By Mayor Carlo DeMaria
The long-awaited Mystic River Bike and Pedestrian Bridge may be one step closer to becoming a reality. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) recently submitted a grant application to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) seeking $25 million in federal funds from Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) for the planned bridge, which would extend the Northern Strand Trail from Everett to the Assembly Orange Line Station in Somerville. The RAISE grant program seeks to improve travel and safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, rail and public transportation customers across the Commonwealth.
Mayor DeMaria has been advocating for a Mystic River bridge for some time, as it will provide important pedestrian and bicycle access from the Lower Broadway neighborhood of Everett, including Encore Boston Harbor, to the MBTA Assembly Orange Line Station. Easier access to Somerville means easier access to Boston, which would have a huge positive impact on the city.
The bridge has already been nearly fully designed and engineered with money put forth by Encore Boston Harbor. With a striking curved design and a suspension aspect similar to the Zakim/Bunker Hill Bridge, the Mystic River Bridge been the topic of discussion for the past two years but has stalled due to funding issues, as well as the need for a new entrance at Assembly Station. Currently all entrances are located on the west side of the MBTA tracks, facing the Assembly Row development. Without a new station entrance, those using the new bridge would have to walk an extra quarter-mile to the nearest track crossing, then double back and walk another quarter-mile to the current station entrance.
The potential funding would solve both problems by paying for the bridge itself as well as a brand-new building for the Assembly Orange Line Station on the riverfront side of the tracks, facing Draw Seven Park. This new station entrance would allow a direct point of access between the new bridge and the subway platforms.
Rose Salisbury, a spokesperson for Encore Boston Harbor said, “we are pleased that the Mystic River Bicycle and Pedestrian bridge is being considered for a RAISE Grant and are in full support of providing greater access to the City of Everett and a direct connection between Everett and the MBTA Orange Line at Assembly Station.”
Patrick Herron, director of the Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA), said this will be the most important missing link in the path to the Mystic River, if funded.
“The Mystic crossing from Everett to Somerville is the missing link to connect residents of the North Shore to the Orange Line and better access to Somerville and the City of Boston,” said Herron. “We are grateful for the work of MassDOT and the Cities of Somerville and Everett for their response to the overwhelming community support for this project. This is exactly the kind of active transportation links we need to be making to public transportation and the high density of jobs in the area for a sustainable economy and resilient communities.”
According to Streetsblog.org, an analysis completed in 2018 estimated that the new bridge would attract over 2,000 users every weekday, and even more on the weekends.
The grants are scheduled to be awarded by November 22, 2021. If it wins grant funding, MassDOT would spend the next year finalizing design and securing permits and then begin construction in early 2023, with the potential to open the new bridge before the end of 2024.
Carlo DeMaria is the Mayor of Everett.