Bike Path Getting Closer to Complete Connectivity

In the next several years, cyclists along the Northern Strand bike path that extends through Everett, Saugus, Revere, Lynn, and Malden can expect to see upgrades to the existing one-mile stretch of the path.

Alongside the landscape improvements to the existing path, preliminary plans are also in the works for a .75-mile extension of the path that would give cyclists and pedestrians easy access to the Gateway Shopping Center, the Encore Boston Harbor casino and the Mystic River.

Last week, representatives from both design firms involved with the two different phases of the project held a public meeting at City Hall.

The improvements to the current one-mile stretch of the path revolve around landscaping, signage, outdoor furniture/benches, and safety improvements to the access points at West and Prescott streets, according to Imogene Hatch, of Browne, Richardson, and Rowe Landscape Architects.

“We want to look at how to bring a sense of vibrancy and color to this corridor,” said Hatch, building on features such as the community garden along the path.

The goal is also to have the path connect to schools, neighborhoods, and the downtowns along the nearly 12-mile corridor through the five communities.

If all goes according to plan, Hatch said plans for the landscape improvements will be submitted to the state at the end of January, with at least portions of the project going out to bid in the early spring. A public meeting for the final design plans will likely be scheduled for next March, she said.

Hatch said there is about $11 million in funding for the five communities for the improvements, and that money will be spread out over two years.

The extension of the bike path, while for a shorter stretch than the one mile in place, provides a big set of challenges, according to Jay Monty, the City’s transportation planner.

The proposed path along the Rockport/Newburyport MBTA line will require traversing train tracks, wetlands, and private property, among other obstacles.

“There have been a lot of conversations with various agencies,” said Monty.

Aleece D’Onofrio, a senior transportation engineer for Stantec, gave an update on the preliminary designs for that bike path extension at last week’s meeting.

The terminus of the Northern Strand currently sits at Wellington Avenue and West Street, D’Onofrio said.

At an earlier public meeting in May, D’Onofrio said the big takeaway from the public was that they wanted to make sure the path had a lot of connectivity.

“People want to connect with current paths and businesses,” she said, with the eventual goal of being able to take one route by bike or foot into Somerville and Boston.

The preliminary design presented by Stantec has that connectivity to the Gateway Center, winding behind the large shopping plaza and under two MassDOT bridges as it makes its way to the Mystic River.

“This has taken a lot of coordination,” D’Onofrio said. “The project includes coordination with the MBTA, MassDOT, the DEP, DCR, DDR, Encore (Casino), and Bike to the Sea.”

The next steps for the project include a complete survey of the proposed path, structural design for the bridge areas, and preliminary design, which D’Onofrio said will hopefully be completed by the end of 2019.

Final design would then be completed in early to mid-2020 with construction getting underway in the fall of 2020, if all goes according to schedule.

When all the pieces of the bicycle paths from the North Shore into Boston are connected, Monty said it will be an impressive feat.

“These are all links in a chain,” he said. “The magnitude of all these things, when there are done, is really going to be astounding.”

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