Everett, Somerville Advance Silver Line Extension Project

Two Silver Line buses pass each other on the dedicated busway in Chelsea. Photo courtesy of the MBTA.
Two Silver Line buses pass each other on the dedicated busway in Chelsea. Photo courtesy of the MBTA.

A joint application from the cities of Everett and Somerville for casino mitigation funds proposes to advance design and engineering work for a new bus rapid transit corridor through Everett and Somerville.

A grant application document submitted to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission requests $425,000 for the “planning and design of the MBTA Silver Line bus rapid transit service from its current terminus in Chelsea, through Everett, Sullivan Square, and Washington Street in Somerville, and terminating at appropriate MBTA Red Line and/or Green Line intermodal facilities.”

The document doesn’t specify a specific route for the extension, but it does reference a local effort to redesign Second Street, which runs from Broadway in downtown Everett to the Mystic Mall in Chelsea, not far from where the Silver Line’s Chelsea busway currently terminates.

The application also proposes to use grant funding to redesign Washington Street in Somerville, which extends west from Sullivan Square and connects to the future East Somerville Green Line station.

In 2019, the Lower Mystic Regional Working Group published a transportation analysis that endorsed an expansion of the Silver Line’s busways as one of the highest-impact transportation investments available to the area.

That study examined two extensions that would branch off from each other at Sullivan Square: one branch would proceed along the redesigned Rutherford Ave. to North Station in Boston (and could potentially form a Silver Line loop in conjunction with a downtown busway proposal from the City of Boston), while a second branch would proceed along Washington Street in Somerville to end in Kendall Square:

Transit improvements analyzed in the Lower Mystic Regional Working Group's 2019 transportation study, which recommended two extensions (highlighted in yellow) of the Silver Line from its current terminus in Chelsea. Courtesy of the Lower Mystic Regional Working Group.
Transit improvements analyzed in the Lower Mystic Regional Working Group’s 2019 transportation study. The Silver Line extensions highlighted in yellow emerged as the study’s top recommendations for implementation. Courtesy of the Lower Mystic Regional Working Group.

“Using a mix of exclusive and priority lanes, (the Silver Line extensions) could attract 36,400 riders daily, generate 5,200 new daily transit trips, and reduce auto mode share in the study area by 1 percent,” wrote the Working Group in their study’s executive summary.

Everett and Somerville also applied for – and won – a $425,000 Gaming Commission grant to plan a conceptual Silver Line extension project last year.

According to Everett transportation planner Jay Monty, those funds have not yet been spent. City officials have been waiting for MassDOT and the MBTA to kick off a complementary study that would be responsible for planning service levels, maintenance facilities, fleet needs and other operational issues associated with the project. The cities’ grant funding from the Gaming Commission would then be used to draft detailed plans for redesigned local streets along the route.

“We’ve been waiting for MassDOT to issue their request for proposals. We might even get the same consultant to work on both, and do it all as one project. We need to work out the exact timing,” said Monty.

The Silver Line proposal is just one of  many transportation projects seeking funding from the Gaming Commission in 2020. Other transportation proposals include:

The Gaming Commission is expected to announce its grant awards later this spring.

 

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