Key Electrical Transmission Project Could Spark Finish of Bike to the Sea Pathway

Map shows pathway route.

Map shows pathway route.

The solution to a gaping hole in the electricity needs of some three million Greater Boston residents could pay dividends for residents of Everett, Revere and Lynn in the form of a long-stalled bicycle/walking path.

ISO New England – the overseer of the New England energy market and power grid – is currently analyzing two proposals to improve the reliability of the electrical grid in Greater Boston and southern New Hampshire. The organization is in the midst of looking at both projects due to the fact that it has deemed a critical need for additional transmission lines into the region in order to avert problems with reliability.

A decision is expected in 2015 on the projects, and either would likely break ground in 2016.

That said, one project – dubbed the SeaLink – would have tremendous benefits for three local communities in the form of a new or expanded biking and walking path from Everett’s lower Broadway neighborhood to the beaches in Lynn.

“This is a major transmission project to solve a problem all over New England,” said Matt Valle, president of New Hampshire Transmission. “However, communities have to want this infrastructure. We understood that and worked with the MBTA to have an opportunity for a win-win. The electrical cables in our project are buried so there is no visual element. It does generate property taxes and there will be jobs for construction too. Most importantly, we wanted to mitigate the project and in working with the communities we have suggested expanding the bike path and walking path to make the final connection between the beaches in Lynn and through Revere and Everett and to the area where the new casino is proposed.”

The path – which for years has languished and is unfinished – has been known as Bike to the Sea and is placed on an old railroad bed right-of-way owned by the MBTA. In Everett and Malden, a lot of the path has been paved in anticipation of the eventual expansion. However, other parts in Lynn and Revere are still basically dirt and mud – in some parts impassable.

“In some of the parts where it has already been paved, we would propose to install lighting or to expand the pathway that’s already there,” Valle said. “Part of the bike path isn’t really developed, though…We would propose to complete the path all the way to Lynn and finish what has already been started while we’re in there doing the construction. Obviously, we’re developing a reliable transmission project to help keep 3 million people’s lights on…You look for win-win opportunities though so the communities hosting the project will have some value out of it.”

Valle added the addition of the cables would result in property tax revenues.

“At the same time, there will be a new property tax revenue stream for these communities that could be devoted to the upkeep and maintenance of the bike path so that the project is revenue neutral,” he said.

The overall project description for SeaLink is to run a 68-mile 520-megawatt cable from Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant along the ocean bottom down the coast. The cable would re-surface in Lynn, where it would connect to the bike path/right-of-way. It would be buried six feet under the ground on the right-of-way all the way from Lynn to Everett, finishing up at the Mystic Substation in Everett’s lower Broadway area. There would be two cables that are four to five inches in diameter and would be side by side. The bike and pedestrian path would be constructed at the same time as crews bury the cable.

Valle said the MBTA just signed a Letter of Intent with SeaLink – which would be owned by a division of the Seabrook Nuclear Plant – last week to use the right-of-way.

Sen. Sal DiDomenico of Everett has sounded off in favor of the project as well.

“As a buried line, this project would avoid the controversy that additional overhead lines in our communities would bring,” he said in a letter last April. “The project would also provide direct and indirect job benefits and tax benefits to Everett. Further, the project could help to enhance the Northern Strand Trail which is part of the future vision for the community and will be an additional way for residents in adjoining areas to visit Everett.”

Lynn Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said she supports the SeaLink project as well.

“The developer of that project has met with my staff and I and explained the purpose of the project, its proposed route and the benefits it can provide if approved,” she wrote. “Based on that information, the City of Lynn looks forward to working with SeaLink to refine the project routing and have SeaLink locate in our community.”

Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo has also met with SeaLink, Valle said, and is receptive to the plan, but has not yet written a letter of support.

In Lynn, the proposed path would start at Nahant Beach, go down Lynn Commons and past Lynn Tech High School, the Drewicz School and Barry Park.

In Revere, the pathway would cut across North Revere on the old railroad right-of-way and through the Rumney Marsh to the Showcase Cinemas/Linden Square neighborhood.

In Everett, the path would pass by the Maddy English School, the Baldwin Street Playground, the Appleton Playground, the Gateway Center and finally by the proposed Wynn Casino and into the Mystic Substation.

The competing proposal comes from National Grid and Northeast Utilities would construct 25 miles of 345-kilovolt and 115-kilovolt overhead lines in existing power lines.

The new lines would connect a substation in Londonderry, NH to Tewksbury. National Grid would build an underground line from Wakefield to Everett.

That proposal would cost and estimated $448.8 million while the SeaLink would cost $804 million.

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