The Everett Conservation Commission approved the Notice of Intent (NOI) from the City of Everett to begin work on the final connection of the Northern Strand Bike Path in Everett – a missing piece that will allow one to go from the Malden City Line to the Encore casino and the Mystic River.
The project has been in limbo since 2017 and for a three-quarter mile bike path extension, has taken extraordinary time, money and effort to get done. That said, it is a top priority for Mayor Carlo DeMaria and many businesses along the path – including Encore.
“It’s been a long journey,” said Kayla Sousa, the project manager for the City out of Howard Stein Hudson. “We did the first report on it in 2017…It’s a very difficult and a very expensive ¾-mile, but really important to connect the Encore HarborWalk and the DCR pathways along the Mystic, with the idea that one day this goes straight to Boston.”
That has always been the hope, and since starting as Transportation Director for the City, Jay Monty, has been working to make sure that happens. It has involved legal fights with the Gateway Mall owners, SITE Centers, who had at one time promised to pay for design and part of the construction when they were allowed to build their property more than 20 years ago. Once that was settled, it meandered through wetlands issues, wildlife issues, soil tests and easement agreements with the MBTA – which operates a stone ballast yard adjacent to where the new path with run.
“It’s been a really complex project given the stakeholders and property owners and legal hurdles,” said Monty. “I didn’t imagine it would take five years. It’s exciting to be at the finish line though.
The path will connect where it currently ends, next to Air Force Road in the Village. It will pass under one commuter rail bridge, and then another traffic bridge, through two wetlands and then along the back edge of the Gateway Mall. It would eventually pass under the commuter rail bridge again and onto the Encore property.
At Encore, the idea is one day to build out a new $33 million cycle/pedestrian bridge over the Mystic River that connects with the Assembly Square Orange Line Station and many other paths towards Boston and Somerville. Some estimate it could become a viable route to commute to Boston for hundreds per day.
Yurij Lojko, executive director of Bike to the Sea, said it was an “on-point” environmental strategy for the future.
“Not only will the extended path be a great resource for alternative transportation and recreation, but I’m convinced the long-term environmental strategy couldn’t be more on-point,” he said. “The team hired made it clear they take environmental remediation seriously, which means the City of Everett is taking the topic seriously. The changes you’re making today won’t just help people today – it’s a win for people and the environment for generations to come.”
The Conservation Commission voted unanimously to move the NOI forward.
Sousa said they envisioned putting out bid documents in the next few weeks and having a contractor start preliminary work in the fall. The major construction and completion is expected in 2021.