Massport to invest $1B in air- and seaport expansion

By Colin A. Young
State House News Service


The Massachusetts Port Authority is planning to issue more than $1 billion in new debt over the coming years as it embarks on a series of projects designed to accommodate more passenger flights, larger cruise ships, and larger container vessels in Boston.

Speaking this week to a conference of investors who could buy some of the agency's debt, acting MassPort CEO John Pranckevicius touted some of the projects planned for Logan International Airport, Conley Container Terminal in South Boston, and the Ray Flynn Cruiseport as boons to the local economy and products of the economy's recent success.

At Logan, a roughly $750 million project will include an expansion of the international terminal and the reconfiguration of other terminals and gates, and a $250 million project seeks to redesign the roadways that service the busiest terminals.

"We have a workforce that has a tendency to do a lot of travel," Pranckevicius said, also pointing out the state's low unemployment rate and high income levels. "That economic stimulus generated from the policies here in Massachusetts are driving a lot of the airlines to add more service."

The expansions come while Logan prepares for some of its largest carriers – JetBlue, Delta, Southwest, and United – to increase the number of their daily flights to or from Boston.

Pranckevicious said Logan is on pace to serve 40.8 million passengers in 2018. In the next seven to 10 years, he said, Logan's annual passenger count is expected to jump to 50 million.

"We have a robust economy driving strong demand for air travel to and from Boston and from that demand, our airline business partners are seeing strong returns on their investments at Boston," Dan Gallagher, MassPort's director of aviation business and finance, said.

MassPort is also in the midst of investing about $850 million in the Conley shipping terminal – including the dredging of the harbor channel, the addition of a new berth at the terminal, and the purchase of new ship-to-shore cranes – to allow it to accommodate larger ships that carry more containers.

"As the global shipping industry evolves, in order to make sure that these assets continue to be a significant economic engine, we have put in place a plan to invest more than $850 million to adapt to the changing global industry," port director Lisa Wieland said. "That's because the businesses in New England and here in the commonwealth rely on Conley Terminal to connect to the global economy. It is New England's only full-service container terminal."

When the widened Panama Canal opened to ship traffic in 2016, Wieland said, shipping lines immediately began sending larger ships to Boston. Before the canal expansion, ships generally carried 4,000 to 6,000 containers. Weiland said once the canal expansion was complete, the terminal began serving ships carrying 8,000 to 9,000 containers.

"And the conversations we're having with the shipping lines, they're telling us to be ready for even bigger ships," she said.

Across the Reserve Channel, at the Ray Flynn Cruiseport, MassPort is developing plans that will allow larger ships to be homeported in Boston, rather than just visiting the city as a port of call. The port served a record 389,000 passengers on 152 ship calls last season, according to Wieland, and the cruise lines are eager to expand in Boston.

"Our growth has been basically outpacing the industry overall and beating the forecast we did a few years ago," she said. "The cruise lines continue to talk about new itineraries and larger ships in this market."


Settlement paves way for cable, dredging work in Boston Harbor

By Colin A. Young
State House News Service

An electrical cable under Boston Harbor that has been the source of delays for a dredging project required before new supertankers can dock in Boston will be removed and replaced, the result of a federal court settlement that clears the way for the Boston Harbor Deep Draft Navigation Improvement Project.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Massachusetts Port Authority are pursuing a $310 million project to carve out a deeper channel in Boston Harbor, making the port accessible to the larger class of ships now able to fit through an expanded Panama Canal and already serving deeper ports.

But a cable laid in 1990 to bring power to the Deer Island Wastewater Treatment Plant was installed closer to the seafloor surface than allowed by a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit and would pose a danger to people and equipment dredging the harbor, according to the suit filed by the federal government and MassPort.

Last week, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority and Eversource settled the suit filed against them over the cable that spans two of the harbor's shipping channels, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced, an outcome that will allow the dredging to move ahead.

“The Deep Draft project is necessary to keep the Port of Boston and its shipping facilities competitive with other East Coast ports,” William Weinreb, acting U.S. attorney for the district of Massachusetts, said in a statement. “The settlement also means there will be no interference with the provision of electricity to the Deer Island Waste Water Treatment Plant, which is critical to keeping Boston Harbor clean. This is a victory for both the local economy and the environment.”

The Deer Island facility was built by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) as part of the effort to clean up Boston Harbor. The MWRA now serves 2.5 million people, supplying 215 million gallons of water and treating an average of 350 million gallons of sewage daily.

The settlement requires Eversource to install a new cable connecting the K Street substation in South Boston to Deer Island and have it powered by Dec. 31, 2019. That cable is expected to cross land in South Boston, cut through MassPort's Conley Terminal, and enter the harbor just north of Castle Island. It is to be laid at least 75 feet below the low-water line.

The existing and improperly installed cable is to be de-energized by Feb. 28, 2020, per the settlement, and the 1.4-mile section closest to the container terminal is to be removed by May 31, 2020. The settlement allows the other portion of the cable to be abandoned in place if the various permitting agencies allow it.

“We're pleased to have reached a resolution with all parties that permits us to continue providing safe and reliable service to MWRA, while also accommodating the moving forward of the Massport/ACOE harbor dredging project,” Eversource spokesperson Rhiannon D'Angelo said in a statement.

D'Angelo said Eversource is still working to determine the cost of installing a new cable and removing the old one, and expects to file its plan with the state Department of Public Utilities later this summer.

"Once the cost recovery is approved by the DPU, we'll recover the cost from the MWRA, Harbor Electric Energy Company's sole customer," she said, referring to the Eversource subsidiary that powers Deer Island.


Critical Logan Airport noise forum Feb. 22

Hull Neighbors for Quiet Skies is asking local residents to attend a Logan Airport noise study forum in Boston on Wednesday. Here's the press release sent out by the organization today:

So here’s where we stand. For several months now, a study team at MIT has been looking for ways to diminish and/or eliminate the noise burden of commercial aircraft on Massachusetts communities surrounding Logan Airport (including ours). That study, jointly sponsored by Massport and the Federal Aviation Administration, is now nearing completion and the study team is seeking citizen feedback before finalizing their report.
To that end, a public hearing has been scheduled at the Massachusetts Transportation Building in Boston for this coming Wednesday, Feb. 22, at 6 p.m. We know the timing and location present a hardship for many, but this will be our last, best chance to advocate for Hull before the MIT study is put to bed. Residents from other impacted communities will be attending; it’s important that the people of Hull are heard as well.
If you need a ride to Boston or can offer a ride to someone else, please let us know ASAP.
The hearing details:
WHEN: Wednesday, February 22, 2017
6:00 – 8:00PM
WHERE: State Transportation Building
Conference Room
10 Park Plaza, Boston
Here’s a link for directions (driving and public transport) to the State Transportation Building (public parking under the building is $14 for two hours):
Below are a few links that attendees should check out.
• Study materials related to the hearing:
• A refresher on flight path changes Hull has proposed:
Note: Hull also seeks steeper aircraft ascents and descents during takeoffs and landings; stricter enforcement of RNAV waypoints (the GPS coordinates aircraft follow); pushing flights at least a mile off-shore, and pushing back against suggestions that Hull take on more flights from other communities (we already have 90,000 a year!) We’re not the solution for everyone else.
One last note: It’s been a long, grinding road to get to this point. Let’s finish the journey for the future health and well-being of ourselves and our families. Hope to see you Wednesday night.
All the best,
The Hull Neighbors "Quiet Skies" Committee