, Salem, MA

April 1, 2014

Developer: Landfill can support new road

Crushed-stone 'piers' proposed to prevent ground settlement


---- — BEVERLY — The developer of a proposed shopping plaza on Brimbal Avenue has submitted a plan to the state that calls for drilling crushed-stone “piers” to support a new road through a former city landfill.

CEA Group President Steven Cohen said the piers would prevent the road from settling and allow the city to proceed with a plan that was supported by voters in February’s special election.

“The bottom line is that it’s a very clear, strong, unambiguous and kind of irrefutable analysis that basically says the road can be built as intended and designed over landfill materials,” Cohen said yesterday.

CEA Group submitted the 302-page engineering report to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation last week in response to concerns that a new road connecting Sohier Road and Brimbal Avenue could not be supported by the former landfill, which is now owned by CEA.

If the state does not agree with the proposal, it would negate a proposed land swap between the city and CEA Group that would allow the company to build a larger shopping plaza.

Voters approved a controversial zoning change in February that CEA Group needs to build a plaza on the swapped land. That election would be moot if the state does not allow a road to be built through the former landfill.

In that case, the city would build a new road on the footprint of the current connector road, and CEA Group could build a smaller plaza on the adjacent land it currently owns.

A Department of Transportation spokesman said the agency would comment after an “extensive review” of the report.

In his proposal to the state, Cohen said CEA Group would be “solely responsible” for the cost of reinforcing the landfill so the road could be built. He declined to say how much it would cost.

Mayor Mike Cahill has said the company hired by the city to design the project estimated the cost of the landfill work at anywhere from $800,000 to $5 million, while CEA Group’s engineers have put the price at $500,000.

Cahill said yesterday he is anxious for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and CEA Group to agree on a plan so the city can begin building the new connector road. The city was awarded a $5 million state grant last year to pay for the road.

“My responsibility is to build the road, whether it’s on CEA property or on the footprint of the existing road,” Cahill said.

Jacobs Engineering, the company hired by the city, has said moving the connector road 300 feet onto the former landfill would improve traffic flow. Residents opposed to the plan, which includes roundabouts on both ends of the connector road, said the shopping plaza and road design would make traffic worse.

Cohen said he is willing to assume the costs of ensuring the structural integrity of the landfill road because he has spent two years planning his shopping plaza based on the city’s land-swap proposal.

“I’ve got two years of work and the expense associated with that based on a plan that the city of Beverly told me they wanted to implement,” he said.

Cohen had said before February’s special election that Whole Foods Market, which is supposed to be part of the $20 million plaza, would not come to Beverly unless he could build the larger plaza.

Asked yesterday if that was still the case, he said, “It’s an unknown.”

“If we change the plan, I have to go back to Whole Foods, and everything has to be started from scratch,” he said.

The engineering report commissioned by CEA Group said potential settlement of a new road built through the former landfill would be less than 1 inch along most of the roadway.

But the report said the road could settle by as much as 12 inches in a “small portion” of the landfill near the intersection with Sohier Road. To prevent that settling, “aggregate piers” would be constructed by drilling holes into the landfill material, filling the holes with crushed stone and compacting the stone.

The report said the pier technique has been used often in New England and the Greater Boston area to control ground settlement. Haley & Aldrich, one of the companies that prepared the report, has been involved in about 25 such projects over the last 10 years, it said.

The area in question was used as a city landfill from 1946 to 1961 and contains burnt wood, coal ash and household materials such as colored glass, plastic parts, metal, paint chips and newspapers, according to the report. A 2009 study concluded that development of the site “posed no significant risk of harm to public safety,” the report said.

The report said any excavated material would be consolidated on the site or on the adjacent CEA parcel. Measures would also be taken to prevent buildup of methane gas below paved areas.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or