By Seth Daniel
Beacham Street is a critical corridor for the region’s food supply, with it being one of the only ways that large semi-trucks can get fruits and vegetables from the New England Produce Market to the highway.
However, it’s also a critical east to west corridor between Everett, Chelsea and East Boston, and City leaders in Everett and Chelsea are currently working on separate projects, but in unison, to make the corridor friendly not only to freight, but also to many other modes of transportation.
Mayor Carlo DeMaria said Beacham Street has long been forgotten, but now has become a critical corridor for the future of the City.
“Beacham Street has been critical to the economic strength of both Everett and the Boston region,” he said. “In fact, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation recently designated it a ‘Critical Urban Freight Corridor,’ making it eligible for federal funding. Working with our neighboring communities and our state and federal partners, we need to not only improve the flow of traffic to and from Boston efficiently, but also enhance our bike and pedestrian connections, making Beacham Street a multi model corridor of the future.”
City Transportation Planner Jay Monty announced that Everett has hired a design team to begin looking at Beacham Street as a multi-modal corridor.
The City has hired World Tech to begin process, he said.
The idea will be to come up with a conceptual design that includes paving the road, creating a shared use path (dedicated lane for bikes and pedestrians) and friendlier infrastructure for automobiles.
“That corridor is huge for us,” he said. “We have so much industry and taxpaying industry to consider on the road. I think it wasn’t built to handle what it handles today. It shows. Whether future development continues to be industrial or transitions to mixed-use, neither is going to happen without safe access to transportation down there.”
Monty said he anticipates public meetings on the design concept in January or February.
In addition, Chelsea has already embarked on the same project for its side of Beacham Street – hiring Stantec Design and having its first public meetings last month. In Chelsea, there has been a great emphasis so far on trying to balance the growing numbers of bicycle riders, many of whom point out that Beacham Street is the only way to ride a bike to Boston from Eastie or Chelsea or Revere.
The goals, Monty said, are the same, though the projects are different.
“There’s definitely a mutual agreement of what the future should be, which is freight and auto traffic, but also a multi-modal pathway…It’s now two separate projects in two separate communities. That’s fine. We would like only for the timelines to line up.”
One key factor in pushing the Beacham Street changes is that the state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) changed its classification to a freight corridor this year, which opened up a lot of new funding possibilities.
That will be key once the design is complete and Everett and Chelsea go shopping for state and federal transportation funds to get the project built out.
“That new designation unlocks a special pot of funding,” said Monty. “Before, the project was competing with every other project. Now it only competes with freight projects. That makes it less competitive to get funding. MassDOT has expressed an interest in getting something done down there.”