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City of Everett Wins Federal Funds to Bridge the Sweetser Circle Barrier

An aerial view of a large traffic rotary on a major highway that runs left-right through the center of the image. On the bottom edge are several large oil tanks and some railroad tracks. On the upper half of the image are densely-populated residential and commercial neighborhoods.

An aerial view of Sweetser Circle, a 1950s-era highway interchange that divides the north and south sides of Everett. Courtesy of Google Maps.

Federal officials have pledged $1.2 million to let the City of Everett start planning ways to bridge the Revere Beach "Parkway," a massive highway barrier that divides the northern and southern parts of the city.

The study will focus specifically on the massive Sweetser Circle, a 1950s-era rotary that MassDOT has identified as a high-risk location for crashes.

The funding comes from the new Reconnecting Communities grant program, part of the 2021 infrastructure law.

The Reconnecting Communities program aims to "reconnect communities that are cut off from opportunity and burdened by past transportation infrastructure decisions."

Massachusetts also won several other Reconnecting Communities grants this week, the biggest of which was a $335.4 million award for the Allston Multimodal Project.

Reconnecting Everett

Sweetser Circle is the only roadway connection between the older, densely-populated neighborhoods of northern Everett and the rapidly-growing former industrial areas along the Mystic River.

But that connection leaves a lot to be desired for everyone who uses it.

"Sweetser Circle is a major barrier to creating safe pedestrian and cyclist movements to access Lower Broadway, with no current safe facilities available. It is also a barrier for local bus services," wrote city officials in their grant application for the Reconnecting Communities funding. "Nearly all of Everett’s 15,000 daily transit riders utilize local bus services that traverse Sweetser Circle en-route to rapid transit stations outside the City."

And for the city as a whole, Sweetser Circle is also major liability for Everett's economic development ambitions.

A large development firm recently acquired the 95-acre former ExxonMobil oil tank field to the immediate southeast of Sweetser Circle.

In another formerly-industrial zone to the east of the Circle, the so-called "commercial triangle," thousands of new apartments are now under construction, with several other large projects in the planning stages (see map below).

"We don't want to have the 'new Everett' and the 'old Everett,'" says Jay Monty, the City of Everett's transportation planner. "We want to redevelop these areas, but we also want make sure they're part of our community, that they're walkable, that there's transit service to serve these areas equitably."

A map of the Sweetser Circle area in Everett. The circle itself is in the center of the map, and straddles the Revere Beach Parkway, a highway that crosses the center of the map horizontally (east to west). A purple line that arcs through the lower portion of the map, and passes just beneath the Circle, represents the MBTA commuter rail line. Below that, a large blue area is labelled "Exxon-Mobil tank farm," a field of abandoned oil tanks. A legend lists the eight MBTA bus routes that pass through the Circle: 97, 99, 104, 105, 106, 109, 110, and 112.
A map of Sweetser Circle and its environs from the City of Everett's Reconnecting Communities grant application.

Plan will examine bus improvements, new commuter rail station

According to the city's grant application, the City of Everett wants to plan for potential dedicated busways through the Circle, plus "safer and more connected pedestrian and bicycle routes, bridging the bisected areas of Everett and linking the existing bike and pedestrian network in the northern and western portions of the City with the growing development in the southern and eastern parts of the City."

The city also wants to study the possibilty of a new commuter rail station on the Newburyport/Rockport line, which currently makes no stops in Everett.

If a new regional rail station were located near Sweetser Circle, it could potentially connect to Everett's local bus routes, including the proposed Silver Line extension.

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