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Provision for Continuing the Work. The balance in the “ Commonwealth's Flats Improvement Fund” on the first day of January, 1890, available for carrying on the work, was $4,247.23; to which there has been added during the year $3,104.54 income of the fund, $10,850.79 rents of land and proceeds of land sold, and $127,000 paid into the fund from the treasury of the Commonwealth under the provisions of chapter 93 of the Acts of 1889 and chapter 12 of the Acts of 1890; making a total of $145,202.56 available for the work.
Of this sum there has been expended during the year,$44,507.70, leaving an available balance, January 1, 1891, of $100,694.86. In order to provide for the work now in progress and in contemplation, it is estimated that it will be necessary to provide for the payment of $20,000 into the fund the present year.
CHARLES RIVER. The order of the Secretary of War for the alteration of the four lower highway bridges across Charles River, which was served on the cities of Boston and Cambridge in December, 1888, has not resulted in the making of any changes in these bridges, at least for the present.
At the date of the last report, application had been made in behalf of the cities to the present Secretary of War to revoke the order; and the bridges in question had been referred by his direction to a board of engineers for consideration. This board made an interesting and exhaustive report in February last.
As was to be expected from the character and ability of the board, the idea of a closure of the river to navigation, which has sometimes been unadvisedly advanced, finds no encouragement at its hands. After a careful review of the facts relating to the navigation of the river and the condition of the bridges, the report says :
The Charles River, where it traverses the city, still remains an important tidal reservoir, and a valuable highway for commerce, which the general government should not only unceasingly protect against
wanton injury, but foster by increased facilities where such can be secured with a consistent regard to vested rights.
The conclusion of the report is as follows:
The Board is of the opinion that, for the present, the draw-openings through the West Boston and Craigie's (Canal) bridges, although small, may be retained without material injury to commerce ; but that the openings through the Charles River and Warren bridges, now 36 feet wide, ought to be enlarged, whenever the renewal of the bridges is taken in hand, to make the navigation through them “ free, easy and unobstructed” for vessels exceeding about 700 tons. The Board was furnished by bridge-tenders with the names of several vessels which had applied to pass the bridges, but could not be accommodated because their beams exceeded the width of the draw; and it is fair to presume that the known deficient width of the draws prevented applications from being made by other vessels.
The draw-bridges, although of primitive type, are manoeuvred by steam power, with good appliances, and the time consumed in closing and opening the draws is not so great as to detain vessels unnecessarily for this reason alone.
The basin between the Charles River and Warren bridges is so limited in area that only seven to nine vessels can conveniently anchor there at one time. The only other possible anchorage, so long as the present bridge system is maintained, lies above the last railroad bridge. Therefore it may be said in general that there is no object in a vessel bound to the upper basin endeavoring to go above the Charles River bridge, unless facilities be given for its passing the entire bridge system. In practice, vessels lie at anchor below Charles River bridge, and pass through and above it in numbers corresponding with the opportunities afforded for going beyond the railroad bridges.
For these reasons, while the Board is of the opinion that the draws of the Charles River and Warren bridges are not adequately wide for the largest class of vessels which may navigate the river, and that in the case of all the city bridges the flow of the water is excessively and needlessly obstructed, it does not recommend, in the absence of specific instructions as to the modifications to be made in the railroad bridges, that the city be required to incur at this time expenses for alterations in the bridges controlled by them, which might not conform to the alterations hereafter to be demanded from the railroad authorities.
It is, however, recommended that when extensive repairs or rebuilding of these old city bridges become necessary, they shall be made to conform to modern practice, as has been done in the case of the new Harvard bridge just completed. Such a requirement would
be far less onerous than the plans outlined by the joint commission, composed of the Harbor Commissioners and Railroad Commissioners, to which the subject was referred for report by the legislature of Massachusetts in 1870.
These recommendations were approved by the Chief of Engineers, and thereupon Secretary Proctor made the following order :
The time fixed in the orders of the Secretary of War of December 6, 1888, requiring the cities of Boston and Cambridge to alter their bridges by the first of January, 1891, is hereby indefinitely extended, subject to further action whenever the conditions suggested by the Board require it.
