Boston and State Transportation Officials Clash on Permit for Wynn Casino
The heads of MassDOT and the Boston Transportation Department filed two very different sounding letters on the Wynn casino project with the state Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
In one corner, Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack sounded her approval for a crucial permit for the $1.7 billion Everett casino, saying in her letter that the project’s transportation proposals “adequately addressed the issues ” facing the congested Sullivan Square area.
Pollack pointed to Wynn’s $7.4 million 15-year commitment to subsidize Orange Line service in the area, its plans for access to the casino, inclusion of the popular Hubway program on the property, and its proposed water shuttle service between the casino and two points on the Boston waterfront as sufficient planning.
Still, a long term regional planning effort that “unlocks” the $25 million from Wynn for mitigation in the area is what Pollack thinks is best for the health of Sullivan Square.
“We believe that these longer-term issues are best addressed through a regional working group, and MassDOT is ready either to convene or participate in such an effort. We believe that such a regional working group could address all of the transportation issues associated with the impact of the casino and other planned development,” said Pollack in her letter.
In the other corner, Boston Transportation Department Secretary Gina Fiandaca blasted the project’s request for approval.
“(Wynn’s) previous filings do not provide sufficient data for the MEPA Office to determine whether its proposal mitigates anticipated project impacts,” said Fiandaca in her letter.
Fiandaca said the project and the traffic it will bring does not jibe with the city’s longterm vision for the Sullivan Square area, citing city planing documents for the area that were drawn up in 1997 and 1999. The plans envision a radical redesign of the area with the elimination of the nightmarish rotary and implementation of a walkable grid street pattern.
“The city’s plans will not accommodate traffic from Wynn’s proposed casino project,” said Fiandaca.
Fiandaca said that the Wynn filings do not include a long-term mitigation plan for Sullivan Square, something that not only fails to meet the requirements of MEPA, but of the state Gaming Act.
Last week, Attorney Genera Maura Healey, a Charlestown resident and casino opponent, urged the state to not award the permit to Wynn.
Boston and Wynn have not had a friendly relationship since Wynn was awarded the lone eastern Massachusetts casino license last fall. Boston is in the middle of suing the Massachusetts Gaming Commission for awarding the license to Wynn.
The permit, known as a Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act, or MEPA, permit. is required for an important land deal between Wynn and the MBTA for 1.75 acres.
Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matt Beaton is expected make a decision on the MEPA permit this week.