Case Study

Muddy River

Flood Risk & Restoration

  • US Army Corps of Engineers - New England District
  • US Army Corps of Engineers - New England District
  • Federal
  • Boston/Brookline, MA

Project Overview

The Muddy River Flood Risk & Restoration (Muddy River) project is the highest-profile design-build project located in the heart of Boston undertaken by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, New England District (CENAE) in the last 20 years. The Muddy River is part of a network of rivers and parks known as the Emerald Necklace, a system of public green space originally designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.

As Boston developed through the 1950s and 60s, the Muddy River was placed into culverts and buried to make way for parking and roadways. The intent of the project was to relieve the bottleneck these undersized culverts (6 feet in diameter) created on the river and, more importantly, the subsequent flood risk to downtown Boston.

Charter’s work for USACE was to daylight the river, and replace the 6-foot culverts with 24-foot precast culverts. It additionally required the restoration of the river channel, and sediment removal to restore the natural hydraulics of the river.

Located between the City of Boston and the Town of Brookline and with input from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, this project emphasized the importance of bridging communications of a broad stakeholder group.

Back to all
  • Muddy River overhead view
  • construction site next to body of water at Muddy River Flood Risk & Restoration Project
  • Muddy River
  • Muddy River 1
  • Muddy River 2
  • Muddy River 3
  • Muddy River Construction Site | Charter
  • Muddy River 5

Innovative Solutions To Complex Challenges

“Those of us who have been with the project for awhile understand the complexities the project faced and the dedication and creativity required to get the job done. Thanks to all who have made this remarkable place in the city.”

Margret Dyson (Boston Parks & Recreation, Director of Historic Parks)
Muddy River General Plan
Muddy River 6

of River Diversion & Control in an urban environment

Muddy River Flood Risk & Restoration Project

79 days and $130k of schedule and budget savings to the Client through a value engineering proposal


The Muddy River site encompasses 8.2 acres and is located in the middle of a heavily-travelled, highly-populated, urban center. The project area is adjacent to a major roadway system, amongst twelve colleges and universities, the Longwood Medical area consisting of six hospitals and research institutions and proximate to Fenway Park, focusing a spotlight on Charter’s ability to safely execute a project with significant public attention and risk. To minimize disruptions, Charter developed three revised critical traffic management plans that sequenced the work through eight traffic changes, one of which allowed for the team to execute two stages of work simultaneously.

Situated among a high volume of institutional facilities, Charter encountered several significant utilities, including a 48-inch trunk utility, which needed to be re-routed without disrupting continuous power to the local hospitals and colleges.

Coordination activities required regular communication with local utilities, planning around the home games and other events at Fenway Park that signaled traffic spikes, and awareness of when student traffic may increase and create additional safety hazards to the public.

Means and Methods

Charter’s approach to the project was driven by the most economical way to control the river. It was determined that splitting the project into two areas would create smaller, more achievable areas to work within. To the northwestern end known as the Riverway section of the river, a sheet pile cofferdam was used to bisect the river and allow the Charter team to restore the channel in the dry. On the southeasterly portion of the river, a bypass pump system capable of managing 1.1 million cubic feet per second (cfs) was designed and installed to reroute the river around the work area.

While the intent of the project was to mitigate flood risks in this urban setting, the need to restore the ecosystem and protect historic trees was paramount to passionate and active stakeholders. This limited Charter’s ability to suction dredge the sediment, or move in large-scale equipment that could easily reach in and excavate the river. Instead, extremely wet and unstable sediment beneath the old Sears Parking Lot was excavated using H-piles and plates to create containment cells.

Muddy River project site
Muddy River 7

97,600 safe work hours without a lost time incident

Commitment To Being A Partner Of Choice

Typically, a project requires the team to work with one major stakeholder and one or two subsequent parties; however, this project was a bit different. Due to the significance and importance of the project to the community, this project had numerous stakeholders / sponsors and special interest groups following it closely. The stakeholders / sponsors included CENAE, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, City of Boston, and Town of Brookline. Given its location and impact on the community, Charter was accountable to each and had to consider each when performing work, making traffic changes, and developing its site-specific safety plan. Through Charter’s performance and consideration of all impacted parties in the area, we gained the confidence of our partners’ to make the right decision when the team encountered various complexities.

Featured Team Member

Alasdair Cunningham

  • Project Manager
  • 8 years
  • "I went to Northeastern and started with Charter working as a co-op. One of the first tasks I was given was to go to the Boston Public Library and research an upcoming project that turned out to be the Muddy River Project. To experience the full life-cycle of this project and to see the improvements made to this area has been an extraordinary experience."

Alasdair Cunningham is a Project Manager with over 9 years of construction management and engineering experience. He leverages his industry knowledge to successfully manage multi-million dollar efforts and smaller projects alike by working collaboratively with clients, owners, and other stakeholders.

Muddy River 8

Like what you see? Let's work together.

Work With Us