State Attorney General Maura Healy, a Charlestown resident and the top law enforcement official in the state, has called for the state environmental and traffic regulators to delay awarding an environmental certificate to the Wynn Everett casino until an in-depth, regional traffic study has been completed.
In a letter sent on Monday, July 13, to Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, Healy advocated for the environmental process (known as MEPA) to be held up.
Wynn had been anticipating filing its second supplemental final environmental impact report (SSFEIR) in the coming weeks – an extensive document that deals mostly with lingering traffic issues identified by Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton.
“We believe (our responsibility to protect the public) starts with getting the best possible data regarding the traffic impacts, and then using that to formulate a workable mitigation plan,” wrote Healy in the letter. “In our view, the Casino should not move forward without such a plan in place…We have significant concerns that the traffic study the Administration will consider during this process is being conducted by Wynn’s own consultants. For this project, that approach is insufficient. We believe it is critical that MassDOT and the Commonwealth benefit from an independent analysis of the traffic impact, paid for by Wynn, before considering any mitigation measures… We urge MassDOT not to endorse a MEPA certificate for the Wynn Casino until CTPS has modeled realistic alternatives, and Wynn develops a regional traffic mitigation plan based on this independent analysis.”
Wynn officials said there have already been numerous delays in the process, and they believe further delay is unnecessary and will keep revenue out of the state’s hands.
“For 19 months we have diligently followed the detailed and robust Environmental Impact Report (EIR) filing process,” said Wynn spokesman Michael Weaver. “After extensive studies and analysis reviewed by numerous state agencies, as well as draft, final, supplementary and secondary supplementary reports, we believe we are prepared to move forward with our $1.7 billion construction project, which will bring 4,000 permanent jobs and 4,000 union construction jobs. Every month our project is delayed also postpones $22.3 million in taxes a month to the Commonwealth and local communities.”
Healy, specifically, said she would like to see the state Department of Transportation (DOT) use its own regional analysis tool – the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Central Transportation Planning Staff (CTPS).
“While we recognize that MassDOT normally uses the CTPS model only for its own projects, the magnitude of the Casino’s impact in this very densely populated urban area and on the vital transportation networks that serve it and the region makes it akin to the types of projects for
which MassDOT would routinely use CTPS modeling and therefore justifies its use here,” she wrote.
Furthermore, Healy emphasized that the main concerns are the impacts on Charlestown, Somerville and other nearby locales – and that the existing plan for Sullivan Square would not be compatible with the casino traffic plan.
“Chief among our concerns are local traffic impacts on the North Washington Street Bridge, Rutherford Avenue and Sullivan Square in Boston, and Assembly Square and Union Square in Somerville, and regional traffic impacts on 1-93,” she wrote. “Those impacts stand to threaten the local economies, redevelopment plans, and air quality of affected communities. In particular, the Attorney General’s Office is very concerned that traffic impacts from the Casino as proposed will be entirely incompatible with the City of Boston’s previously-approved plans for the North Washington Street Bridge, Rutherford Avenue and Sullivan Square.”
While Healy can make the recommendation for expanded traffic analysis, it will be up to Pollack and Beaton whether or not to employ the suggestion.