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Neighboring cities wary of Everett casino traffic

Artist’s rendering of the Wynn casino proposed in Everett. Wynn Everett

The state’s decision to award Wynn Resorts a license to build a $1.6 billion casino in Everett is drawing sharply different reactions from the leaders of nearby cities, with potential effects on traffic a key focus of discussion.

The state Gaming Commission on Tuesday ended the high stakes tug-of-war for the one Greater Boston casino license by choosing Nevada-based Wynn Resorts over Mohegan Sun, which proposed a casino on the Revere side of the Suffolk Downs racetrack.

Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone, an outspoken opponent of casinos and of the expanded gambling law, said he was disappointed though not surprised by the state action.

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“The process failed and the Gaming Commission voted despite not having the answers to all the serious, outstanding questions [about the Wynn plan],” he said. “This is the consequence of a fundamentally flawed piece of legislation that allows one community — Everett — to make a decision that impacts an entire region.”

Curtatone said that traffic issues regarding Sullivan Square, which the commission insisted Wynn address before awarding the license last week, have not been resolved. “The commission called for a modest funding increase from Wynn instead of demanding real solutions to real issues,” he said.

Malden Mayor Gary Christenson, who backed the Wynn plan, said he was “happy the decision was made and that it was for our sister city, Everett.”

Christenson cited the benefits that will flow to Malden from the mammoth development, including those spelled out in the surrounding community agreement signed with Wynn. That deal includes commitments to provide Malden with $1 million in upfront payments and $1 million in annual payments.

“What impressed me most about Wynn aside from their proposal was their willingness to get involved with the community,” Christenson said. “They have held a toy drive for homeless families in Malden, they sponsored our summer concert series, and were a participant in our Latino festival [last weekend].”

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Wynn officials said the project will create more than 4,000 permanent jobs and 3,700 construction jobs.

The Everett casino would be built on a polluted former Monsanto chemical plant site on the Mystic River behind the Gateway Center shopping plaza. Routes 16 and 99 are the closest traffic arteries to the site.

Hayes Morrison, Somerville’s director of transportation and infrastructure, said the city is facing major traffic changes because of the project.

Noting that about two-thirds of the predicted 25,000 daily vehicle trips to and from the casino would go through the already overburdened Sullivan Square in Charlestown — and that three of the roads from the square lead directly into Somerville — she said the project would add to congestion and send cars onto local streets.

The state has invested significant sums in the “redevelopment potential of Somerville and the traffic in Sullivan Square has the potential of devaluing that investment,” she said, noting in particular the adverse effects the project could have on the Assembly Row development, across the river from the casino via the Wellington Bridge.

The increased traffic also could jeopardize the success of the Union Square redevelopment, said Morrison, who called Wynn’s plans for addressing the traffic issues at Sullivan Square “extremely vague.”

A state arbitration panel appointed after Somerville and Wynn failed to come to terms on a surrounding community agreement ruled in favor of Wynn. The deal includes commitments by Wynn to make $650,000 in annual payments to the city and to carry out upgrades at six intersections. The agreement also notes the company’s commitment to help fund improvements to Sullivan Square.

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Medford Mayor Michael J. McGlynn said he was not surprised by the license award, noting: “The Wynn team from the beginning showed that they had the money and the ability to build a big complex.”

“For us, either casino is going to create some problems in terms of the traffic,” said Mc-Glynn, whose city has been principally concerned with the potential of increased tie-ups at Wellington Circle in Medford, less than a mile away from the Everett casino site via Route 16.

McGlynn said he was encouraged that Wynn Resorts has committed to funding up to $1.5 million to help design improvements to Wellington Circle. He noted Wynn will provide the city with $1 million a year as part of its surrounding community agreement.

Chelsea City Manager Jay Ash said by e-mail that he was “very disappointed about the decision, because I felt like the Mohegan Sun proposal was the strongest for our region. The outward approach Mohegan took to both their site and how their business would interact with surrounding communities has been far superior to how Wynn has seemingly focused inward.”

He said Chelsea’s agreement with Mohegan Sun also was much more beneficial, offering $2.5 million in annual payments to the city compared with the $650,000 Wynn would provide. As with Somerville, Wynn’s mitigation plan was determined by an arbitrator.

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Winthrop Town Manager Jim McKenna said the Wynn proposal “poses some of the same traffic and congestion issues that we would see with Suffolk Downs. . . . Obviously, we want the commission to ensure all those transportation issues are very much addressed.”


John Laidler can be reached at laidler@globe.com.