Most everyone believed that the latter half of 2019 would be marred with gridlock 24 hours a day from City Square to The Neck following the opening of Encore Boston Harbor resort casino.
For years, meeting after meeting addressed the inevitable tie-ups that already exist and would be made impossible by the addition of the casino.
But, astoundingly, 90 days after the casino opened its doors – and with some pretty impressive financial numbers generated – the traffic has yet to appear with any regularity, or really at all.
Few could have predicted that Encore would open and there would barely be a blip on the screen of the traffic situation in Charlestown, but it has been the case.
The Boston Transportation Department (BTD) said this week that they have monitored the opening carefully and serious traffic issues associated with the casino have been limited. BTD said that was mainly because of the extraordinary planning that was done beforehand with so many stakeholders to arrange for alternate transportation methods – which patrons have been using with regularity.
BTD said with the fall upon us and school back in session, they would continue to monitor traffic into and out of the area, making adjustments as necessary to improve the flow of traffic on Charlestown streets.
State Rep. Dan Ryan agreed that advanced planning has helped, but also that the casino has helped traffic get better. Ryan was one of the first in the neighborhood to back the casino because of the commitment made to improving the long-neglected infrastructure of the Town.
This week he said despite the missing gridlock, residents should continue to fight for improvements.
“You have to give credit where it’s due,” he said. “The Encore engineers, along with the BTD and other municipal agencies within the region worked long and hard to ensure the resort would open with as little impact as possible on the surrounding communities, especially Charlestown. I thank Mayor Walsh and his team for staying on task as well as Secretary Pollack and MassDOT for their leadership during this first stage. But, the biggest ‘thank you’ needs to go to the hundreds of Charlestown residents that attended meetings, made suggestions and stayed informed. There is a ton of infrastructure work that still needs to be done around the neighborhood. If we remain vigilant and patient will one day have the modern infrastructure we have long deserved.”
Councilor Lydia Edwards said the traffic has not increased because of the casino.
“So far so normal,” she said. “We still have traffic issues but so far the casino hasn’t made them worse.”
At this month’s Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) meeting, Encore officials said the big story of their opening was the lack of traffic and gridlock – despite the financial success so far of the resort.
He said from day one, the resort has failed to produce the gridlock that was predicted for many years, and at the same time the resort’s gaming numbers are showing strong. While many predicted that traffic would pick up after Labor Day, that also has not panned out.
DeSalvio said he was very proud to report that fact to the MGC, which worked painstakingly with Encore, law enforcement and other stakeholders for months to plan out an opening transportation plan.
“The big news is there was no traffic issues,” he said proudly. “I know how much time we spent preparing for this. It was really well executed…As we approach our 90 days of opening, there are certainly no issues.”
The major reason, he said, is that the Encore rush hour does not coincide with the commuter rush hour.
“In the morning, we do not collide at all with the commuter hour,” he said. “I can tell you with 100 percent certainty our customers are not coming at 7 a.m. They come more around 11 a.m.”
The same is true for the evening, he said, in that the Boston crowd has chosen to come to the facility later at night than they expected during the planning.
“The real pleasant surprise is the night crowd is coming later that we thought,” he said. “It’s starting to build up at 9 a.m. or 10 a.m. That doesn’t conflict with the commuter hour at all.”
He said they are continuing to promote the casino and hope to make Encore “Greater Boston’s hometown casino.”
“We are still in the ramp-up mode,” he said. “We are working very hard to be Greater Boston’s hometown casino. We are working to introduce our casino to thousands of players that might have gone to other regional resorts. Repatriation is working. We have players from the nearby areas that are enjoying their hometown casino.”
He said they are also now starting to ramp up their international customers, a huge base of players and tourists that the state banked on Wynn bringing to the region.
“They are already starting to come,” he said, noting that the company hasn’t yet made a huge marketing effort towards that international customer base.