September 12, 2017: Construction Update

Earlier this year, the contractor found some additional soil contamination in a portion of the old rail corridor behind the Wastewater Treatment Facility, and the City had to fence off the area in compliance with federal and state regulatory requirements while it develops the remediation approach.  All railroad corridors are assumed to have some level of contaminants, and, although previous testing did not reveal any contamination considered to be a risk, it is not uncommon to find more contaminants during development of rail trails.  The source of the PCB’s is presumed to be old railroad operations.  Working in collaboration with MassDOT, the City hired a Licensed Site Professional (LSP) to manage further assessment, provide reports to the federal and state regulatory authorities, and develop a remediation plan.  The City also secured some additional grant funding through the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission’s Brownfields Program to help address the cleanup of this area.  The contractor is currently mobilizing to conduct additional soil sampling to fill in data gaps and better characterize the nature and extent of the soil contamination in a section of trail corridor behind the Wastewater Treatment Facility in order to fully develop the remediation cleanup plan.  It is anticipated that the additional sampling will be conducted and then analyzed this fall, and then a final remediation plan for both removal and capping of soil will be developed by the consultants during the winter, and implemented by the contractor along with final construction of this section of trail in the spring of 2018.  The City is hosting a public meeting on this subject on Thursday September 28 at 7pm in City Hall.  This section will remain fenced off to the public until remediation is complete.

The state contractor ET&L has shaped and graded the rest of the trail, and installed the base course of asphalt except for the fenced-off shoreline section while we wait for EPA and DEP approval.  The contractor is installing concrete foundations for benches and signage, and the final course of paving is anticipated in early October (except for certain sections along the shoreline).  The contractor has also installed granite curbing in a number of locations, installed brick on the trail behind the Custom House, repaired sinkholes and scoured areas adjacent to the trail at the fish pier bulkhead, largely completed a boardwalk bridge over the small embayment behind the Starboard Galley restaurant, and is installing more fencing.

The handicapped accessible spur pathway between the main trail and High Street at March’s Hill was temporarily put on hold during the summer due to concerns from the neighborhood about the overall height, bulk, and location of the fill.  Abutters and various officials worked together to develop a revised design to significantly lower the height of the spur pathway and pull it back along the edge of the park, and the City Council approved additional funding to support this work.  Significant modifications were possible due to the change in owners of the adjacent driveway parcel, who offered to allow the pathway and associated fill to cross their property line so the intersection of the spur pathway with the main trail could shift 50 feet over.  The contractor mobilized large equipment at the beginning of September to shift and reshape the spur pathway and pull back the bulge of soil along the eastern edge of March’s Hill based on the recently approved revised plan.  Tree wells and drainage work are currently being done, as well as additional shaping and grading.  The contractor intends to substantially complete the trail work in this area (including paving, fencing, etc.) this fall of 2017, although the two new granite stairways to the park may be installed in the spring of 2018.

National Grid plans to replace a destroyed seawall on their substation property adjacent to the rail trail with a new stone revetment this fall and winter of 2017-2018, somewhat similar to the shoreline revetment at Cashman Park.  Final paving, benches, fencing, and landscaping of the trail in this section will be deferred until the spring of 2018 in order to avoid negative impacts from the utility contractor’s heavy equipment.  This area will remain fenced off to the public until after this work is completed for safety purposes.

During recent months, the City also released a Request for Proposals to local artists for murals to be installed along the fenced section of trail south of Water Street.  A selection committee along with the Mayor and Parks Commission selected 11 artists who are currently finalizing paintings that will be printed as 4’x6’ murals and installed later this fall.

Looking ahead, underpass lighting may be installed under High Street this fall, as well as additional fencing and timber guardrails, plus concrete, brick, and granite work.  In addition to the shoreline sections, landscaping plantings, signage, sculpture and other final elements will be completed in the spring of 2018.

rail trail 7-26 March's Hill East Lot

Tannery/Coast Guard section Boardwalk bridge