The Chelsea Curves state highway project has had a stop work order put on it temporarily for demolition work that has caused huge amounts of dust and filth to inundate neighborhoods like County Road – and City and State officials want answers from MassDOT.
County Road resident Tony Hernandez came out of his house late at night over the May 30th weekend to find his car and everything covered with heavy, potentially dangerous dust. And if it were in the air and on his car, it was likely in his home too.
That began a heated battle between City and State leaders and MassDOT – which led to State Rep. Dan Ryan and State Sen. Sal DiDomenico being able to put a stop work order on certain aspects of the project until the state can give them answers and a plan to stop the dust and overnight issues.
“The dust and noise emitted from this project is certainly preventable,” said Ryan. “I want thank Council President Avellaneda for calling this issue to
our attention. We were able to get an immediate stop work order on certain aspects of the job until a better plan to protect the residents of Chelsea can be put in place and better lines communication of communication can be established. MassHighway responded adequately. Now, it is on us collectively to hold the contractor accountable.”
State Sen. Sal DiDomenico said he was very unhappy with the situation, and he and Ryan began working on it as soon as they heard about the issues. For DiDomenico, it wasn’t the first issue with the project and it has been a long year since construction started. This incident was the last straw.
“The mitigation efforts, or lack thereof, have failed and the residents of Chelsea are paying for it,” he said. “We can all assume that the dust that we can see on cars also went into people’s homes who had windows open or air conditioners on. This dust is all over people’s backyards, and everything around their homes The offer to wash cars is almost laughable…The harm to people’s health should mean more to you than a few cars getting hosed down.
“What is especially alarming is that the videos we have from two weekends ago, in the middle of the night, clearly showed a huge amount of dust in the air, and the work continued,” he said. “Nothing was being done to correct it on the spot. The contractor told DOT that the high winds overwhelmed their system. If that was the case they should have immediately stopped working.”
Council President Roy Avellaneda said he believes MassHighway has some answers it needs to give Chelsea.
“We got calls from Tony on the Chelsea Curves project and they were jack-hammering and sandblasting at 1:30 a.m. and the worst thing is they weren’t shutting down the work when they were supposed to,” he said. “People had dust all over the place from the construction. I don’t really know why they are even doing night work now because there isn’t a lot of traffic, volumes are way down, so I don’t understand why they can’t do more work during regular hours instead of working at night and doing things like this.”
Ambrosino said they have asked for a new agreement and are waiting for that to be put in writing.
“The City can’t wait for this project to be over,” he said. “It’s been disrespectful and inconvenient for our residents. The silver lining is it is coming to a close next fall…The inconvenient work, the jackhammering and everything else are supposed to be done by the end of this year.”
A letter from GreenRoots was also issued to the state – acting as the City’s environmental response team. It was signed by Director Roseann Bongiovanni, Ambrosino and Avellaneda.
“It is the responsibility of the Mass Department of Transportation and the project’s general contractor Skanska/McCourt to ensure all appropriate measures are taken to protect the health and well-being of the residents of Chelsea during this project,” read the letter. “Clearly, as documented, there was a breach of this responsibility that weekend. We, therefore, demand that MassDOT and Skanska/McCourt immediately remedy this problem for the remaining duration of the project.”
DiDomenico said he has commonly been told by the state that when the project is over, it will be so much better for Chelsea. That, he said, is not true. The project only serves to make North Shore commuters have a better commute. It doesn’t really benefit Chelsea at all.
“The disruption, noise and dust have had a huge negative impact on the lives of our residents,” he said. “Let’s be clear, these repairs will be disproportionately benefiting the thousands of residents from other communities who will be driving their cars through Chelsea and our residents will continue to deal with the environmental issues that come with that traffic. While there is not much we can do to change that, the residents of Chelsea deserve better from everyone working on this project.”