One can’t help but marvel at the 20-plus story casino tower and resort coming to life on Lower Broadway while passing by, but it will likely be the massive amounts of road construction that they will see this summer as the casino puts the pedal to the metal to get off-site transportation projects completed – including a total revamp of Lower Broadway.
For decades, if not generations, the stretch connecting Everett to Boston has been an industrial graveyard, but Lower Broadway and several other locations will be the epicenter of a traffic revival this summer – with all intentions of completing the enormous amounts of work by November.
“Lower Broadway has started and there will be noticeable changes starting next week, with it really changing by September,” said Al Carrier of Wynn Design and Development. “We have to get all of this done this construction season. The push is to get it done this construction season because we have to have a lot of reviews and everything has to be accepted before we can open. We want to use the spring of 2019 for fallback items, little things. We don’t want to do any major paving in 2019, so we really want to get it done.”
That means things are going to be very hectic on Lower Broadway, Sweetser Circle, Santilli Circle, Wellington Circle in Medford, Sullivan Square in Charlestown, and to an extent, two locations in Chelsea on Rt. 16.
Lower Broadway is the crown jewel of the operations, however, as engineers rush to construct a new truck route on Dexter/Robin streets that will detour trucks off of Lower Broadway.
Already, though, the timetable has been set back six weeks on that project due to Eversource running late on a major power line project running down Dexter Street to the Mystic Station from East Boston.
“We’re six weeks behind on that, but our contractors have assured us they can make up that time lost on Broadway and on the truck route,” said Carrier.
For Lower Broadway, the major change to the eyes will be a landscaped median strip in the middle of the road, as well as an elevated bike and pedestrian path on the southbound lane.
Functionally, the major work will be at the new entrance – where Carrier said they expect to have complete on the site by June 1. That will allow them to start working on that critical, new intersection where the casino meets the roadway.
Plans for the well-landscaped southbound lane show two dedicated turns out of the casino onto Lower Broadway. There will be one straight lane coming out to Mystic Street and two turning lanes northbound. Meanwhile, southbound on Rt. 99 will have one turning lane into the casino, two straight lanes and a left turning lane onto Mystic.
For northbound, there will be two dedicated turning lanes into the casino, one dedicated northbound lane and one northbound/right turn lane onto Mystic.
A smaller intersection just south of that at Dexter Street will feature the turnoffs northbound onto the new truck route.
Another major intersection will be at Beacham Street, which will connect directly to the service entrance by the McDonalds. Both northbound and southbound lanes will have a new dedicated turning lane to solve the backups that now exist when someone wishes to turn against the gridlock. Additionally, it is believed that the new truck route will eliminate almost all of the truck traffic turning out of Beacham Street from the industrial areas – a major source of traffic issues now.
All in all, it will result in four signalized intersections along Lower Broadway, and one major improvement will be Adaptive Signal Technology installed at the casino entrance and enabled for the entire corridor from Sweetser Circle to the North Washington Street Bridge in Charlestown/North End.
All of the signals will now be connected due to a partnership between Everett and Boston that runs a fibre line throughout the corridor and ties into an existing line for downtown Boston at the bridge.
“That’s going to help a lot because all of these signals will now talk to one another,” said Carrier, noting that there will also be three new traffic cameras for Boston in Sullivan Square. “They’ll have eyes and connectivity, so they can tweak the dial if they need to.”
At the casino entrance, Project Engineer Christine Breen said they would be using the technology to help in phasing traffic, especially during special circumstances. A mini-computer in the traffic box will be able to tell the box that traffic is building up and a change needs to be made. The computer will have the ability to move traffic at a different rate when it detects a buildup, also connecting potentially to all the other signals on the corridor to reduce gridlock and backup.
Everett and Boston do not have that technology now.
For sidewalks, along the casino site, they will be installing 12-foot sidewalks and hope to do that on the entire corridor if possible.
On Sweetser Circle, the major work will include making things safer for pedestrians and bicyclists and channelizing traffic.
Due to it being a series of elevated bridges, there isn’t really room to add new lanes to the circle as it is cost prohibitive on such bridges. However, there will be new striping and channelizing of traffic so it isn’t the free-for-all that exists now.
There will be new Rapid Flashing Beacons installed at new crosswalks where children often cross to get to the Whittier School from Lower Broadway – a very dangerous intersection.
One breakthrough will be to help bicycle safety, where the state has approved a pilot configuration where a temporary bike lane will be built on the connector street between Sweetser and Santilli using street sticks.
Other improvments include 12-foot wide sidewalks and dedicated bus lanes in the circle and onto some feeder streets.
A lot of work in Wellington Circle in Medford – just over the Everett line – has already started.
There, they will be widening the edges of the circle, installing lane striping, putting in new overhead signs, upgrading signals and adjusting the phases/timing of lights.