State Rep. Dan Ryan has reaffirmed his longstanding pledge this week to lead discussions around a long-term traffic and transportation fix to Sullivan Square and Rutherford Avenue – discussions that he said might have been precipitated by the Wynn casino but have been ongoing for years.
“The fact that the conversation is back on the table is a good thing,” said Ryan this week. “Whether it’s a casino that has been the impetus for that isn’t as important as the fact that the conversation is happening again…The goal is to get a new road down there for the first time in my lifetime. Part of the conversation is I do have concerns about the casino. I am not totally against casinos, but I have my concerns. I also have to look at the other end of it because there isn’t another developer around that is required to give us money. That’s a good thing. We can argue about how much it should be, but them being required to give us millions isn’t a bad thing.”
Ryan said he has always been interested in helping to get the conversation back on the table, and right now seems to be a time to strike while the iron is hot. Wynn Everett has convened meetings – partially led by Rep. Ryan – that include a group called Engaged Charlestown Residents. Those meetings have, in part, focused on the short-term fixes for Sullivan Square that are required by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) to be done before the casino opens its doors in 2017. That requirement has resulted in Wynn having to fork over $10 million to pay for such improvements.
However, Wynn has also had to put in some $25 million to help with the long-term solution to Sullivan Square and Rutherford Avenue.
That process is much greater than the short-term discussion, and most – including Wynn representatives – have agreed that the long-term process should be led by someone other than the casino officials. While Wynn has pledged the money and has asked for a seat at the table in the larger planning effort, with the Mayor’s Office still in limbo with the casino due to an ongoing lawsuit, no one has come forward to lead the discussions and conversations.
Enter Dan Ryan.
“I said and have said for some time that I’m willing to lead any discussions on long-term plans for Sullivan Square and Rutherford Avenue,” he said. “I’ll be happy to work with anyone who wants to come to discuss the issue. Whether we’re holding public meetings or meeting in small groups – putting things on paper or talking about ideas. I believe that conversation needs to continue and it can happen without Wynn in the room. Sullivan Square was an issue before casinos were approved and it will continue to be an issue if a casino is built or if the casino goes away…What is important here is I don’t want people to think that by having a meeting, we’ve made a decision or that something said there is set in stone. I will be happy to convene continued conversations on Sullivan Square.”
Ryan is seen as one of the best mediating forces in the neighborhood to lead the conversation, as he has the history in working for Congressman Michael Capuano and on regional traffic plans that included Sullivan Square. He also grew up in Charlestown and lives right next to Rutherford Avenue, giving him past and current credibility.
“I think I have the recent history in that we have been trying to get something down there that is better than what exists now,” he said. “I live right there, literally one block from Rutherford Avenue. I take that road every day, sometimes two or three times a day. So, I get it. I don’t have all the answers, but I think we can start talking about it again. We can do that, and I can look into money and funding. In the end, however, it’s going to take engineers and other professionals to design this thing.”
Ryan said there was at one point $15 million set aside from the federal government for planning purposes on Rutherford Avenue and Sullivan Square. Part of that might have been used already, but he said part of any long-term discussions would be finding out what part of that is still in the kitty.