The board of engineers was embarrassed by the fact that the railroad bridges, which form one system with the city bridges, were excluded from its consideration by the terms of the instructions under which it was acting. The railroad bridges, as now maintained, are not only a more serious obstruction of the river than the city bridges, but the difficulties in the way of correcting their defects are more formidable. Although orders had been served on the railroad corporations at the same time and in the same terms as on the cities, the manner of altering the railroad bridges had not been prescribed or determined; and, until this harder problem was solved, the board could not deal intelligently with the city bridges. The proper order of consideration had obviously been inverted.
In the meantime, the railroad corporations have apparently ignored the orders of the war department. They have not asked for a revocation or modification of the orders, and have taken no steps to comply with them. The prescribed time for making the alterations has now expired. The case of the Charles River bridges is the first in the history of the government in which a Secretary of War or other national officer, in the exercise of a high discretionary power delegated by Congress, has undertaken to compel the reconstruction in this harbor of tide-water bridges long established and maintained under the hitherto unquestioned sanction of State law; and the outcome will be awaited with much interest.
By an act of the Massachusetts Legislature, passed in 1888, the cities of Boston and Cambridge were required to widen the draws in the four highway bridges which cross Charles River next above the Harvard bridge, to 36 feet each. For reasons stated in the last report, there was some delay in complying with the act. The work has been taken in hand by the cities the past year, and, in the case of three of the bridges, the, widening is now well under way or nearly finished.
The new Harvard bridge still remains unopened to travel. The delay has been due to a contest in the courts respecting the manner of constructing the avenue of approach to the bridge on the Cambridge side. The supreme judicial
. court has just decided that the city of Cambridge had authority, under the act of 1882, chapter 155, to lay out the avenue on its own side of Charles River at grade across the Boston and Albany railroad; that the act did not require that the city of Boston should concur in or agree to such lay-out; and that the board of railroad commissioners had no authority to order the construction by the city of Cambridge of an overhead crossing over the railroad. This decision covers all the points in controversy, and there seems to be no reason for longer delay in the completion of the avenue and the much-desired opening of the bridge to the public. As compared with all the other bridges on the river, it is a model in construction and even in architectural effect.
The private improvements in Charles River basin have been pushed vigorously the past year. The Charles River Embankment Company has extended its sea-wall about 500 feet westerly, and has dredged from the basin over 32,000 cubic yards for filling. The contractors are preparing for larger operations the present year with improved appli
On the Boston side, the filling of the Adams estate is completed, and on the adjoining estate the sea-wall is finished to Cousens' wharf, and the filling well advanced. Substantially all the filling has been dredged from the basin, improving its navigation, its sanitary condition and its beauty.
HARBOR LINES IN BOSTON HARBOR.
A harbor line board, consisting of General Abbott, Colonels Gillespie and Mansfield, and Major Livermore, Corps of Engineers, U. S. Army, was constituted by order of the Secretary of War in 1888, under section 12 of the river and harbor act of that year, to consider harbor lines in Boston harbor. At the date of the last report, lines had been defined for some of the principal frontages of the harbor, which were described in that report.
During the past year, the harbor line board has recommended lines for substantially the whole of the harbor and its estuaries not covered the previous year, and these lines have been approved by the Secretary of War.
The sections of the harbor treated the past year are a part of the banks of the Charles River, the Mystic River and its tributaries, Chelsea Creek, the shore of East Boston from Jeffrey's Point to Breed's Island, and Dorchester Bay from South Boston to Moon Island.
In almost every case where the State had previously established harbor lines, these lines have been adopted without modification by the harbor line board as the lines beyond which no structure of any kind shall extend. In some cases, an inner “bulkhead line,” beyond which no solid filling shall hereafter be permitted, has also been defined. The lines have in some instances been extended farther up the rivers or along the shore than had been done by the State. In other respects, and upon the whole, the harbor line system already established by the laws of the State has been approved and confirmed.
Descriptions of the several lines recommended by the harbor line board and approved by the Secretary of War during the last year, are appended to this report.* Copies of two of the charts, on which the more important lines in the Charles and Mystic rivers are laid down, are also annexed. Copies of the charts on which all of the lines are shown, are on file in this office. For official copies of these charts, and of the documents containing the descriptions and
* See Appendix, A.