Road to redevelopment

December 2013 » Features » PROJECT CASE STUDY
A new parkway provides infrastructure and economic opportunities on a former naval air base.
Robert W. Penfield, P.E.
Photo: Mark Flannery

The former South Weymouth Naval Air Station located in Weymouth, Mass., was an operational U.S. Navy airfield from 1942 to 1997. First developed as a Navy blimp base during World War II, the South Weymouth Naval Air Station then became a significant part of the Naval Air Reserve Training Command during the postwar era. In 1997, the base was closed and the South Shore Tri-Town Development Corporation (SSTTDC), a local municipal agency established to oversee and regulate the former Naval Air Station's redevelopment, began the transformation process of converting the South Weymouth Naval Air Station into the 1,400-acre, mixed-use community known as Southfield.

VHB partnered with Barletta Heavy Division, providing design-build services to the SSTTDC and its redevelopment partner, LNR (now Starwood), for a new east-to-west, cross-base parkway through the former Naval Air Station. The "Bill Delahunt Parkway," which officially opened on Aug. 19, 2013, was named on behalf of former Congressman Bill Delahunt, who worked on the transfer of the former Naval Air Station to local control and helped shepherd the project now known as "Southfield" to reality. The new parkway enables the SSTTDC and LNR to move the redevelopment of the former Naval Air Station forward by improving mobility for pedestrians and motorists through enhanced roadways, bridges, and sidewalks. Additionally, the parkway provides economic and infrastructure development opportunities for the residents of Southfield.

Project
Bill Delahunt Parkway, Weymouth, Mass.

Participants
South Shore Tri-Town Development Corporation
LNR (now Starwood)
VHB
Barletta Heavy Division

Project focus
Roadway, stormwater, traffic, and bridge design-build services improve mobility to enable development of the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station.

As the lead engineer on this design-build project, VHB provided roadway, stormwater, traffic, and bridge design services and navigated a complex environmental permitting process to facilitate construction of the new road, which included three single-span bridges over wetlands, two pedestrian/bike path bridges, as well as infrastructure improvements to an existing commuter rail station.

The project involved bridge and roadway design and construction adjacent to previously capped Navy landfills, right-of-way plan development and acquisition, stormwater and drainage, utility design and coordination, traffic signals, and wetlands design and permitting. Throughout the process, the team worked to design and build a safe, sustainable parkway that created the necessary infrastructure and access to the base to facilitate its redevelopment.

The bridge structures along the Bill Delahunt Parkway are highly visible elements of Southfield's transportation infrastructure and are designed to enhance the surrounding areas, provide a safe travel experience, and minimize long-term maintenance requirements. Use of materials such as precast-prestressed concrete box girders with high-strength concrete decks, as well as prefabricated steel truss pedestrian bridges with ipe wood decking serve to maximize material efficiency and resist future corrosion.

Complex permitting
Moving a complex infrastructure project forward within the former naval air base required navigating through an extensive permitting process. The plan to obtain permits and address other environmental compliance issues was based on an in-depth understanding of the project. VHB had been involved significantly in much of the base redevelopment's history prior to construction of the parkway itself, including the early environmental permitting, preparation of a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) and Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR), and extensive monitoring of the number of protected wildlife species that populate the base's open spaces. Members of the team prepared the Conservation and Management Plan for the Base in consultation with the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program and were intimately familiar with the site. This historical perspective enabled the team to address project permitting challenges more efficiently.

Old Swamp River Bridge – with beams in, deck poured, and river daylighted – has a custom abutment and foundation details that provide a suitable habitat for turtles while still providing adequate scour protection for 100-year storm events.

The project required a Section 404 Permit, Section 401 Water Quality Certification, NPDES Construction General Permit, and Conservation and Management Permit under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act, as well as Orders of Conditions from the presiding community's Conservation Commission.

Streamlined communication and processes
Streamlined communication and processes helped move this project forward to completion – especially in a design-build environment where schedules and financing is tight and quality is critical. The project essentially involved two clients: SSTTDC, which, as the municipality on which the parkway was to be built, enforced the adopted zoning and permitting regulations; and LNR (now Starwood), which, as the developer, steered the financing, quality, and aesthetic components of the project so that the new infrastructure was constructed to meet both the high quality and "look" of Southfield. In addition, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation was involved in the review process because Massachusetts law requires a comprehensive safety review of any bridge designs by the agency.

Multiple stakeholders working together increased the complexity, making effective coordination imperative to the project's success. Frequent, regular meetings were held at the project field office to keep team members engaged and to ensure collaboration. Consistent and prudent client engagement helped keep the project on-track. A focus on communication, critical path items, and cost and schedule control allowed the team to appropriately deploy its deep technical expertise and leverage proven successful management tools, including an independent, comprehensive, Quality Control/Quality Assurance (QC/QA) Plan, for effective and efficient project delivery.

A prefabricated pedestrian truss bridge is installed over a wetland.

Project team members were experienced with the technical aspects of the project, multi-disciplined transportation projects in general, and with design-build projects through the construction manager, Barletta. This foundation allowed the team to communicate from an already established familiarity. VHB and Barletta have had a highly successful working relationship on other major design-build projects in the Commonwealth including the Blue Hills Reservoir Covered Storage Project in Quincy, Mass.; the Derek S. Hines Bridge Replacement project in Amesbury, Mass.; and currently, the Route 79/Braga Bridge Interchange Improvement project in Fall River, Mass.

Balancing needs of the environment
The team also was challenged to address environmental concerns. The parkway was required to avoid impacts to wetlands and to help protect Eastern Box Turtles, an environmentally threatened, upland turtle species. The base has a population of these turtles, which settle near bodies of water but do not live in water. A comprehensive compliance plan that identified specific elements including monitoring, reporting, and training in order to properly accommodate the turtles was prepared as part of the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act project.

"One-way turtle gates" allowed Eastern Box Turtles to leave the construction site, but not return.

Bridge spans were increased and designed to provide an upland passage for the turtles to travel to their nesting areas. The Old Swamp River Bridge, an 89-foot, single-span, prestressed concrete box girder bridge supported on steel H-piles, was one of the bridges designed that accommodates the population of Eastern Box Turtles. VHB developed custom abutment and foundation details that provide a suitable habitat for the turtles while still providing adequate scour protection for 100-year storm events.

Robert W. Penfield, P.E., senior project engineer – Transportation/Structures for VHB, is a structural engineer primarily focused on bridge projects, as well as transportation-related structures. He specializes in both new and rehabilitated bridge design and evaluation, and has extensive experience in construction phase services and design-build projects.

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