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Starts & Stops

Wynn’s Somerville pedestrian bridge study on its way

A man fished from a pier on the Mystic River behind Assembly Row near where the contruction on the new Wynn Casino takes place across the water in Everett. The Amelia Earhart Dam is to the left and the MBTA bridge spans the river to the right. A new pedestrian and bike bridge is proposed somewhere to cross the river close to this location. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Casinos often run slick commercials showing high-rollers arriving by stretch limo.

But by bike?

That may yet happen, in Everett of all places, now that Wynn Boston Harbor casino is providing $250,000 to study a new bike and pedestrian bridge over the Mystic River between the gambling hall and Somerville. The study, being led by international engineering and design firms AECOM and BEAM, is expected to be completed before the end of the year.

A footbridge between the two cities was explored in 2009, back before casino magnate Steve Wynn had eyed Everett waterfront parcel for his $2.4 billion project. That was also before the Orange Line station and mixed-use Assembly Row development had opened in Somerville.


Back then planners focused on basing the crossing along either the Amelia Earhart Dam or MBTA bridge. This time, the study is expected to focus more on an entirely new structure.

The massive resort, expected to open in 2019, has sparked concerns about traffic, partially because it is not directly on an MBTA line, and congestion around nearby Sullivan Square is already an issue.

Among the casino’s biggest opponents was Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, who filed several lawsuits in order to block the casino. During that fight, he objected to the footbridge idea because he did not think it was enough to solve the traffic issues. With the legal wrangling now over and casino construction underway, Curtatone said he is more comfortable with the bridge because Wynn and the state are exploring other options to improve transportation around the region.

“How do we have better connectivity around the Mystic River basin?” Curtatone said. “The bridge can be a part of that.”

The first analysis priced a bridge at up to $7.7 million and estimated it could be more than 800 feet. That would be a much shorter distance than the one-mile walk between Sullivan Square MBTA station and the casino site.


Wynn agreed to fund the study as part of an environmental approval, which also included up to $7.5 million to help pay for Orange Line operations and shuttle buses between other subway stations and the resort.

Even if the new analysis determines a bridge is doable, it’s not clear who would pay for it — and whether Wynn would cough up some of the money.

“At that point, we’ll have to determine the next steps and determine what the funding sources would be for the bridge,” Wynn spokesman Greg John said.

MBTA shrugs at Uber, Lyft late-night pitches

Uber and Lyft aren’t up to snuff for handling late-night transit service for the MBTA, at least not as the agency currently envisions it.

The ride-hailing companies each responded to the T’s request earlier this year for ideas from the private sector to provide service after buses and subways stop running for the night.

But the agency said the companies were not suited because they could not provide service on fixed-routes, read MBTA fare cards, or guarantee accessibility to passengers with disabilities. Both Uber and Lyft already partner with the T on paratransit services.

Meanwhile, private bus operators were not interested in a potential contract due to overnight staffing issues, Laurel Paget-Seekins, the T’s director of strategic initiatives, recently told the agency’s board.


The T is considering a one-year test of overnight service, aimed at helping off-hours workers get to and from work. The agency previously canceled a late-night bus and subway service that extended hours on weekends.

Paget-Seekins suggested the T could either operate a bus service itself, or make its requirements for private operators more flexible — potentially allowing an Uber or Lyft partnership.

Uber declined to comment, while Lyft said it is “eager to continue conversations with MBTA and other organizations to help Bostonians get where they need to go.”

T officials are expected to again discuss the proposed overnight pilot at a board meeting Monday.

A vote on highway tolls? Maybe not.

A proposed ballot question for the 2018 election to end all highway tolling on Massachusetts highways probably won’t make it to voters, an environmental lawyer predicts.

A similar effort to end tolling on Massachusetts highways nearly went to the ballot in 1998, but the state’s Supreme Judicial Court deemed the question unconstitutional. The court said that since the state issues bonds against toll revenue, eliminating that revenue would violate the bondholders’ rights.

Rafael Mares, a vice president at the Conservation Law Foundation, said that precedent likely makes it impossible for Attorney General Maura Healey to approve of the latest proposal. Spokespeople for Healey, who must determine by early September whether proposed ballot questions pass constitutional muster, declined to comment.

This year’s ballot question was proposed by Quincy resident and Republican activist Steve Tougas. He said the tolls are a form of “taxation without representation,” and wants the ballot question to help head off any future effort to add new tolls.


Tougas said he was not familiar with the 1998 ruling.

Proponents of the 1998 ballot question, by the way, went back to the drawing board and in 2000 instead proposed a tax credit for toll payers. That question made it to the ballot but was rejected by voters.

But in 2014, voters opted at the ballot to halt automatic gas tax increases that would pay for transportation. And in 2018, they will likely be asked whether to increase taxes on individuals’ income over $1 million, with some of the revenue going to transportation projects.

Adam Vaccaro can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @adamtvaccaro.