This is an excerpt from Are we there yet?, a Globe Opinion newsletter about the future of transportation in the region. Sign up to get it in your inbox a day early.
Remember a decade ago, when the Everett casino was supposed to bring traffic to a standstill?
Adding more cars would stress the highway system and “push it right over the edge,” former transportation secretary Fred Salvucci warned Globe columnist Scot Lehigh in 2015.
The developer, Wynn Resorts, agreed to run water taxis, subsidize Orange Line service, improve local roads — all to prevent cars carrying casino patrons from paralyzing the area where Charlestown, Somerville, and Everett meet. The casino even has a dock for boaters and a BlueBike station, and a pedestrian bridge is in the works.
The mitigation worked. Or, maybe, the fears were overblown in the first place. Either way, Everett is now seeking a second megaproject in the same Lower Broadway area that was allegedly incapable of absorbing the first. That would be the soccer stadium proposed for an industrial site across the street from the casino, which got a boost in the Legislature last week.
Critics have focused their concerns on the process, and the deal is now on hold with the rest of the Legislature’s supplemental budget.
Here’s my question: Assuming the project goes forward, how are all those people going to get to soccer games? The casino might not have overwhelmed the area, but surely there is some saturation point beyond which roads really will gridlock. Also, visitors to the casino are spread out across the day; soccer fans will all presumably be coming and going from Everett at about the same time.
As part of the proposed deal, the soccer stadium would have only 75 parking spaces. But that doesn’t mean fans won’t drive anyway and park nearby, especially if there’s no good alternative.
The site has an interesting transit history: The Orange Line once actually ended in Everett, right about where the casino is now and close to where the soccer stadium would be built. According to the Globe coverage in 1919, that station was not envisioned as an end point and it was expected to continue underground. That didn’t happen. In the ‘70s the T abandoned service to Everett and extended the Orange Line north through Medford to Oak Grove instead.
And for decades, there wouldn’t have been any reason to regret that decision: That area of the Everett waterfront was a derelict industrial wasteland.
Rebuilding a connection to the Orange Line is probably not very realistic. But commuter rail trains also run right next to the casino, and a spokesperson for Wynn told the Globe in 2019 that the site was designed to accommodate a future commuter rail station. Everett has also been keen on expanding the Silver Line into the city.
Asked about how the city would deal with so much additional traffic, Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria had this to say, via a spokesperson: “I have been advocating for years for the Commonwealth to expand public transit options because Everett residents deserve the same level of access that all our surrounding communities already enjoy.”
With the 75-spot limit proposed for the stadium, and other environmental review work being conducted to support a proposed expansion of casino-related facilities, “sufficient leverage should be created to finally cause MassDOT and the MBTA to bring more viable public transit options to the area, including the completion of the pedestrian bridge across the Mystic River to Assembly Row, the Silver Line Extension, and commuter rail service that will benefit Everett as well as our neighboring communities,” DeMaria said.
Stadium or no stadium, sooner or later something is going to replace the decrepit old power plant that’s on the site now. The rebirth of the Everett waterfront as an entertainment district could be a truly remarkable urban turnaround. But the transit system needs to keep pace with that transformation.
Alan Wirzbicki is Globe deputy editor for editorials. He can be reached at email@example.com.