Thomas J. Butler Dedicated Freight Corridor & Memorial Park

Thomas J. Butler Dedicated Freight Corridor

Thomas J. Butler Dedicated Freight Corridor & Memorial Park

The Massachusetts Port Authority’s Paul W. Conley Container Terminal is New England’s largest full-service container port with deep-water access in Boston, handling one-third of the waterborne containers moving through the region. The time had come for Massport to renovate the seaport terminal area in order to meet expected future double-digit container growth — but with the caveat to make these changes positively benefit all community stakeholders. 

The Thomas J. Butler Dedicated Freight Corridor & Memorial Park project was critical to facilitate the terminal’s expansion while mitigating impacts to adjacent residential neighborhoods of South Boston. HDR provided planning, design and construction project management services for the three distinct but interrelated elements of this $35 million project, which began in 2011 and was completed in 2017 on behalf of our client, Massport. 

Conley Terminal Expansion

The project focused on developing and integrating 50 acres of existing brownfield industrial property into the adjacent 100-acre container terminal. The terminal expansion area included a contaminated site from a previous oil storage facility. The project’s first phases consisted of extensive environmental investigations and remediation, including the use of innovative in-situ soil stabilization technologies to reduce the amount of soil needed to be exported off-site. 

The HDR-lead consultant team also developed a master plan for the terminal expansion, including performing a capacity analysis and terminal reorientation to optimize cargo handling, traffic flow as well as the truck gate and operational building placement and usage. The scope included a terminal layout, a new gate, and United States Customs facilities, security and other related infrastructure. The master plan was coordinated with the freight corridor design to ensure that future expansion can be phased in, without impacting ongoing operations.

Dedicated Freight Corridor

A primary consideration was construction of a new bridge and haul road that redirected all terminal freight traffic from local community roads. A new 3,300-foot roadway and bridge serve as the primary route for trucks transporting shipping containers to and from Conley Terminal. This newly dedicated freight corridor now directly connects a main South Boston thoroughfare to the new terminal entryway and processing yard. The completed corridor removes around 1,000 truck trips per day from narrow local residential streets, reducing noise and congestion issues in the dense, urban South Boston neighborhood. Our team also designed the new guardhouse to function as the new entry/exit security checkpoint servicing the terminal’s new corridor. This one-story building is a raised elevation structure of about 1,200 square feet and houses Massport police services. Security staff members monitor all vehicles and personnel entering and exiting the terminal facility. The guardhouse also provides all staff, visitor and vehicles drivers’ testing and credentialing services as well as a closed-circuit security camera and alarm system for monitoring the terminal.

Thomas J. Butler Memorial Park

A multi-use 4.4-acre park was developed as an attractive buffer space to mitigate noise and visual impacts from both the freight corridor and planned expansion of the Conley Terminal footprint. Completed in 2016, the pedestrian-accessible park also provides much-needed public open space for the adjacent neighborhood, and enhances Boston’s existing system of waterfront parks and boulevards. Extensive plantings and a 16-foot-high noise-barrier wall separate the park from both the corridor and adjacent terminal.

Sustainable Standards

Throughout the project, we followed Massport’s newly-implemented Sustainable Design Standards to upgrade and improve the port/terminal infrastructure, from installing LED roadway and area lighting to delivering infrastructure recycling and alternative and/or renewable, cleaner energy systems. We helped implement Massport’s Clean Truck Program by incorporating a truck layover area in the corridor design to reduce idling. 

Our team also used sustainable practices while expanding Conley Terminal’s operational capacity. For example, the 30-acre Coastal Oil site redevelopment was part of Massport’s policy to develop underused and brownfield properties to promote “smart growth.” In order to integrate this site into the existing terminal, we performed a cleanup that involved treating around 5,000 cubic yards and consolidating more than 10,000 cubic yards of contaminated soils, which were capped beneath port property — eliminating a hazard for park goers and terminal employees and visitors. As noted earlier, we used in-situ soil solidification to inject impermeable grout into the ground, creating a curtain wall to protect against contaminant migration and groundwater exposure. This solution proved cost-effective and innovative, avoiding the need for a costly excavation and contaminant recovery program. 

Our consistent and widespread approach to “all things sustainable” extended to design practices. A new harbor bridge, constructed as part of the new corridor, was designed to withstand storm-surge and predicted sea level rise for the next 100 years. This bridge could have impacted state and federally protected wetlands, but our team helped minimize ecological disturbances by using pre-cast concrete beams and steel pipe piles. We also improved stormwater treatment by installing an extensive drainage treatment and infiltration along the street connecting to the corridor as well as mechanical treatment systems within the corridor itself. Previously, all surface drainage had flowed directly into the harbor. The new drainage system improves both the water quality and conditions for marine-life habitat.

Thomas J. Butler Dedicated Freight Corridor


Bronze Award (2018)
Engineering Excellence Awards
American Council of Engineering Companies of Massachusetts