Bowker Overpass — Multistage Construction?

Recently, concerns have been expressed that the Bowker project is actually larger than people have realized.  This concern comes from the presence of multiple Bowker related projects in MassDOT’s project management system.

Paul Nelson at MassDOT has offered the clarification below:

I understand that trying to use our Project Information System can be a bit confusing, but Parker James is mistaken in his conclusion that MassDOT is planning a $44 million project to permanently replace the Bowker Overpass. As stated in our public meetings, MassDOT is currently ONLY pursuing a medium-term (~10 year) fix to the Bowker Overpass over Charlesgate (for an estimated $12.8 million). That is the only project that is proposed for that structure.

There are in fact four different projects that Mr. James is citing in his evaluation. Taken in chronological order, they are:

· The first project (MassDOT Project No. 605509) was completed in the Autumn of 2009. This project, commonly referred to as the “Ramp ‘H’ Project,” replaced Structure 4FL of bridge number B-16-365 (as shown in the attached figure). That is the ramp connection from the Bowker Overpass to Storrow Drive westbound.

· The current project for the Bowker Overpass repairs (MassDOT Project No. 606448) entails repairs to the deck and parapet wall of the Bowker Overpass (structures 4EL, 4FF, 4FG, 4FH, and 4FJ of bridge number B-16-365 shown in the attached figure). This project was advertised for $12.8 million; the $13.6 million cost in ProjectInfo reflects additional project contingency funds; the final cost of the project will depend upon the actual construction bids.

There are two other projects that MassDOT has identified as future needs, but these are at the preliminary design stage, and MassDOT has suspended further work on them until we get to the final recommendations of the I-90 Boston Ramps Transportation Study.

· The third project (MassDOT Project No. 606496) would repair structurally deficient elements of bridge B-16-052 – the Bowker Overpass segment which spans over the Massachusetts Turnpike, the MBTA Commuter Rail, and Ipswich Street. Although this is a component of the Bowker Overpass, the section over the Turnpike is not the primary focus of the current study.

· The fourth project (MassDOT Project No. 606728) would repair structurally deficient elements of structure 4FK of bridge number B-16-365 which is also known as the “Storrow Drive Eastbound Viaduct.“ It should NOT have been called the “Bowker Overpass” in the project description at all.

It may be confusing that these projects are in MassDOT’s ProjectInfo system; however, it is important that we keep track of our project and funding needs, even many years into the future, and even when these projects are subject to change.

Please let me know if you, or your constituents, have any additional questions.



Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

One reply on “Bowker Overpass — Multistage Construction?”

  1. Parker James transmitted to me the following response:

    Mr. Nelson is correct to state that I am new to the study of highway projects. That said, it seems like straightforward logic to suggest that breaking the Bowker renovation project into component phases could be construed as a case of project “segmentation.”

    Attorney Mark A. Chertok, of the prestigious environmental law firm Sive, Paget, and Riesel, P.C., defines segmentation as “the division of a project … into component parts or temporal ‘phases.’”

    According to Chertok, segmentation has been “frequently employed in the context of federal highway funding” as a means to evade filing the “Environmental Impact Statements” that are mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Chertok goes on to say that “such divisions of an action have, for the most part, been disallowed by the federal courts” for highway projects using federal funds.

    Chertok states that a given project’s “independent utility” is the determining factor. If one project phase is “connected” to another project phase in order to maintain a project’s “independent utility,” then a NEPA Environmental Impact Assessment is required for the entire project. Chertok continues to say that “courts are skeptical of attempts to divide projects into segments in order to circumvent the mandate of NEPA.”

    Cherkov warns that “… if NEPA is violated, the consequences can be severe. If an agency failed to prepare an EIS when it should have, or an EIS did not adequately assess the environmental consequences of a proposal, courts will not hesitate to invalidate the agency’s decision-making.”

    If Cherkov is correct that the “independent utility” of a project is the determining factor of whether “segmentation” has occurred, the Bowker renovation project would seem like an almost ideal illustration of the phenomenon.

    How is the Bowker renovation project not a single project that has been divided into temporal phases?

    Which of these phases is not necessary for the Bowker to function properly?

    Perhaps these are questions for the courts to decide.

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