logan shut down because they are not happy about living under its primary landing final approach?

        • FRPSR

          The consistency with which you offer , what appears in the most plain sense of the word , punitive , or threatening responses to your opinion of what is the resistance to , again in your opinion , the sensible prostration of those elements of opinion from the root of the community affected , causes an equal parallel confusion at first read .
          I suspect your comfort in offering solutions in which you seem to seek the approval of Draco , whose admission on the death penalty over a stolen cabbage was if memory serves , ‘I could not think of anything stronger’ .
          Reducing those whose opposition of exchanging the certain pain their community shall experience , for some profit they will never see , into name calling , rather confronting the ideas , confirms the absurdity of negotiating with an individual whose comfort in threats , and dire consequences escalates upon a responsible submission .
          I thank you for the extraneous details that I will keep in mind when attempt to rationalize my support for Mayor Koch’s local residential expansions . However when examining apples , while speaking of the glory , or despair , in oranges , try not to introduce the penalties of the third ‘rail’ as if your respondent were indentured .

          • QuincyQuarry.com

            FRPSR,

            I went to Berkeley in the 70’s and I don’t mean the music school. As such, a bit of advice if it’s not too late: stop taking the magic mushrooms.

          • FRPSR

            Hilarious , you really should be proud of yourself .