Encore Boston Harbor to Get Bridge Funded with Public Money

Posted on: October 26, 2021, 08:12h. 

Last updated on: October 26, 2021, 08:58h.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration has committed to building a pedestrian bridge linking the Encore Boston Harbor in Everett to the city of Somerville, northwest of Boston. Construction will begin in early 2024.

Encore Boston Harbor bridge
A rendering of the proposed $49 million Mystic River bridge that will link the Encore Boston Harbor to Somerville. (Image: MassDot)

The 785-foot-long structure would link the casino directly to Somerville’s Assembly train station in Assembly Square. That is a major retail and residential development located on the site of a former Ford assembly plant. Somerville has a population of 81,045 people packed into four square miles, making it the most densely populated municipality in New England.

The idea for the bridge predates the establishment of the casino resort by almost a decade. But it has long been championed by Wynn Resorts. The casino giant has, in the past, offered to foot much of the bill for the footbridge. In 2019, Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria said Wynn had pledged $25 million towards the project, which is expected to cost almost $49 million.

The Baker administration estimates that around 2,300 pedestrians and more than 350 bicyclists would use the bridge each day.

Taxpayers Foot Bill

Controversially, though, while it would be a huge boon for the casino, it will be funded with taxpayers’ money. A spokesperson for Encore Boston Harbor, Rosie Abrams, told Boston.com the company “has already paid for much of the design work,” confirming that “construction funding will come from other sources.”

Meanwhile, The Boston Herald questions why state officials should be prioritizing the Mystic River bridge over other much-needed projects. It notes that a bridge that connected the city of Quincy to an addiction recovery center on Long Island in Boston Harbor was shut down in 2014 because it was unsafe. Promises to restore the structure have gone unfulfilled.

Baker said at a press conference on Friday that the state applied in July for a $25 million grant from the federal government for the Mystic River footbridge. The job would be completed with or without federal money, he added.

“If we get some federal money, that’d be great. But one way or another, it’s going to get paid for, and it’s going to get done,” Baker told a press conference held Friday at the casino.

Everett Cleanup

The casino will not be the sole beneficiary of the bridge. Boston.com emphasizes that it will provide Everett with a subway link on the other side, which the city has been without since 1975.

It could also help expedite plans for Everett’s industrial riverfront, where city officials want to develop new housing, hotels, and restaurants.

Wynn Resorts began building the Encore Boston Harbor in 2016 on the contaminated site of a former chemical plant, which had been a no-go area for locals for years. The company spent $68 million cleaning up and decontaminating the area.