Encore Boston Harbor officials said this week they are in the early stages of designing a new Everett Aerial Tram – a gondola type of transportation system – that would stretch from Assembly Row to Lower Broadway and perhaps on to Everett Square.
Encore spokesman Eric Kraus said on Tuesday the company is looking for an efficient and effective transportation system that will allow them to develop an entertainment district on the parking lots across from the casino – and they believe the Tram will do the trick.
“We want to simply provide the most effective transportation for our employees and our guests,” he said. “We believe an Everett Aerial Tram from Assembly Row to Broadway will provide that. We want to create a Broadway entertainment district and need to get guests to that location effectively…From our standpoint, we are going through the process of designing the Aerial Tram and seeking input from various organizations and moving forward with it.”
The Tram would need a number of approvals before it could exist – including from environmental regulators, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) and the cities of Somerville and Everett. However, Kraus said it is not beyond reason that the Tram would go on from Lower Broadway to Everett Square.
“If we can get this Everett Aerial Tram approved, we can develop the Broadway entertainment district and support the mayor’s vision of having the Aerial Tram go from Lower Broadway to Everett Square. That would help in the revitalization efforts going on right now by the City. It’s incredibly exciting.”
The entertainment district idea is not a new one, as it had been suggested by CEO Matt Maddox long before the Encore resort even opened. It has also been spoken about in City meetings by Encore officials and by Mayor Carlo DeMaria. It is believed that, roughly, the district would include a large entertainment facility and about 900 additional hotel rooms.
What has never been spoken of is the idea of how to get people there – and that’s where the Tram has now surfaced.
City Transportation Planner Jay Monty said it was good that Encore was thinking about moving people to the new entertainment district in an innovative way that doesn’t include cars.
“The interest in the Gondolas is about bringing folks to the lots for when they build across the street,” he said. “The gondola plan does recognize the fact that the roadways aren’t able to handle that traffic and they can’t design more lanes and turning lanes. They need a transportation solution. Is that solution a gondola? No one is sure. They say they’ve done a study on it. We’ve yet to see that. There is a recognition that we cannot put more cars and more turning lanes on Broadway.”
The Tram is described as looking somewhat like an enclosed ski lift with pods that would hold about 10 people.
The casualty of the new Tram idea seems to be the Mystic River Pedestrian Bridge, which Encore now says it will not pay for.
Encore has already shelled out $2.75 million for the pedestrian bridge that funded studies and 75 percent of the design. However, Kraus said the $32 million anticipated cost has skyrocketed and now is “much more than that.”
He said Encore fully supports the pedestrian bridge, but cannot honor the commitment to pay for it in full given the drastic increase in cost.
“For us, it is not an either-or scenario,” he said. “The pedestrian bridge is a totally different discussion and conversation from the Tram. We are a proponent of the Bridge and connecting the Northern Strand. However, it is irrelevant to the Broadway entertainment district and the Everett Aerial Tram. We do support the Bridge, but we will not be paying for it…The costs have become much more than originally anticipated and we will not be paying for it now.”
That was a brand new suggestion, as former President Bob DeSalvio – with CEO Matt Maddox beside him – pledged to pay for the Bridge once again the day before Encore opened on June 22, 2019. It wasn’t, however, unexpected as the Bridge costs did escalate beyond the $32 million estimate.
The Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) said in a statement that the Bridge needs to be built, or there will be a marvelous path coming all the way from Lynn that abruptly ends at the Mystic River.
“A workhorse piece of public infrastructure, it will connect residents of Lynn, Saugus, Revere, Malden and Everett with Somerville, Boston and Cambridge,” said MyRWA’s Amber Christoffersen. “It will be to people-powered commuters as the Zakim and Tobin Bridges are to drivers. Such safe non-motorized routes are increasingly necessary as our region grapples with gridlock and the need to cut carbon emissions. With Encore having committed considerable resources to getting its employees from the Orange Line to its facility, the Commonwealth has a can’t-miss opportunity for a public-private partnership to complete this critical infrastructure. We call on the MBTA, MassDCR and MassEOEEA to work with Encore on a solution that fully serves both public and private transportation needs.”
Monty said he also hopes the state will step up to build the Bridge – especially considering the major investment in the bike path just announced by Everett and state officials.
“It a very difficult situation there at the end of the bike path,” he said. “We’re putting a lot of money into the path and the state is too and now it dead-ends at the River. We’re hoping the state comes to the table. That’s been the call all along. We’ll keep lobbying for that.”
Slot machines have brief troubles on Friday night
Encore Boston Harbor officials reported they have identified the problem and fixed the issue that caused a portion of the slot machines on the gaming floor to stop working last Friday night for about two hours.
Spokesman Eric Kraus said all of the machines continued to have power and were working. However, the part of the machine that prints out winning tickets did not work for two hours. In absence of that, floor leaders at the casino were providing hand receipts to those signalling they had won.
“We experienced a brief system outage with the slot ticket system and had to revert to hand payments for guests,” he said. “We never want a guest to have a bad experience, so we have worked to identify the issue and it has been fixed. The issue has been resolved.”
During the time, the machines were fully operational. However, instead of pressing a button to receive an electronic ticket upon winning, guests had to raise their hand. Workers on the casino floor then gave out winning tickets by hand, which could then be exchanged at the cashier as usual.