Boston readying Long Island building stability package, eyeing bridge movement

The Wu administration is preparing a stabilization package for the buildings on Boston’s Long Island, where the city continues to one day envision some sort of addiction-recovery campus — and hopes to be moving ahead on a bridge to it this fall.

Administration officials told the Herald this week that the amount of cash the city’s looking to put toward stopping the deterioration of the already somewhat dilapidated buildings on the Boston island is still to be determined.

Documents outlining a Walsh-era “master plan” for a complete overhaul of the island to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars put the mark around $80 million to stabilize all the buildings out there, according to the results of a Herald record request. Wu administration officials, made available to speak about the plan, said they’re not looking at a package that big.

Mayor Michelle Wu, who took a boat trip to the island in January to check it out, has said she envisions the island as a mid- to long-term solution for some of the scourge of addiction that continues to plague the city and area.

“During Mayor Wu’s visit to Long Island, the need to immediately stabilize and secure some of the existing public health facilities to prevent further deterioration was evident,” the Wu administration in a statement to the Herald this week. “Mayor Wu has authorized (the Public Facilities Department) to develop and pursue a stability program for the existing facilities while we engage in our own planning around Long Island and the great potential it has to support Boston’s recovery and supportive housing needs.”

There’s still the ongoing debate over rebuilding a bridge to the island.

The Walsh-era documents detailing the master plan are about the island itself, and barely mention the bridge other than to present different dollar amounts for work on the island depending on whether there’s a bridge during construction. The cheapest near-term option, “Phase 1” of getting two buildings ready to begin handling patients, is placed at $200 million with a bridge open and no stabilization spending, $238 million with the bridge and some stabilization, or $250 million with no bridge .

That would get up to 124 beds online of the 500 total visualized in the broader $540-million-plus whole master plan, which was not further acted upon after then-Mayor Marty Walsh left to become the US Labor secretary a year ago.

Walsh always intended to rebuild the bridge, which his administration considered the only possible option for making meaningful use out of the island as a recovery center.

The bridge project — which Walsh’s administration a few years ago put at $80 million, though other estimates have placed it higher — would replace the former span that the city tore down in 2014 as it deteriorated. The bridge was the only way to drive out to the city-owned island, which is in Boston but is only accessible by going through Quincy, where the other side of the bridge touches down. The City of Presidents has fought the plans tooth and nail, dragging the Hub into a years-long court fight that remains ongoing.

A Wu administration official said the city’s “hopeful” that bridge litigation will wrap up soon enough for the city to begin to advertise for the project this fall.

Wu’s also mentioned the idea of ​​ferry service in lieu of the bridge, and one of the administration officials this week said still “nothing is off the table” on that front.

But the Walsh administration long objected to that idea, saying it’s too expensive and wouldn’t work for emergency responses to the island. Erstwhile Acting Mayor Kim Janey, who ran the city for much of 2021 between Walsh’s departure and Wu’s ascendance, also floated the idea of ​​ferries at one point and order up a review, only to quietly deep-six the idea a few months later.

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