BOSTON - The intersection of Melnea Cass Boulevard and Massachusetts Avenue in Boston has come to represent another intersection - the one between the opioid crisis and the closing of rehabilitation facilities on Boston’s Long Island.
The Long Island Bridge was condemned and blown up in 2014, just as the drug problem started blowing up.
Many addicts and homeless people were left with no other option than to hang around that busy industrial area. They can be seen wandering into traffic and walking aimlessly with small pieces of luggage.
"It’s not right that these people are out here, day in and day out, not being taken care of," said Sue Sullivan, director of the Newmarket Business Association.
In his recent inaugural address, Mayor Marty Walsh proposed rebuilding the Long Island bridge, which can only be accessed by driving thru the Squantum section of Quincy. He also outlined plans to develop a large long-term recovery campus on the Island.
When the bridge was condemned, hundreds of people lost access to a homeless shelter and rehab services.
Sullivan believes this has become a dangerous situation. "You can't continue without figuring out something in terms of how not to have the interaction between traffic and impaired people," she said. "Because we are going to have a serious problem, and then it’s going to be an emergency."
Mayor Tom Koch of Quincy agrees with the intent of Walsh’s plan but is concerned about traffic in his city, asking “How much traffic can we take through that narrow road to get out there?”
Koch is also worried that a new bridge could lead to additional development on the harbor island.
He favors ferry service and won't rule out legal action against building a bridge. "I’ve got my law department and certainly my environmental people looking at this from the permitting aspect, and you know, if we don't come to some terms or agreement, what is our ability to stop the construction."
It's estimated it could cost up to $100 million to rebuild the bridge. Mayor Walsh has said the city could cover about a third of that expense.
A state transportation official told Boston 25 News via email that "MassDot looks forward to having discussions with the city of Boston on any proposals the city may be considering."
In the meantime, Sullivan can probably expect to hear more stories like this from Newmarket Business Owners: "Those are the kinds of calls I get. It's from someone saying, 'They're sleeping under my trailer. I have tried to ask them to move, but I don’t know what to do.'"
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