Tobin/Chelsea : Local Traffic Advisory

Orange Street Temporary Closure

Saturday, August 10, 2019

What and Where : Orange Street under Route 1 in Chelsea will be closed on Saturday, August 10 for necessary bridge work.

WHEN: From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, August 10, 2019

WHY: To remove bridge deck and support beams in need of replacement on Route 1.

TRAVEL IMPACTS: Orange Street will be closed under Route 1 to create a safe work zone. During the closure, two-way travel will be permitted on Orange Street from Revere Beach Parkway to the workzone under the bridge. Signed detours and police details will guide drivers and pedestrians safely around the work zone via Everett Ave. (see detour below).

Carter Street Temporary Workzone

• On Monday, August 5, crews will set up a temporary workzone in the center of Carter Street between Blossom Street and the Route 1 off-ramp.

• The temporary workzone is necessary to construct new support columns under Route 1 and will remain in place for approximately 2 months.

• The temporary workzone will have no travel impacts to Carter Street or Route 1. Lane markings, temporary barriers, traffic cones, and signage will be used to guide traffic around the work zone.

• For more information on the Tobin Bridge / Chelsea Curves Rehabilitation Project, contact Tobin-Chelsea@dot.state.ma.us or visit https://www.mass.gov/tobin-bridgechelsea-curves-rehabilitation-project

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GreenStar Herbals Gets Planning Board Approval; Will Head to ZBA in August

A retail marijuana shop is one step closer to opening at the site of the former King Arthur’s strip club at 200 Beacham St.

Tuesday night, the Planning Board approved the site plan for the 3,800-square-foot facility by a 7-1 vote. The board also recommended that the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) grant a special permit for the proposal when it comes before that board on Aug. 13.

Planning Board member Mimi Rancatore cast the lone vote against the project, citing traffic concerns.

Rancatore noted that she has heard from drivers from the neighboring New England Produce Market who are concerned about the additional traffic on the site.

“Twenty to 30 additional cars per hour is still a lot,” said Rancatore. “There is a lot of traffic on that road, and it is very close to the casino in Everett.”

Representatives from GreenStar Herbals, the company proposing the pot shop, said they have worked closely with City officials and the police to alleviate traffic concerns at 200 Beacham St.

The revised plan brought before the Planning Board includes clearly defined entrances and traffic flow in the parking lot, as well as an appointment system for customers that will limit the number of customers at the store at any one time.

But Rancatore noted that the appointment system is only required for the first month of operation. City Planning Director John DePriest countered that any changes to GreenStar’s approved plans will have to come back before the Planning Board for approval.

Unlike the Dunkin (Donuts) next door, there will not be significant spikes in traffic at the shop during the day, according to traffic consultant Jeffrey Dirk of Vanasse and Associates.

“Any use on the site will generate traffic,” said Dirk. “But the nature of this use is not a significant traffic generator.”

City Manager Thomas Ambrosino spoke in favor of the project, stating it is a major improvement over the current condition of the property.

“In terms of the use, it is a strong proposal to revitalize this property with this use,” said Ambrosino. “It’s been a problem for the city for the four years that I have been City Manager, and probably for a generation before that. We have fought to keep that property from continuing as an adult-entertainment venue.”

Ambrosino said the adult-use recreational marijuana facility is the best the City can hope for at that property.

“Given all the other potential uses for the site, this proposal makes a lot of sense for the City,” he said.

GreenStar originally came before the city with a proposal for 200 Beacham St., but withdrew that proposal to make adjustments more in line with suggestions from City officials and residents.

GreenStar representatives noted that the new building will be an improvement over the existing two-story building on the property.

The new building will be one-story as opposed to two, and will be set further back from the road than the King Arthur building.

There will also be improved landscaping and traffic flow on the site, according to GreenStar officials.

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Zoning Board Denies Spencer Ave. Project in Surprisingly Close Vote

In a split decision, the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) denied a request for a special permit and variance for a proposed eight-unit, four-story, market-rate condominium project at 254 Spencer Ave. on Tuesday night.

In a 2-2 vote, ZBA members Arthur Arsenault and Marilyn Vega-Torres voted to okay the project, while members Hugo Perdomo and Joseph Mahoney voted to deny approvals, siding with the recommendation of Planning Director John DePriest.

DePriest stated that the conversion of the existing two-family house to eight units was too large for the site, and that the developers did not meet the hardship requirements to gain approval for the special permit and variances.

While the Planning Department recommended no more than five units on the parcel, a number of neighbors and city officials came out in support of the project Tuesday night, much as they had done last month when the project was approved by the Planning Board.

“I would hate to see these units be abandoned, it is kind of an eyesore right now,” said District 3 City Councillor Joe Perlatonda.

