Engineering students lend Conservancy a hand

NU Chapter of ASCE has partnered with the Charles River Conservancy to repair the eroded slope on the Boston side of the Eliot Street Bridge. 

Bostonians strolling or riding on the bike path by the Eliot Street Bridge next spring will have Northeastern students to thank when they see a new staircase built on what was once an eroded, muddy hill.

The Northeastern University American Society of Civil Engineers (NUASCE) has partnered with the Charles River Conservancy to repair the eroded slope on the Boston side of the Eliot Street Bridge in a weekly project that started Saturday, Nov. 1.

The student group is building a staircase from the street level of the bridge to the Paul Dudley White Bicycle Path along the riverbanks and will be planting a garden on the hill to prevent further soil erosion.

Junior civil engineering major and NUASCE member Chris DeLouise said the project will be a good thing for the Boston community.

“It’s just been eroded away by joggers and bikers,” he said of the slope. “We’re building up some dirt to cover the roots that have been exposed and building a staircase that goes into the hillside, which will extend the life of the hillside.”

DeLouise said that while the majority of the on-site work started recently with the NUASCE meeting every Saturday morning and work from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m, the project has been in the works much longer.

“We’ve been doing this since the beginning of October, planning it since the summer,” he said. “[There was] a lot of prefabrication work. We did a lot of work on campus and brought all the prefabricated stairs to the site.”

The project undertaken this year, DeLouise said, is only half of the final plans for the park.

“The group actually did the other side of the Eliot Street Bridge two years ago. That was the first phase, they built the stairs and did the same thing on that side,” he said.

Evan Moss, stewardship program manager for the Charles River Conservancy, said DeLouise acted as a project manager, and has helped with everything from planning and designing to the on-site construction. Thomas Sheahan, acting chair of the department of civil and environmental engineering and co-faculty adviser to NUASCE, said he, co-faculty adviser Robert Tillman and NUASCE also appeared before the Boston Conservation Commission to get the project approved.

President of NUASCE Dane LaBonte said he has been a part of the initial planning since the fall of 2007, and the project designs had to go through a few steps prior to its presentation to the Boston Conservation Commission.

“I got involved with the project to come up with the setup plans,” he said. “[We] ultimately had them approved by a professional engineer contacted by the Alumni Association.”

The student group, Sheahan said, was working hard to improve the area by the bridge.

“There’s probably been about 20 students out there,” he said. “It’s involved work around the river, making the path more user friendly and accessible to people while preserving the landscape a little better.”

Moss said the partnership between NUASCE and Charles River Conservancy has paid off so far.

“They love partnering with us, and us with them,” he said. “They’re able to really immerse themselves in a project for the community that helps the Charles River Park users.”

LaBonte said he was grateful for the opportunity to direct a project pertaining to his major.

“It was definitely an experience being in charge, whereas on co-op it was more of an experience of being an underling,” he said. “It was nice and unique to have some authorship, seeing something drawn on paper months ago to seeing something I can walk up and down on.”

Moss said this is the third large project the Charles River Conservancy has partnered with NUASCE for. The first stabilized more than two feet of erosion by the Weeks Bridge in Cambridge, he said, and the second involved reparations to the opposite side of the Eliot Bridge that were completed last year.

“We designed 24 steps and put gardens in,” he said of the first phase of the Eliot Bridge repairs. Phase two, he said, will be split into two parts – the construction that is going on now, and planting flowers and bushes that will be done in the spring.

“[Part one] should end at the end of November,” Moss said. “Then in the spring will be the actual plantings, thousands of dollars worth, all native to prevent further erosion. By April everything will be in the ground and we can get a good root system before summer hits.”

Related Departments:Civil & Environmental Engineering