Despite Delaying Certificate, Secretary Agrees with Wynn Traffic Numbers

Despite complaints from surrounding cities over traffic numbers contained in the Wynn Everett environmental filing (SFEIR), the state secretary for environmental affairs and MassDOT support those numbers and indicated they were formed using the same methods as those used for other casinos, including the Mohegan Sun project in Revere.

The Wynn SFEIR that was sent back to the drawing board last week contains some 38 pages of new critiques and suggestions by Secretary Matthew Beaton, but within those pages one will not find any dispute of the traffic numbers proposed by Wynn.

“Many comments continue to question the methodology for trip generation, including comments from the City of Boston, City of Somerville and the City of Revere,” read the secretary’s letter. “The methodology for the trip generation in the SFEIR is consistent with that which has been required of each of the casino proposals, including MGM Springfield, Project First Light and the proposed Mohegan Sun project in Revere.”

Several critics have suggested that Wynn’s numbers are not accurate and that the mitigation proposed will not help reduce traffic issues in Everett, Charlestown or the surrounding areas.

In a comment letter from Boston, the plan and numbers in the SFEIR were taken to task.

“In it’s lawsuit…and in communications with Wynn, the City has made it abundantly clear that it has expended considerable time, effort, resources and funds in formulating plans to transition Sullivan Square into a low-traffic pedestrian friendly neighborhood,” read the letter. “The plan described in Wynn’s SFEIR proposes a dramatic increase – rather than decrease – in traffic in Sullivan Square. Wynn’s plan also would jeopardize health, safety and welfare of Boston’s citizens. A multitude of other defects and flaws with Wynn’s SFEIR render it inadequate, incomplete and violative of [state environmental] requirements…As a result, the City will exercise its sovereign rights to prevent its streets from being used in a manner that is incompatible with its plans and the safety of its residents…The City recommends and expects that you will issue a determination that Wynn’s SFEIR on transportation is wholly inadequate.”

Secretary Beaton, however, wrote that MassDOT believes the numbers for traffic generation are correct.

“MassDOT states in its comments that the methodology used to estimate person trips for the project are adequately addressed, and the SFEIR includes updated trip generation summary tables that show all assumptions, land uses and changes in the development program,” read the letter. “In addition, MassDOT concurs with the credits taken in the SFEIR to calculate net trip generation. MassDOT comments…reiterate that, given the urban context of the project, the commitment to a strong TDM program, and the ability to hold the proponent accountable to site trip reduction strategies through monitoring and reporting, the project can assume a significant number of non-private vehicular trips.”

That said, the secretary’s letter did discuss three areas in Everett that are to be mitigated, including Lower Broadway, Sweetser Circle and Santilli Circle.

Most of the suggestions on Lower Broadway were favorable, noting that the new mitigation plan will allow for priority signals for the MBTA and signal improvements at all intersections. Most intersections were graded at a C or better (a system of grading intersections that is much like a school grade, going from A to F). However, the intersection of Beecham and Broadway showed that it would operate at a grade of D during peak times with the casino and its traffic mitigation, but would operate at an F without it.

For Santilli Circle, traffic models showed it would improve to a grade of A with the casino mitigation. In comments from the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the mitigation plan is praised for improving traffic and keeping the Parkway character. It did ask for a revised signal-timing plan to accommodate heavy traffic on the weekends.

MassDOT asked that the plan for Santilli be refined to help drivers coming to the casino that may not be familiar with the area.

“The proponent should refine the design, improve lane utilization and optimize guide signage location to ensure that casino patrons, a number of which will be unfamiliar with the area, can maneuver safely and efficiently through the rotary,” read the letter.

For Sweetser Circle, both MassDOT and the DCR supported the revised change proposed in the SFEIR. The letter from Beaton also indicated that traffic queues were all at acceptable limits during all hours.

One criticism, however, was the lack of continuous bicycle pathways in the circle.

“MassDOT will work with the proponent during permitting to determine whether an alternative that will provide full accommodation of cyclists can be developed,” read the letter.

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