Wynn Community Meeting With Engaged Charlestown Proves Productive, Useful

Wynn Resorts officials revealed that the most current traffic counts for Sullivan Square and Rutherford Avenue showed the casino project would generate around 523 new trips during peak hours – a 15 percent increase – during an extensive meeting at Bunker Hill Community College Wednesday night with residents that covered five critical topics regarding the project.

Wynn Resorts officials met with Charlestown residents within a newly formed organization Wednesday night dubbed Engaged Charlestown Residents for three hours to prove that it had “skin in the game” and to begin engaging with the community.

Some 60 residents came out to hear the presentation – a figure that was slightly hampered by the cold and snow – but it didn’t squash the enthusiasm of the crowd. Many residents had questions about the general project, the mitigation, problem gaming – and most importantly – traffic.

Organizer Lynne Levesque and State Rep. Dan Ryan said the meeting was to begin engaging with Wynn in the absence of a strong City of Boston presence – which is said to be hampered by the lawsuit against the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC).

“I promise you I have not gone over to the dark side,” said Levesque, who is against gaming, with a laugh. “I have promised [them] I won’t ever step foot in the Wynn Resort…However, we are here tonight because our big goal is to bring Charlestown together with one voice tow work with Wynn regarding their project.”

Said Ryan, “I know Mayor Walsh and I know he’s fighting for Charlestown. There is a lawsuit…Absent of that mechanism of the City’s organizing, we need to start having conversations.”

That’s exactly what they did.

Most of the energy came at the end of the meeting when short-term traffic plans were unveiled – plans that will come out in more detail later this month when final environmental reports are filed with the state.

Wynn Everett President Bob DeSalvio unveiled about eight key pieces to the short-term plan, which is separate and apart from the long-term plan that will be directed by the City of Boston Transportation Department (BTD) after the casino opens.

  • Wynn will pay for the Sullivan Square intersection to be hooked into the BTD Command Center, which is able to control lights and signals at more than 200 citywide intersections. The intersection is currently not hooked into that crucial system.
  • Two dedicated right-turn lanes will be configured off of the I-93 ramp. Currently, only one land turns right and the other turns left – though many illegally jump the requirement.
  • A light is potentially proposed for Spice and Cambridge Streets and vehicle headed to Rutherford Avenue would be encouraged to use Spice Street and D Street as an alternative. Wynn officials said about 16 percent of the traffic headed through the Square could be diverted through this change. Wynn would pay to resurface the road, improve sidewalks and clean up the area.
  • Better pedestrian access and sidewalks throughout the Square.
  • Wynn would straighten out the intersection at Main Street, eliminating the jog, and providing better landscaping there as well.
  • The middle portion of Sullivan Square would be completely landscaped and beautified.

“We want to clean up that entire area,” DeSalvio said.

  • Wynn would reconfigure the Bus Depot/T Station, first and foremost making the extension street where buses queue a public street for cars to use. Within that, the station would be reconfigured to have buses circulate in a clockwise fashion that would have them crossing Maffa Way to get to the upper levels. The station area would be a major area to keep cars and buses out of the circle.
  • Increase lighting, streetscape improvements and improve the overall walking experience.

Other plans for transportation included having a world-class water shuttle, a Premium Motorcoach service from Logan, a ZipCar on site, a Hubway bicycle facility on site, employee/patron shuttles from the T and an employee parking lot off-site near the New England Produce Market on Beacham Street in Everett.

Many questions were asked about the plan, and residents said the discussion was extremely helpful to them understanding what is intended to be done in the short term. Those short term fixes – which came with a great deal of input from BTD and the state DOT – are to be paid for with Wynn’s $10 million commitment to short-term fixes in Sullivan Square.

DeSalvio said it is a conceptual plan and could be changed after discussion and public input.

Meanwhile, a great deal of time was also spent on the long-term solution for Charlestown.

Wynn explained that they were not leading that process, nor were they paying for it all. However, they detailed that they were contributing anywhere from $25 million to $45 million over 10 years to those improvements and would have a seat at the table and the will to get it done.

City Councillor Sal LaMattina said he wondered why Wynn wasn’t paying for the entire long-term solution rather than just contributing.

DeSalvio was emphatic in saying they were committed and it was a problem that has existed long before Wynn and is a problem much greater than Wynn.

“I have to tell you I believe Wynn is doing its fair share as part of the long-term solution,” he said. “There’s no other developer I know of that has put money into Sullivan Square and that includes Assembly Row. We’re here; we’re real and we have skin in the game – $25 million at a minimum and maybe $45 million in the end.”

One resident said she didn’t know whether or not the $2 million penalty for exceeding car counts (a program that could increase the mitigation from $4.1 million per year to $6 million per year) was enough.

“When you have impacts that exist, then you have impacts and they affect us,” she said. “It’s not like you’re giving the $2 million to me.”

DeSalvio further elaborated on the long-term topic, saying they are ready to have a major seat at the table and to pay for their part of the program.

“We want our guests to have a five-star experience and that doesn’t include being stuck in traffic,” he said. “We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work. We’re also standing by with a checkbook. It’s time for action. That’s going to take elected officials, us and the community coming together. It’s a City of Boston project. We’re going to participate in it and pay for part of it. We’d love to have a seat at the table, but it’s a situation that’s bigger than just Wynn Resorts.”

Another major topic with a great deal of interest was how the contaminated site would be cleaned up.

Jamie Fay of Fort Point Associates explained how – as has been a concern – that trucks shipping out the contaminants would be sealed. Most of the contaminates are located in three locations – with two having been contaminated by arsenic and heavy metals and a third having been contaminated by the making of sulfuric acid.

The site was the former long-time home of the Monsanto Chemical Company.

Prior to its industrial use, Fay said it had been an oyster farm used by the owners of the Union Oyster House for producing shellfish to be served in the historic Boston restaurant.

Fay said materials would go into trucks in ziplock-type sealed bags or in completely sealed trucks.

“The contaminated soils will not be in open trucks like some dump truck you might see driving around,” he said.

He could not say yet, however, what route the trucks would be taking. He said it depends on what sites are chosen for disposal as to what route would be taken.

That, he said, would be determined within the next six months when bids begin going out for construction and site mitigation.

In the end, the group agreed to have many more meetings, to split up by topic to have bigger discussion.

Wynn agreed to station an employee from the development team with office hours in Charlestown at a location to be determined.

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