Perlatonda noted that the City has recently approved larger, affordable housing projects, such as at the old Midas site, and that 254 Spencer Ave. sits next to the 34-unit Acadia affordable housing development.

“The neighbors want this, I want this, and I don’t think it should be limited to five units,” said Perlatonda. “It’s a great project, and I don’t see why we wouldn’t want it right now.”

Richard Lynds, the attorney for developer Ricky Beliveau, said the four-story condo building would fit into the neighborhood by serving as a transition from the taller, five-story Acadia development on one side to the triple-deckers on the other side of 254 Spencer Ave.

To make the project work financially, Lynds said Beliveau needs the eight units at market rate. He said Beliveau would be investing $2.5 million into the project, with units selling for about $500,000 each.

“Ricky believes in the City of Chelsea,” said Lynds. “For him to make this type of investment shows where his mind is and where his wallet is.”

As the special permit and variance failed to garner the necessary vote, several of the supporters who attended the meeting voiced their displeasure to the board members and DePriest.

“We are going with what the law is in the books,” said Mahoney.

After the meeting, Lynds said he and Beliveau will regroup to see what their next steps are for 254 Spencer Avenue.

“It’s too early to tell what we will do right now,” he said. “We will look at all of our options.”

Lynds said he was surprised by DePriest’s staunch vocal opposition to the project.

“This was an opportunity for good, market-rate units,” said Lynds.

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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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GreenWay Project Will Complete Final Leg of Silver Line Extension in Chelsea

The Chelsea GreenWay project is fully under construction this week, and City officials expect to have the multi-million dollar job substantially completed by the fall.

The GreenWay project came through a $1.1 million commitment to the City from the state, as well as funds from the City Council to complete the beautification of the shared use path along the new Silver Line.

The Chelsea GreenWay project is currently underway on the shared use adjacent to the Silver Line. Land-scaping and extensive tree plantings of native species is expected to be completed in November.The project is the final piece-aside from the new commuter rail station of the Silver Line extension in Chelsea

“This final part of the Silver Line project will result in such enhancements as the planting of more than 500 trees and several parcels will be landscaped, and there will also be hardscape plazas at key entryways such as Chestnut Street and Highland Street,” said Alex Train of the Planning Department.

That project goes from Eastern Avenue where the shared use path stats and concludes at Chestnut Street.

After that, there will be on-street improvements to continue the walking path such as signage, sidewalk replacement and crosswalk enhancements – filling out the walking path from one end of the project to the end at Market Basket.

Train said this is also an opportunity to plant more native trees that aren’t necessarily common in Chelsea.

“I think there is a real opportunity in the planting program,” he said. “This is one of the most intensive planting of local native species. These are trees that are native to the area, but may not be prevalent anymore.”

The idea with the GreenWay is to take pieces like the Chelsea stretch and connect it to other greenways and paths, such as the East Boston GreenWay and Everett’s Northern Strand Trail. Connecting those paths can create a network for alternative transportation that most planners only dreamed of a few years ago.

“We’re working very close now with an organization called the Land Line Coalition, which is working to try to connect all of these greenways together,” he said.

The same is true for the Silver Line’s potential expansion into Everett and Cambridge – a plan that is being considered by the MBTA in the near future.

“We are ready to expand the GreenWay network if the Silver Line expands into Everett and to the casino and beyond,” he said. “That could be a tremendous connection for our residents.”

Work will continue throughout 2019 on the project, though it is expected to be finished in November, with punch list items finishing next spring.

The contractor on the project is D’Allesandro of Avon.

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Major Essex Street Project to Begin July 8

The Essex Street Utility and Roadway Improvement Project is set to start construction on July 8, and will encompass Essex Street from Pearl Street to Highland Street, and Highland Street from Marginal Street to Maverick Street.

Essex Street currently has utility lines that date back to as old as 1906.

As utility infrastructure ages, the integrity of the materials start to deteriorate which can cause utility breaks, leaks and other issues. These problems can create above ground issues such as sinkholes, settling, and cracking, which can make for difficult driving which adds wear and tear on vehicles.

Essex Street currently has old brick sewer mains with several broken sections that have allowed ground water to enter the sewer system, and also allows sewage to seep into the ground. Groundwater is a part of the ecosystem and should remain in the ground, not redirected into the sewer system, City officials said. The sewer pipe is located under a large water pipe (36 inches) owned by the MWRA, which makes it difficult to access and maintain. The Essex Street project will replace sewer mains where possible, and in hard to reach areas, it will place a structural liner that will reinforce the existing pipe.

The project will entail sewer and service replacements, water main abandonment with service transfers, new storm drain installation, new concrete driveway aprons, new granite curbing, fresh new concrete sidewalks, all new paving, new line stripping and pedestrian crossings.

