There’s no painting it any other way – there’s going to be major traffic on the June 23 opening day of the Encore Boston Harbor resort casino and even in the days after – but choosing a slow time of year for the opening and other precautions, the company said, would help lighten the load.
“I am telling you there’s going to be traffic and we know that,” said Jim Folk of Encore. “It’s the opening of one of the largest resorts on the East Coast. We know many people will want to come see it. What we can do is mitigate it with our plan. If we see traffic hot spots, we can adjust accordingly, and we’ve been working closely with our partners to plan for that…We are not doing this in a bubble. We have a competent transportation plan…We are going to be monitoring the roads carefully.”
Since February, Folk and Encore have been meeting regularly with Everett, Boston, Chelsea, Medford and state officials on the plan and its contingencies.
Officers from Everett, Boston, Medford, Chelsea and the State Police working on forced overtime will be stationed at locations in a radius all around the resort. But beyond that, Folk said they have chosen the date wisely.
They didn’t pick July 4th, or a Saturday in May for a reason.
He said June 23, historically, is a slow time of the year for traditional traffic in Greater Boston, and having it start on Sunday would give them a full week to work out the kinks before a full weekend.
“The last thing that we wanted to do was impact people’s commute going to work,” said Folk. “That’s why we chose that date. We believe traffic will be much lighter on a Sunday and it’s during a time when school is out. That is also a week when a lot of people take a vacation and leave Boston. There’s not usually a lot going on then.”
One major mitigation piece they are planning comes in response to the overwhelming popularity of RideShare companies like Uber and Lyft. Encore believes many patrons will be using such services during the opening days – scared away by the $42 fee for self-parking in the underground garage, or $49 for valet parking. The last thing, Folk said, they want is a bunch of RideShare drivers clogging up Lower Broadway and Everett neighborhoods waiting for a call to pick up or drop off at the casino.
To combat that, Folk said they worked with the companies to create a “Geo Fence” for the property. They also have created a RideShare lot across the street for about 100 cars. Using the “Geo Fence” technology, calls coming from the casino for a ride will only be able to be received by drivers in the RideShare lot. It’s a technology that was used at Logan Airport with some success, and Folk believes it will keep unnecessary traffic off of Lower Broadway – which is the prime mission during the first opening days.
“We’re trying to keep as many vehicles off Broadway as possible,” he said. “We’re telling people to use Malden Station and use Wellington Station – where we will have luxury shuttles.”
Another piece of that plan with the shuttles for employees and for those coming on the Orange Line is to let them out on Mystic View Road on the Gateway Mall property. Those arriving will be let out at the new HarborWalk, where they will walk under the railroad bridge and onto the new landscaped courtyard.
“We will be bringing people into Gateway Mall in Everett and they will be let out there from the shuttles to walk to the resort,” he said. “They are not going to line up on Broadway or line up into Sullivan Square. We will use Mystic View Road for the drop-offs and pick-ups during the first days.”
When it comes to law enforcement, they will have officers from all over the area – including Everett, Chelsea, Boston and Medford.
Folk said they have 63 State Troopers from Troop A committed to them, and 12 Everett Police officers.
“We are going to reimburse overtime,” he said. “These officers will be there. It’s not details where they might not show up. We will have these law enforcement officers in place.”
Other measures that will be used:
•There will be 21 message boards pointing drivers in the right directions.
•There will be 1,300 parking spaces at Station Landing that Encore will use. That will be for employees mostly, and there will also be the RiverGreen parking lot for overflow – which will be connected to the resort with the new Neighborhood Shuttle.