Wynn Files Environmental Report:Addresses Sullivan Sq. Impasse

July 24, 2015
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Just when everyone thought there couldn’t be any more paperwork filed in association with the Wynn casino project, this week they’ve added another 1,000 pages.

Wynn Everett filed its much-anticipated supplemental environmental report late last week (also known as the Second Supplemental Final Environmental Impact Report or SSFEIR) to address five key concerns raised earlier this year by Energy and Environmental Secretary Matthew Beaton in response to Wynn’s earlier filing of its SFEIR – which was required last year by the previous secretary primarily to deal with traffic concerns in Charlestown. The remainder of the environmental permitting has been approved for Wynn, but the five key points addressed in last week’s filing are the only barrier left in what is a major milestone for the development and the last chance for regulators and the public to officially add requirements and comments.

The 1,053-page filing is mostly made up of comment letters and exhibits as part of analysis – as well as some very informative maps about how the resort will be laid out and how its immediate customer and service access points will work.

The real meat of the filing, however, lies within three areas.

They are traffic in Sullivan Square, an analysis of the controversial Everett MBTA land deal, and a newly structured subsidy for the MBTA’s Orange Line.

First and foremost, Wynn updated Beaton upon their efforts to convene a long-term planning process for Sullivan Square and Rutherford Avenue by sparking a meeting of many regional stakeholders – as required by Beaton in the previous filing. Wynn said the process had been going well, including a scheduled meeting on June 1 that was led by Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack. At that meeting, the filing listed that City officials from Everett, Somerville, and Malden, as well as several state and local agencies were in attendance and offering suggestions.

A healthy suggestion identified from that meeting was the use of a third party facilitator to further the planning process and to reconcile traffic data numbers coming from the various stakeholders.

A major player at the table, however, was not there. That player was Boston, and its absence is listed as an ongoing impediment to getting the long-term process going.

“As the SFEIR Certificate observes, the long-term planning process is dependent on the active and constructive participation by all of the participants,” read the filing. “At this juncture, the City of Boston has declined to participate thereby thwarting the efforts of the Secretary of Transportation and the stakeholders to advance the planning process. Notwithstanding, following the filing of this SSFEIR, the Proponent remains willing to meet with, or without, the City of Boston to advance the planning process and will continue to reach out to the City of Boston and other stakeholders and interested community members .”

The filing detailed that Boston has indicated that due to ongoing litigation with the Mass Gaming Commission (MGC) in relation to Wynn’s license, they could not participate. Wynn’s filing indicated company representatives had two meetings in June with Mayor Martin Walsh and his legal counsel to suggest ways to allow Boston Transportation Department (BTD) representatives to participate in the long-term process without hindering the legal proceedings. A method was apparently laid out for that to happen, but Boston has been mute on the plan up to now.

“Following the meeting, the Proponent sent an e-mail to the Mayor’s counsel proposing an agreement that would enable all stakeholders, including the City of Boston, to participate in the meetings without compromising their respective claims,” read the filing. “The Proponent did not receive a response to this e-mail.”

Another piggy-back on the traffic issue in the filing is the implementation of short-term traffic solutions in Sullivan Square, which are required to be in place before the opening of the casino. Those short-term fixes will cost $10.9 million and come after a good deal of discussion with Boston and other stakeholders.

Wynn’s filing contends that the short-term fixes will prevent traffic from getting worse, and will actually improve some intersections and reduce wait times at others.

“All of the study area intersections are improved during the Friday a.m. peak hour,” read the filing, noting that the morning rush was looked at rather than the afternoon rush. “The only signalized intersection in Sullivan Square, Main Street/Maffa Way/Cambridge Street/Alford Street will be significantly improved by the implementation of the improvements…These improvements will provide short-term relief to the existing traffic situation while the cities of Boston, Everett, and Somerville, MassDOT, and the Proponent work together toward a long-term solution for Sullivan Square.”

The Main Street/Maffa Way/Cambridge/Alford Street intersection would not be improved, but delays in the Friday a.m. rush would decrease by 35 seconds. On eastbound Maffa Way, the intersection grading would not improve, but delays would be 45 seconds less. Alford Street southbound is listed as having delays reduced by 62 seconds.

The I-93 northbound offramp intersection would actually improve in grading from an ‘E’ grade to a ‘C’ grade.

A lot of that has to do with the changes to the bus operations and the Sullivan Square Station as part of MBTA mitigation measures.

