Thursday, January 13, 2011

Meeting with contractor

Members of the committee met with John Baldasaro, owner of Asphalt Services Inc, in the alley between W Newton St and Rutland Square on Thursday, January 6 at 10 AM.

Six local residents and John B started at the Hiscock Park end. John B explained that the paving would take between four and six days, three for excavation, one for resurfacing and the rest contingency days for rain or other unforeseen delays. He noted that usually about half a foot would need to be excavated but, looking at the condition of the alley with the trained eye of an archeologist/contractor, he concluded that the decades’ long efforts by residents to fill potholes and cracks had left about a foot of material to be dug out.

 The goal is to have a nice homogeneous base filled with two inches of  “binder”, a coarse mix of gravel and stone, and another two inches of a finer blend of asphalt. (Compacted, these two layers will total 3.5 inches.)

John B said he would start at the W Newton St entrance to the alley, leaving the Rutland Sq side open for very limited traffic, then move to the Rutland Sq side and keep W Newton St accessible. Residents would have to move their cars out of the alley between 7 AM and 5 PM.

The grading of the alley would keep in mind two things: to “crown” the new pavement alongside the driveways so that rainwater flows into their gravel/stone surfaces and replenishes the groundwater, and to grade the pavement with a slight trough in other places so that rainwater can flow into the drains/catch basins already located there. The crown refers to a sort of a slight bulge in the center of the pavement that prevents water pooling and damage to the surface when it freezes.

The pitch level throughout the long and short alleys would be adjusted and graded to accommodate water’s flow to drains and driveways. Because the alley’s grade varies greatly from driveway to driveway, and the edge of the new pavement needs to be protected, John B will grade the edge of each driveway about one foot in from the new surface. That means digging down in some driveways and building up to the pavement in others.

John B. also said he’d be glad to work with the owners of each driveway to fix its grade, replenish gravel, or whatever else might be required. This would have to be contracted individually with each owner and is not part of the overall paving project. The contractor would give an estimate and have a contract with each property owner, and do the work to their mutual satisfaction. However, due to the need to preserve adequate groundwater levels, this work can not include asphalt paving.

The edge of the pavement would be a straight edge matching the driveway grade but where the asphalt meets the walls of buildings there would be a so-called Cape Cod berm, a slightly elevated edge. The edge would have an emulsion applied to it that, when the sun shines on it, re-bonds with the edge’s surface to keep it strong.

The contractor would be responsible for all the required work with Dig Safe and utilities.

John B also recommended speed bumps including two on each of the short sides connecting W Newton St and Rutland Sq. and three in the “long” alley. He also suggested speed bump signs to be affixed to poles a number of bollards with reflectors in sections where larger trucks tend to want to hit walls and fences. The bollards would be three feet into the ground and be lined with metal.

On the library side of the alley, John B noticed that a big section of the curbing alongside the building had sunk below street level. He proposed taking out the curbing and simply extend the new pavement to the wall of the library building. On the West Newton Street entrance to the alley, where there are quince shrubs and roses lining the wall of #170, the pavement would end with the previously described  Cape Cod berm at the edge of the garden.

He also proposed granite curbing alongside the Rutland Sq side of the alley..

As a result of the day’s more precise assessment of the alley, including suggested speed bumps and bollards, as well as the need to slightly move at least one of the square drains to promote better water flow into it (near the library), John B. will adjust his original proposal. 0. He would want one half of the amount up front, the rest upon completion. In case of mishap, he says he carries “plenty of insurance.” The adjusted proposal should be received shortly by John Benjamin (55 Rutland Sq) who solicited this and several other proposals from contractors.

He can start as early as April 15, and preferably before the hot weather arrives. He guarantees his work “bumper to bumper” (meaning his work but not damage caused by others) for three years. He expects the surface to last 30 years.

John B told us he has done this work for 44 years and has had his own company for 21. His email is and his web site is at His office phone is at 781 938-6800 and his cell is 781 983-9244.

Marleen Nienhuis

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Alley Conversion Report

June 3, 2010


In order to be accepted as a public way, the alley would have to meet standards set by the Fire Department and the American Disabilities Act.

The existing alley measures 14 to 18 feet.  Fire Department code requires 20 feet.  This would be measured from the midline of the alley.  In addition, regulations require sidewalks measuring 4 feet on each side of the road, making a total of 28 feet.  This would mean that the Public Way would extend approximately 14 feet into each property starting at the centerline, an increase of 5 to 7 feet.

All utility poles and lighting poles must be moved.  Often construction uncovers the need for new sewer lines.


The Public Improvement Commission has had no petitions for turning an alley into a public way since the new Fire Department standards were set, or since the passage of the American Disabilities Act (ADA).   It is not clear whether the Commission would insist on these requirements.  It is possible to negotiate waivers with the Fire Department and with the Architectural Access Board, which oversees the ADA.  It could be that our alley would be the test case.


The city covers completely the cost of an engineering study and for the preparation of specifications and planning.

The cost of construction is split evenly with the city.  The betterment of property is determined by the frontage and the area of the land up to a depth of no more than 100 feet from the street.

If new sewer lines are needed, the Department of Public works covers 25 percent of the cost; the rest is the responsibility of abutters.

Abutters are billed when construction is complete.  They pay off the charge in one payment with no interest or they may use a 10-year or 20-year installment agreement including interest.


Given all the variables, it is not possible to nail down a number.  The working estimate is $500,000 or about $5,000 per abutter.

Once the road is accepted as a public way, the City will maintain it.  It will not move it up in the snow plowing priority list.

  1. Collect signatures of 75 to 80 percent of abutters and present petition to the Public Improvement Commission.
  2. The Commission may order an engineering report.  The cost of this report is paid by the city.  Included in this report are the surveying of existing conditions, a plan and profile for the street and its proposed grade of edgestone.
  3. Betterment assessments are figured and apportioned to land owners.
  4. When plans are completed, they are presented to the Commission.  The Commission can vote to approve or reject the proposal.  It can also vote to conduct a preliminary hearing before a public hearing or to defer indefinitely.
  5. In most instances, the Commission votes to advertise for a Public Hearing to move the process forward.
  6. An Order of Notice is prepared and published in two papers.
  7. Abutters are notified.
  8. Betterment assessments are levied.
  9. A Public Hearing is held at which abutters vote for or against changing the designation from Private Way to Public Way.
  10. Based on the abutters vote, the Commission votes to accept or reject the alley as a Public Way.
  11. The Commission instructs the Public Works Commissioner to prepare construction specifications and plans for street improvement.
  12. The street is put into a Highway Construction Contract.
  13. The work is done.
  14. The Executive Secretary forwards the new assessments to the City Assessor and the Collector of Taxes to be levied.


  1. The first decision would be to proceed with a petition and presentation of that petition to the Commission.  The Commission would then decide to carry it forward through the planning stages at no cost or obligation to abutters.
  2. The next decision would be the voting at the Public Hearing of Abutters.  If the vote is to go forward and the Commission agrees, abutters sit back, watch the construction and do nothing until it is time to pay the bill.

Private paving

Two years ago John Benjamin got two proposals for reconstructing and paving the alley and the two cross alleys.

 The prices were $37,055 and $46,900.  The $37K proposal included 4" of asphalt vs 3"  with the $47K proposal.

Link to article about our alleys from the South End News