Healey Takes on Wynn Casino Traffic

Massachusetts AG backed by Boston Mayor Walsh on call for new, independent review of gridlock concerns

 Traffic north of Boston seized up for hours Tuesday morning after a tractor trailer filled with scrap metal flipped over in Sullivan Square – just a few hundred yards from where Steve Wynn wants to build a $1.7 billion casino.

It came just as Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey called on Wynn to pay for a new round of fully independent, state-overseen reviews of the traffic impacts the Everett casino could have – and to Healey, the truck wreck “shows us what we already know, which is that this is a highly congested, highly dangerous area.’’

As first reported by The Boston Globe, Healey is urging the state to require to Wynn to pay for a whole new round of truly independent studies –- ideally, conducted by the state’s Central Transportation Planning Staff or a consultant picked by the state, not Wynn – to allay the concerns Wynn hasn’t been able to allay for months with environmental regulators and Boston officials. Namely, can this notoriously snarled area along Route 99, with a chronically backed up off-ramp from Interstate 93 northbound, possibly survive the addition of thousands of new casino-bound vehicles?

“Wynn has come forward and studied some things, but in my view, it's just not adequate, because it doesn't account for the very real traffic impact and the reality of the traffic situation that is 93 and Sullivan Square,’’ said Healey, who makes her residence in Charlestown but insisted she is speaking as a statewide official representing the tens of thousands of Bay Staters who commutes through the area daily. “We have really serious concerns about the impact that this is going to have on traffic, on the public, on public transit, public safety.’’

Wynn Resorts, in a statement, said: “For 19 months we have diligently followed the detailed and robust [environmental impact review] filing process. After extensive studies and analysis reviewed by numerous state agencies -- as well as draft, final, supplementary and secondary supplementary reports -- we believe we are prepared to move forward with our $1.7 billion construction project, which will bring 4,000 permanent jobs and 4,000 union construction jobs. Every month our project is delayed also postpones $22.3 million in taxes a month to the Commonwealth and local communities.’’

Wynn aides contend what Healey is asking for and they are pursuing exactly the same process for getting environmental review as Assembly Row in Somerville, University Station in Westwood, Seaport Square in Boston, and other very large projects anticipated to generate significant traffic. Standard operating practice, they say, is for the developer to pay for a reputable traffic engineer whose findings are reviewed and critiqued by project opponents and state regulators.

Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office regulators have, however, twice ordered Wynn to re-do parts of his environmental submissions and still haven’t approved anything final. Wynn, who had said he expected to be done with MEPA approvals by December, now has no fixed estimate of when its environmental submissions will be deemed adequate and approved.

State Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said: “The environmental impact study process is extremely thorough, requiring public study and full public disclosure for all large projects and we intend to hold every developer, including Wynn Resorts to this stringent process. We welcome commentary from all potentially affected parties, especially from community members to ensure issues like traffic mitigation are appropriately addressed.”

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh has sued to have the Gaming Commission’s award of the casino license to Wynn thrown out and the eastern Massachusetts casino re-bid. He’s cited a raft of allegations of favoritism, chicanery, and lawbreaking by commissioners, which the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and Wynn wholly deny.

Tuesday afternoon, Walsh said: “I don’t think the studies have been adequate. I think there's been a lot of misinformation and misinterpretation.’’

Walsh said he welcomes Healey getting involved. “I think the fact that it's a new voice in the argument, a new voice in the discussion, I think sometimes maybe sometime's that's what we need in this thing to have another voice, or a third party, because clearly we're not getting to where we need to get to with the way it's being run now."

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