That plan calls for a signal and exit way to be installed opposite the offramp for buses only. The only buses using that exit would be those traveling west to Somerville. Additionally, the current closed-off busway opposite Spice Street would become a public street called Beacham Street Extension – allowing drivers a left turn prior to the circle.

All buses would enter on Maffa Way at its furthest western point. Those buses would enter on the upper level of the busway and circle around to the lower level and exit onto Maffa Way next to the new bus entrance. That would be for all buses, except those heading west to Somerville, which would exit at the new signal opposite the I-93 offramp.

Another big piece of the filing is dedicated to the land deal with the MBTA that allows Wynn to have a new access point that is all in Everett on Lower Broadway, as well as a service road for the casino and the MBTA Repair Yard facility that begins near the current McDonald’s in Everett.

The filing details the genesis of the idea which began in 2013 for the access road and was increased in 2014 to include land for the service road and MBTA mandated improvements.

“As described above, the Proponent and the MBTA had extended discussions, commencing in February 2013, involving different options for the purchase and sale of portions of the MBTA Everett Shops property,” read the filing. “An integral part of those discussions was the MBTA’s non-negotiable position that no land could be sold which would inhibit any of the operations within the MBTA Shops. Those discussions culminated in an offer to purchase submitted by the Proponent on August 26, 2014, and accepted by the MBTA that same day, under the signature of Secretary Davey.”

The filing detailed that the land has been put in escrow and the transfer to Wynn from last February negated and contingent upon Secretary Beaton’s certificate. The $6 million payment from Wynn for the land has also been put in escrow and the land conveyance can be terminated. The filing refuted the allegation going around lately that there had been secret negotiations and that there hadn’t been a public bidding process. The bidding process was outlined in the filing and all steps taken were backed up with documentation. The fact that it was conveyed prior to the conclusion of the environmental permitting process was chalked up to confusion between the MBTA and the state DOT. The transfer was supposed to be executed with a contingency regarding a successful rewarding of an environmental certificate, Wynn contended.

The new configurations at the MBTA yard could be required to go through a separate environmental process, if Beaton requires it, and Wynn spelled out every change that has been proposed in regards to the access point and the service road.

“The Proponent will provide mitigation for the impact to the MBTA Everett Shops,” read the filing. “The Proponent will construct the relocated entrance to the MBTA Everett Shops… The relocated entrance will include a new gatehouse as well as a layover area east of the entrance to allow a vehicle to wait in the event that multiple larger vehicles arrive at the MBTA Everett Shops at the same time. In addition, the Proponent will construct a new service road for its facility to which the MBTA will be granted an access easement for use 365 days a year, 24 hours per day. The service road will be constructed with a layover area, which can be used by either the Proponent or the MBTA to stage larger delivery vehicles prior to their entrance to either the Proponent’s loading area or the MBTA Everett Shops loading area. The Proponent will also construct a new loading dock for the MBTA Everett Shops use.”

It will be Beaton’s call as to what will be the remedy for the land transfer and the access plans when he issues his letter on the SSFEIR later this summer.

The final meat in the filing is in regard to a subsidy for the Orange Line.

Wynn and the MBTA are proposing to add extra trains (six cars per train at a cost of $210 per train) at four key peak periods where demand exceeds service. Those times are weekdays (southbound) between 9-10 a.m., weeknights (northbound) between 7-8 p.m., weeknights (northbound) between 8-9 p.m., and Saturday (southbound) between noon and 1 p.m.

“Mitigating train capacity impacts is accomplished by adding additional train sets in the impacted hour, which allows the MBTA to reduce headways (time between trains) in that hour, carrying more passengers than the current headways,” read the filing. “As trains run as whole trains, the Proponent would fund an entire additional train set (six cars in the case of the Orange Line) in the impacted hours, not just a hypothetical portion of a train set required to carry the number of trips causing the overcapacity condition.”

The overall cost – minus increased fares from the addition – in today’s dollars would be $271,700 per year. An additional measure would help to fund late-night service at a cost of $109,200 per year, bringing the total annual subsidy to $380,900. By the opening of the casino in 2018, that would climb to $410,188 per year. By the 15th year, in 2032, it would be $579,584 per year. Over 15 years, the subsidy from Wynn to the Orange Line would total $7.355 million.

The final and longest portion of the filing includes detailed responses to numerous questions from numerous state agencies, municipal officials, private companies and private individuals (including Charlestown’s Lynn Levesque). Many of the comments are multi-pronged, and the BTD alone had 16 individual concerns that were answered in that portion of the filing.

A 30-day comment period on the filing is now underway, and Secretary Beaton is expected to issue his findings later this summer.