Benefits of the project include:

•improved water pressure to fire hydrants;

•lead-free water service lines;

•new street trees which offer cooling during summer months, and reduced risks of utility breaks.

Upon project completion, the improvements will give Essex Street and portions of Highland Street a polished look and also provide long lasting utilities, the City said.

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New Chelsea Stadium Pegged to Be Completed by End of May

The new Chelsea Stadium is only a few weeks from being completed and put into use, school officials said this week.

The new track will be named after late teacher/track coach Bernard Berenson, who is in the state Coaches Hall of Fame.

Facilities Director Joe Cooney said the rainy weather has slowed down the surfacing of the track, but that most everything else in the long-awaited Stadium project is completed.

“We’re getting very close,” he said. “When it’s done, it’s going to look dynamite.”

The football field is completely done, he said, but the track has been tricky.

An overview of the new football field looks spectacular but getting the track down has been tricky in the recent rainy weather. The project began last summer and will be completed at the end of May.

Already there has been a base coat of asphalt put down, but the rubberized surface on the track cannot be placed down in the rain – which pretty much means it has been delayed for quite some due to the deluge that has been seen lately.

He said there are two layers of rubberized surface, and that when it is done, it will be a very fast track for the runners.

The only other things outstanding are the conduits for the lights, permanent bathrooms, and bleacher improvements.

He said they have to complete the project by early May because graduation is taking place on the new field on June 9.

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TND, Traggorth Finally get the Green Light on Midas Site

A 38-unit affordable housing project at the former Midas site on Broadway can move forward after the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) unanimously granted a special permit for the project Tuesday night.

The $15 million project is a partnership between the Traggorth Companies and The Neighborhood Developers (TND). The developers initially came before City officials last year with plans for a 42-unit housing development with some market rate units included.

In addition to cutting the project down to 38 units and making all the units affordable, a planned fifth floor of a building along the Broadway side was eliminated.

“This project cannot do everything for everyone, but it can achieve many things for Chelsea by creating 38 units of affordable housing,” said Dave Traggorth of the Traggorth Companies. “This blighted site pays very little in taxes. This will change that and bring revenue to the city.”

In addition to providing affordable housing, Traggorth said there will be public access to Mill Creek for all Chelsea residents.

As has been the case during past public hearings on the project, a number of community members touted the need for affordable housing in Chelsea and TND’s past successes in bringing affordable units to the city.

City Council President Damali Vidot said she has never supported a TND project in the city until this one.

“There is a huge problem with affordability in this city and we are displacing residents at a rapid rate,” said Vidot.

Resident Sandy Maynard supported the creation of affordable units and the improvement of a blighted site in the city.

“I can’t think of a better project than this one to meet that (affordable housing) need and to beautify Chelsea,” said Maynard. “That lot is an ugly, ugly place.”

Several residents who have been homeless also spoke in favor of the project and of the need of affordable housing.”

A letter from District 3 City Councillor Joe Perlatonda cited his objections to the project, including the welfare of neighboring residents due to traffic and parking concerns.

City Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda, who has spoken against approval of the 1001-1005 Broadway project in the past, said his overreaching concern has been TND’s lack of a vision to bring affordable home ownership, as opposed to rental units, to the city.

“Teachers and city employees are not able to bid on homes (in Chelsea) and they are pushed out,” said Avellaneda. “I understand the need for affordable housing, but there is no balance here … There is a broader discussion that is needed in this community.”

The special permit granted by the ZBA was required because the project did not meet minimum zoning requirements for rear yard setbacks, number of off-street parking spaces, and maximum lot coverage percentage.

A housing lottery will be held for all of those units, with 30 offered at 60 percent of the Average Median Income (AMI) for the area (about $64,000 for a family of four) and eight at 30 percent AMI (about $32,000 for a family of four). The maximum preference allowable under state law will be given to Chelsea residents for the units.

There will be 42 parking spaces for the 38 units (the majority of which will be two-bedroom apartments). And because of state law regulating public access to public waterways, 31 of those parking spaces will be available as public parking from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to provide access to Mill Creek for everyone.

•In other business, the ZBA held a public hearing for a retail marijuana shop at the site of the former King Arthur’s strip club at 200 Beacham St. GreenStar Herbals, Inc. is seeking to tear down the existing two-story building and replace it with a one-story retail facility.

Representatives from GreenStar said the building will feature state-of-the-art security and 34 parking spots on site. Representatives of several of the neighboring local produce businesses came to express concerns about traffic and parking affecting their businesses.

The GreenStar proposal still needs to go before the Planning Board later this month before coming back to the ZBA for special permit and variance approvals.

•The ZBA also denied a special permit for a church to operate out of the second and third floors of 307 Broadway because the plan did not include any parking spaces.

