Island End River in the Midst of Major Flood Protection Project

Few places in the food supply chain for
Greater Boston and beyond are more vulnerable than the New England Produce
Center.

That huge food resource for the region, along
with other industries, are very close to sea level and, as discovered a few
years ago, very prone to flooding and sea level surges.

Now, the City of Chelsea is poised to begin
a major project at the Island End River that will help to protect the industrial
areas along Beacham Street and enhance the environment around the improving
Island End River.

“That area is about six or seven feet above
sea level now, and experts expect sea level and storm surges at 14 feet above
sea level by the end of the century,” said Alex Train, of the Chelsea Planning
Department. “This project is in concert with Everett and it’s gathered a lot of
momentum. It’s a priority of the City Manager and our department because we
understand how much is at risk. It’s a gamble otherwise and we don’t like to
gamble in the planning industry.”

Such a gamble was clearly seen two winters
ago when huge coastal surge storms lifted the water levels into the industrial
areas along the Island End, nearly causing major disruptions and opening a lot
of eyes to the vulnerability of the situation.

The project has been supported by a grant
from the Coastal Zone Management Office, as well as the Chelsea and Everett
City Councils.

The project includes gray infrastructure,
such as flood walls and berms by the Island End River. It also includes green
infrastructure with the restoration of the salt marshes abutting the Island
End. At the same time, they will also be able to add some amenities for the
public like a Boardwalk to connect to the Admiral’s Hill Marina area.

“It’s going to be a sizeable project, but in
the context of the surrounding industrial businesses and the produce center,
it’s easily a worthwhile initiative on our end,” said Train.

Right now, in Chelsea, they are at 60
percent engineering design on the project. Everett is a little bit further
behind as they are in the Designated Port Area (DPA) and require many more
steps. Everett is currently in a schematic design phase.

On the Chelsea side, Train said they will
culminate design this summer, and then look for further grants this winter.
Then they will engage in the final engineering, permitting and construction
phases.

The project will also be tied into the large
Beacham Street roadway, sidewalk and bike path improvements that are also
coming soon.

A report in 2015 by the Metropolitan Area
Planning Council (MAPC) showed that the Produce Center generates $2.3 billion
of economic activity per year, and the entire industrial district generates $7
billion per year. There are 5,000 direct jobs there and 10,000 supportive jobs
there.

“Many of that activity and those jobs
benefit Chelsea and Everett residents and they are solid middle-class jobs and
we’re committed to protecting them for our residents,” said Train.

Other Development Activity

•The City has received a PARC grant for
rehabilitation of the O’Neil Playground on the hill up from Williams Street.
The new design will encourage water features and tree canopies. The restoration
will look to prevent heat islands and provide a cool place during the summer.
The project is currently under construction and should be substantially
completed by the fall. It came in at a cost of $884,000.

•The Eden Street playground is currently in
design. The new design will also feature a robust tree canopy and more permeable
surfaces. The project will be bid out in September, with a fall start.
Construction will start up again in the spring for a substantial completion by
summer 2020. That project was supported by a $400,000 PARC grant.

•Voke Park is another area that will soon
receive more attention. The Bocce Court and fields were done over two years
ago, but now it’s time for some attention to be paid to the playground.
Already, they have had one public meeting to get input on the park, and they
are working on conceptual designs now.

“We’ll apply for a grant in July to secure
funding,” said Train.

Design will be done in June 2020 and
construction on that is likely to be 2021.

•The City is
preparing to modernize the traffic signals and intersections at Williams/Chestnut
and Williams/Broadway this summer. That upgrade will include new Smart Traffic
Signals that are able to read the traffic flow and adjust signal timing on the
fly. One of those lights has already been installed on Broadway and Webster earlier
this year. Sidewalks will also be touched up as well.

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Island End River in the Midst of Major Flood Protection Project

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