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Eyes On the Street: Chelsea’s Produce Distribution Corridor Gets Much Needed Bike and Ped Upgrades  

8:06 AM EDT on October 10, 2022

bicyclist rides on a new black asphalt bike path next to a stretch of grass with newly planted trees next to a road

Matthew Petersen rides a Bluebike down the new separated bike path along Beacham Road in Chelsea Wednesday evening.

Chelsea - Pedestrians and bicyclists can now walk and roll along a brand new bike path and sidewalk on Beacham and Williams Street – a far cry from the corridor’s previous degrading asphalt conditions.   

Although the project area, Mulberry Street to the city’s western border, is surrounded by a number of large employers, no bus route serves this corridor.

Anyone without access to a car who works at one of the many produce distribution facilities along Beacham and Williams Streets had no choice but to walk or ride a bike down what seemed like no man's land; a road with fading markings, no separation from traffic, and asphalt that blended into the uneven dirt shoulders:

a bicyclist rides in between passing traffic and asphalt that merges into the nearby stretch of soil
A bicyclist navigates poor road conditions prior to the recent Beacham & Williams Roadway Reconstruction Project when no bike infrastructure existed along the corridor and the uneven asphalt blended into the dirt shoulder. Courtesy of City of Chelsea.

On the north side, the updated corridor features a new six-foot sidewalk while the south side offers a mixed-use pathway dotted with young trees wrapped in green plastic bags at the base for protection.

bicyclist rides on a new sidewalk in between a stretch of grass and oncoming traffic
Matthew Petersen rides a Bluebike down the Williams Street portion of the new separated bike path in Chelsea last Wednesday evening. Utility poles in the middle of the path are on schedule to be removed early next year.

Even though the City of Chelsea announced the project’s completion in a tweet last Thursday, some items are still in the works, but are expected to be finalized in the coming months. 

At several spots along the bike pathway people must navigate around utility poles, but the city has a plan and is on schedule to relocate the poles closer to the curb, allowing for a clear, unobstructed path by early next year.  

“All new poles have been installed and are awaiting completion of overhead wire transfer prior to removal of existing poles in the pathway. The overhead utility providers are actively working to transfer wire to new poles. Once transfer is complete, the poles in the middle and at the backside of the pathway will be removed,” Jeffrey Melomo, Senior Project Engineer with Weston & Sampson, the firm contracted by the City, told StreetsblogMASS over email last Thursday.  

Additionally, people traveling down the corridor who may want to stop for a snack at the Dunkin’ Donuts across the road will need to take extra care as no crosswalk is available.

While a mid-block crosswalk was considered during the project’s early design stages, it ultimately didn’t make it to the final design, “due to the heavy freight traffic in the area, particularly here with the nearby entrance to the produce center,” explained Melomo.  

Currently, the pedestrian and bicycling amenities end at the border of Everett and Chelsea, where the raised separated path downgrades to an unprotected painted bike lane along crumbling asphalt lots. The poor condition of the lane is particularly noticeable during rainy days when bicyclists also must navigate puddles while cars zip by their side:

a bicyclist waits to cross the road on a muddy stretch of degrading asphalt on a rainy day
Matthew Petersen waits to cross the street near the Chelsea and Everett border where the new separated bike path abruptly ends, downgrading to a painted bike lane.

Jay Monty, Transportation Planner for the City of Everett told StreetsblogMASS on Tuesday, October 11, that design is already underway and “Beacham Street in Everett will be getting the same treatment. It's currently programmed on the TIP (Transportation Improvement Plan) for FY2025.”

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