The Encore Boston Harbor team has been working diligently in the Sullivan Square area for months, and this week they said they should be done with the MBTA station by November.
The changes are part of the casino’s commitments to off-site, short-term transportation improvements that are to be completed by the opening date of June 24, 2019. A longer-term traffic plan to improve the area is still in the planning stages with Encore, the state and many other stakeholders.
Al Carrier of Wynn Design and Development said they have been focusing their efforts primarily this year on finishing major improvements to the bus berths at the Station. “We hope to be out of the MBTA station by the end of November,” he said. “The plan is to button up all the work in the station by then.”
Encore has developed and designed a plan with the MBTA to add new bus berths and a two-, sometimes three-lane internal bus turnaround. That new configuration allows buses to travel inside the station, stop for breaks and pick up passengers without having to enter into a City Street. It also allows the new connecter road – which was a bus-only road before – to be open for traffic going northbound from Cambridge and Spice Streets.
At the same time, they have added three new traffic lights on Maffa Way and Beacham streets just north of the Station. Those lights have experienced some problems in their first go-around, but Carrier said he believes they are working well now.
“For standard practice, we put up a signal and have it blinking for a while,” he said. “Then you turn it one when you figure out the configuration. One day the power went out and it caused it to blink…They are now operating. They are on sensors, and when cars go over the sensors, it picks up the metal in the engine and it lets the signal know cars are queuing up and it needs to override to green. They are working now. They had some kinks at first, but I’ve observed them working well now.”
One misconception, he said, is the temporary lights put up going northbound on Alford Street are part of the Encore project.
“Those are not our lights; they are part of the Alford Street Bridge project,” he said.
Another light at Spice and Cambridge Street is going up, but probably won’t be functional until next spring.
That is also the case for the Spice/D Street connector that many believe will help keep traffic out of the Circle. He said they have found some obstacles underground when trying to put in the new drainage system there, so that will likely have to be buttoned up in the spring season.
Meanwhile, they will be paving the City and MBTA parking lots this year before the end of November.
“We’ll do as much as we can this year, and the rest we’ll handle as soon as we can in the spring because we do need to be done before we open,” he said.
Another improvement won’t even be seen, but for those behind the wheel or on a bike, it will be felt – and hopefully in a big way, Carrier said..
That change is the coordination of traffic signals with the Boston Transportation Monitoring Center (TMC) using a Boston Transportation Department (BTD) “interconnect.” From Sweetser Circle in Everett through Sullivan Square and Rutherford Avenue and into Boston City Hall, all of the intersections will be coordinated and surveillance cameras will allow the BTD to monitor all of those intersections from their TMC.
Everett and Boston have worked together and agreed to allow Boston to be in charge of the “eyes” on the corridor as it is so closely linked. That way, if there is a major backup in Everett or Boston – a quick override of the new smart signals can help relieve the congestion manually.
“Once we get around the Mystic River, it will go all the way up to Sweetser Circle in Everett and will control all of that corridor,” Carrier said. “We’ll have video there and it will all funnel into the Boston TMC. That will give them eyes on the whole corridor. There are conversations with Everett and Boston are happening, and they’ve agreed to let the BTD have their fingers on the controls to make whatever changes are necessary to the signals on the corridor.”
With interconnected lights and the eyes from Boston City Hall, it is believed that the corridor will become much more efficient in moving traffic.