As the newfound Village area ‘community lot’ suddenly proposed by Encore Boston Harbor continues to get impassioned attention at City Hall this week, a traffic study done as part of an upcoming review showed that the 617-space public lot would have no effect on traffic in the Village or Main Street.
“The results of this analysis indicated that the new trips generated by the proposed Parking Facility do not significantly impact traffic operations at key locations along Air Force Road and Main Street,” read the report prepared by Wynn’s traffic engineer, AECOM, on Jan. 3. “Furthermore, the Project trips added to Main Street are low, as Santilli Highway is the primary access route to the Parking Facility for Encore Boston Harbor visitors and their shuttles. Project trips utilizing the newly opened Air Force Road connector (Prescott Street) via Main Street or accessing Air Force Road via Tileston Street are expected to be local in nature and primarily attributed to the Athletic Complex component of the Project.”
It indicated that their analysis showed about 38 news cars per hour in the Saturday afternoon peak on Main Street, and even fewer in the morning and afternoon rush hours. The area has been beset with traffic concerns for several years due to commuters coming and going from the Interstate on Rt. 16. This year, however, the congestion in the area became more of a concern when the Pioneer Charter School opened up its expanded campus on Plymouth Street.
Now, with the community lot, several City officials are worried that adding another 600-plus cars in a non-employee lot could attract even more people to the area.
The traffic report indicated that the casino overflow parking and the casino shuttle would utilize Santilli Highway for at least 50 percent of its trips – with the shuttle using Santilli 100 percent of the time. It predicted parkers would also arrive at the lot with 25 percent coming from Main Street via Tileston and 25 percent coming from Main Street via Prescott/Connector.
It predicted Athletic Complex users would arrive equally from all three directions in a 33 percent split. That would mean that about 66 percent of the traffic for the Athletic Complex would come from Main Street.
“As trips to this component of the Project are expected to originate locally, their distribution patterns will differ from those of visitors, and a larger proportion is expected to utilize Main Street and the newly opened Air Force Road connector,” read the report.
The Athletic Complex is a large new park in collaboration with Encore and the City. It includes a new stadium on 7-acre Park, and new playing fields and a playground on a portion of the GE site to replace the old Lynde Street Park on Lower Broadway.
The traffic report suggests no mitigation for the project since it also predicts no significant traffic generation. It does suggest putting striping and other pavement markings on Prescott Street as many more people would now be traveling over the Northern Strand Bike Path – which is highly utilized by families and children on bicycles.
“It should be noted that these improvements are addressing existing conditions and are not related to an increase in traffic from Project trips,” it read. “Based on traffic analysis described previously, there are no significant impacts to local roadways as a result of project-generated traffic, and therefore no additional improvements are required beyond those proposed to address existing operational deficiencies.”
The community lot in the Village was originally an employee parking lot, agreed to last summer by City officials begrudgingly, but understandingly, of the need to park employees nearby and shuttle them to the casino.
However, in a private meeting with City officials on Dec. 4, Encore suddenly changed course and announced it was going to be a community lot open to the public and for their own overflow traffic to the casino. It was alluded to later at a Planning Board meeting in December, but the true details of the plan became known last Monday, Jan. 7, after a Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) meeting.
Encore officials said they planned on withdrawing the official employee lot proposal and submitting the community lot proposal in time for the Feb. 4 ZBA meeting.
That said, on Monday night, the proposal was scheduled for a Planning Board review, and Encore officials there were met with more skepticism. Along with City officials who were concerned about the project – particularly Building Inspector Jim Soper – advocates for Bike to the Sea and the Friends of the Malden River were also in attendance with concerns about the use and its effect on the bike path.
Councilor Michael McLaughlin has had strong words in opposition to the community parking lot in the last week, though he noted that he supports the employee lot plan. He said it’s time for Mayor Carlo DeMaria to make this thoughts known on the issue.
“There are two elected officials that represent Ward 6 and they are myself and Mayor DeMaria,” he said. “I’ve been on record with the parking lot and it’s time the mayor came forward with his opinions – good, bad or indifferent. He needs to let the residents know if he supports 600-plus cars going on the old GE site where there is a lot of congestion already and its surround by three elementary schools. That said, there is a need and desire for an employee parking lot, but my support differs on a community parking lot.”
Encore officials did present the community lot plan to the Planning Board on Monday, but it was continued by the Board.
It is expected that the ZBA will have a new plan before it in time for major discussion at its Feb. 4 meeting.