Two Las Vegas-style resort casinos proposed for Suffolk Downs on the Revere/East Boston line and 37 acres on the Mystic River in Everett raise new questions about age-old traffic troubles on prime commuter routes to Boston.
The two sites are about 5 miles apart, with Revere Beach Parkway, or Route 16, leading to both. The main entrance to Suffolk Downs is on Route 1A, one of the region’s most congested arteries.
The Everett site, a former Monsanto chemical plant, is off Route 99, a two-lane roadway often choked with traffic into Boston. There also are those pesky rotaries: Santilli Circle in Everett, Wellington Circle in Medford, and Copeland Circle in Revere.
“I go through Santilli Circle, to Wellington every morning,” said Connie Nathanson, an Everett resident who lives off Route 99. “It’s a mess now with the trucks and everything, trying to get through there. I can’t imagine what it would be like with a casino there.”
In Revere, steady commuter traffic spikes in summer with drivers heading to Suffolk Downs and Revere Beach, said Russ Cipoletta, who lives in the city’s Beachmont section, near the track.
“People get in accidents, and then it’s our insurance rates that go up,” said Cipoletta, who commutes to Boston for his job at the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority in Charlestown. “If this casino goes in, I would hope they would give us a break on tolls like they do [for residents] in Chelsea with the Tobin” bridge, he said.
A $40 million transportation plan proposed by Suffolk Downs aims to direct traffic onto the regional highway systems and off local roads.
An overpass at Boardman Street on Route 1A in East Boston, an access lane on Route 1A, and ramp improvements would be made at Route 16, according to the plan available on the racetrack’s website, www.suffolkdowns.com/transportation.
“We’ve tried to address all our potential impacts,” said Chip Tuttle, the chief operating officer at Suffolk Downs. “We think that the fixes we are going to make, particularly on Route 1A, will benefit regional commuters.”
Steve Wynn, owner of Wynn Resorts, said engineers are studying transportation to the site, and do not yet have an estimate on how much it will cost.
“We’re looking at how we would be getting people in and out, and the impact that would have in the area,” he said.
The Mystic River could provide water access to the site. “It’s a tidal river. How we would make [transportation] happen, we’re still trying to sort out,” Wynn added.
Some local officials think the casino, even with improvements, would do more harm than good.
“You do not put a casino where you have an established economic base,” said Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, a vocal critic of casinos. “It’s already an area inundated with traffic. . . I will oppose any effort to build a ramp off I-93, or any other connector roads, that would pass through Somerville.”
The Medford City Council also voted 5-2 last month to oppose the Everett casino development.
“The roads that lead to that site — routes 16, 28, and 99 — they’re inadequate to handle the additional traffic a casino would bring,” said Councilor Michael Marks, who said he lives about a half-mile from the proposed site. “And, I really believe this would hurt the economy of Medford.”
The state gaming law requires that casino operators negotiate impact agreements with communities that would be most affected by their developments.
Along with transportation, the agreements also may cover issues such as job training and hiring preferences for local residents, and revenue payments.
Wynn Resorts has not identified impact communities, but Everett borders Charlestown, Chelsea, Malden, Medford, Revere, and Somerville.
Suffolk Downs has identified Chelsea and Winthrop as impact communities. Community meetings held in the last year have identified people’s concerns, such as traffic.
Chelsea is negotiating with Suffolk Downs, City Manager Jay Ash said.
“They have been honest and forthright in their discussions with us,” said Ash, who declined to discuss specifics of the negotiations. “I think I will be able to negotiate a very acceptable package with them.”
Winthrop Town Manager James McKenna hopes to start negotiating soon with Suffolk Downs. Residents of the peninsula town accessible via Route 145, which runs behind Suffolk Downs, also rely on Route 16 to get in and out of town. Continued...