Governor Baker joined the mayors of Somerville and Everett Friday afternoon to announce the state’s commitment to funding and building a new Mystic River bike and pedestrian bridge, which would be a major missing link in the regional greenways network.
The bridge would provide a direct link between the Encore Casino and the Northern Strand Trail on the northern banks of the Mystic River in Everett to the Assembly Square neighborhood and its Orange Line station in Somerville, on the southern bank.
"We are going to fund this project and make it happen,” said the Governor at a press conference on the shore of the Mystic River on Friday afternoon.
Baker also revealed that the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which funds community mitigation projects with funds from Everett's Encore Casino, has committed a $650,000 grant to take the bridge through its final stage of design and produce detailed construction blueprints.
Baker acknowledged that an actual source of construction funding still hasn't been identified. In July, MassDOT submitted a federal RAISE grant application to fund the bridge and associated upgrades to the Assembly Orange Line station, but the winners of those grants still haven't been announced.
The governor also declined to specify a timeline for the project's completion.
"We'll chase some federal money for it; if we get some federal money, that would be great, but one way or another, it's going to get paid for and it's going to get done," he said.
Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria, a longtime champion of the bridge proposal, said that with its completion, "we'll finally have access to our waterfront. We'll finally have access to T stations. And we'll finally have true equity in the City of Everett."
Mayor DeMaria also asked the Governor to support his growing city with other transportation investments, including the electrification of the Newburyport-Rockport rail line (which runs through, but does not stop in Everett) and a proposed extension of the Silver Line.
"Better access to MBTA service gives our residents to jobs, education, and other key destinations without a car," said Mayor DeMaria. "Getting rid of cars, that's what we need to do. That'll make our roads much safer, make it viable for bus lanes and bike lanes, moving people quicker, it's what we need to do."
The bridge (pictured in a rendering at the top of this article) has been stalled in recent years for want of two things: a financing plan, and cooperation from the MBTA to build a new Assembly station entrance on the eastern side of the Orange Line tracks, facing the Mystic River.
The current Assembly station’s entrances are all located on the west side of the MBTA tracks, facing the Assembly Row development. Without a new station entrance, pedestrians using the new bridge would have to walk an extra quarter-mile north to the nearest existing track crossing, then double back and walk another quarter-mile to the current station entrance.