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Tobin Bridge/Chelsea Curves Rehabilitation Project Started May 14

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) began the closure of one of three southbound travel lanes on Route 1 in Chelsea and the Tobin Bridge the morning of Tuesday, May 14, snarling traffic in many parts of Everett as commuters looked for an alternative route.

The public was also reminded the one-lane northbound closure on the Tobin Bridge and Route 1 was expanded the morning of Tuesday, May 14. MassDOT anticipates that these lane closures will lead to increased travel times on sections of Route 1 northbound and southbound for drivers and MBTA bus customers for months to come.

These traffic impacts are associated with MassDOT’s Tobin Bridge/Chelsea Curves Rehabilitation Project and lane closures will remain in place for approximately two years. Additional overnight lane closures will be necessary throughout the project meaning only one lane of travel may be open during certain evening hours.

In order to accommodate travelers during this necessary construction work, MassDOT is opening the I-93 southbound carpool lane between Medford and the Zakim Bridge to all vehicles regardless of the number of occupants. This lane will continue to function as an “express lane” and vehicles in this lane on I-93 southbound will not have access to Exit 28 (Mystic Avenue) or Exit 26 (Storrow Drive).

“North Shore commuters should be aware that beginning the morning of Tuesday, May 14, a travel lane will be closed on Route 1 southbound in Chelsea, and the lane closure that is already in place on the Tobin Bridge and Route 1 northbound will be expanded,” said Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver last Friday. “MassDOT is carrying out this necessary rehabilitation work in order to ensure the continued use and reliability of Tobin Bridge and Chelsea Viaduct. We appreciate the cooperation and patience of the traveling public and advise everyone to make smart decisions such as considering public transit, using the appropriate technology apps to find the best route and time to travel, and building extra time into their commutes to account for potential roadway congestion.”

Travelers are also reminded of options such as free fares in the inbound direction on the MBTA Silver Line 3 bus line offered at the Chelsea, Bellingham Square, Box District, and Eastern Avenue stops for the duration of construction. In addition, public transit customers will be able to use a CharlieCard to travel between North Station and Chelsea on the Commuter Rail. The MBTA is also running additional MBTA Blue Line trains to increase capacity. These measures are all being funded by MassDOT Highway Division project funds.

MassDOT is also advising the public to also consider using the Haverhill or Newburyport/Rockport Commuter Rail lines and note that the Haverhill Line historically has parking capacity at Haverhill and Bradford stations. The Newburyport/Rockport Line historically has parking capacity at Newburyport, Salem and Lynn station. Customers can monitor @MBTA_Parking on Twitter for capacity updates and information. In addition, the MBTA has installed a digital parking capacity sign at the Blue Line Wonderland parking lot so drivers approaching the lot can get “real time” information on parking availability.

MassDOT is carrying out work on the Tobin Bridge and Chelsea Curves section of Route 1 at the same time so that the most impactful work will be completed by 2021. If the projects were done at separate times, drivers would be inconvenienced for additional years. This work will eliminate the need for weight restrictions and postings, and MassDOT will use accelerated construction techniques to shorten the overall construction time.

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MBTA Board Awards Contract for New Commuter Rail Station

The MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board approved a $32.3 million contract that will result in the relocation and construction of a new, fully-accessible Chelsea Commuter Rail Station.

When complete, the new Chelsea Station will be an intermodal facility that connects the Newburyport/Rockport Commuter Rail Lines to the Silver Line 3-Chelsea service, which began operating in April 2018.

“This is a key investment in our Commuter Rail infrastructure that will allow for faster boarding and improved accessibility for people of all abilities,” said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak. “Once complete, the new station will serve as a multimodal connection that will give our customers the choice of traveling to North Station on the Commuter Rail or South Station on SL3 from a single point.”

Featuring high-level platforms, canopies, benches, and windscreens, the brand new station will also include new sidewalks, landscaping, stairways, lighting, communications systems, and structures for maintenance and bus operations personnel. The project also includes the demolition of the existing Chelsea Station, upgrades to railroad signal systems, and new traffic signal system installations at local intersections.

The project to construct and relocate Chelsea Station aims to relieve traffic congestion and overcrowding on existing area bus routes in Chelsea while also providing better transit options to environmental justice populations through improved accessibility to employment opportunities in downtown Boston and the Seaport district.

The project also includes the installation of transit signal priority improvements for the SL3-Chelsea along with improved operational efficiency and the incorporation of green operations elements at the new Chelsea Station. Greenhouse gas emissions will also be reduced by increasing the transit mode share and decreasing the idle time of commuter rail and BRT vehicles.

The Chelsea Commuter Rail Station Project was advertised in February 2019 with bids open in April 2019. After six bids were received, the Chelsea Commuter Rail Station contract was awarded to A.A. Will Corporation for $32,367,200.

Construction could start as early as this summer, with project completion estimated for late 2021.

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