Can traffic around Sullivan Square get any worse?
Long-suffering Charlestown, Everett, and Somerville neighborhoods are about to find out with the opening of Encore Boston Harbor this summer. The $2.6 billion casino is expected to be a giant tourist magnet, and some of its strongest opposition came from residents worried it would tip congestion from awful to unbearable.
The resort owner, Wynn Resorts, plans to offer an array of transportation alternatives to lure visitors out of their cars, which it says will be outlined on its website soon. That’s step one. Then the company should market those alternatives aggressively — and expand them once the casino opens.
Encore needs to get the word out to gamblers and other patrons that they’re planning to run free shuttle buses from the Wellington and Malden Stations on the Orange Line every 10 minutes. It will also offer another free service, which it’s calling a neighborhood runner, through Everett, with service every 20 minutes. Both buses will operate 24/7. And the city of Everett is joining Bluebikes, the bike-share system, with the casino getting a new station.
The casino will also offer a water taxi from the Seaport and the Financial District, running every 20-30 minutes at a price of $7. And it’ll run luxury buses from parking lots in Millbury, Rockland, and Londonderry, N.H.
Not enough choices? Nautical visitors can pull up at the casino’s dock (drop-offs only). And the truly intrepid can walk from the Sullivan station on the Orange Line: The company paid for improvements around Sullivan Square that it claims have made the once-harrowing pedestrian experience on Route 99 downright pleasant.
There’s no direct shuttle to the airport, but VIPs — apparently you know who you are — can expect to be picked up gratis at Logan airport by Encore’s limo fleet, which will also be available (at a price) for the hoi polloi.
Hopefully, if the company makes a strong effort to drive visitors to transit options, they’ll be enough to avert total gridlock.
But in the long term, the casino needs a more seamless connection to the T — and a planned bridge across the Mystic River to the Orange Line’s Assembly station could provide it.
The bridge would put the casino within about a five-minute walk of the T, while also providing a key connection in the region’s bike-trail network. Wynn Resorts has paid for the planning for the bridge, which is now undergoing environmental review, but the source of construction funding remains undetermined. The company has been coy about whether it’s willing to pay for the bridge itself but, considering its benefits to the casino, Wynn should want to pony up some more money. The estimated bill: over $30 million.
Even longer term, the Newburyport-Rockport Line commuter rail tracks run right next to the casino, which could be a site for a station. According to Wynn Resorts spokesman Michael Weaver, the casino was built in such a way as to leave that option available, with space that could be turned into an entrance facing a station. “We would support a project that would help bring as many people to the resort without having to drive a vehicle,” he said.
Way back in 2013 — before fights over land deals, before litigation over the licensing process, before the scandal involving cofounder Steve Wynn that resulted in a fine of $35.5 million and extra conditions on the Encore license from the Gaming Commission — the main objections to the planned Everett casino revolved around traffic. Here’s a chance for the company to prove its critics wrong.