2 casino firms make gains with regulators
Tunnel issues a concern for Mohegan
The two companies vying for a Greater Boston casino license are both making progress in winning state environmental and transportation approvals for their projects, but some potentially serious transportation issues remain unresolved.
One area of concern for Mohegan Sun, which wants to build a casino in Revere at the Suffolk Downs racetrack, is the Ted Williams Tunnel in Boston. State transportation officials say Mohegan Sun’s environmental impact analysis indicates eastbound traffic through the Ted Williams Tunnel will operate at LOS F even if nothing is built at Suffolk Downs. LOS stands for level of service and is an indication of traffic flow; F is the worst grade possible, with volume exceeding capacity. Building a casino in Revere would increase traffic eastbound in the tunnel by nearly 10 percent, according to the Mohegan Sun analysis.
The Ted Williams Tunnel, which runs from South Boston under the harbor to Logan Airport, opened in 1995 as part of the Big Dig. The Big Dig was intended to alleviate traffic congestion in Boston, but the Mohegan Sun analysis suggests the Ted Williams Tunnel is already nearing capacity a decade after opening.
State transportation officials told Mohegan Sun that solutions to the traffic congestion in the Ted Williams Tunnel are limited, but urged Mohegan Sun to work with state and city of Boston officials “to identify non-physical improvements that would lessen the impacts associated with the project.” They noted Mohegan Sun had suggested a number of ideas to lessen congestion at the entrance to the Ted Williams Tunnel eastbound.
State environmental officials rejected the final environmental impact report submitted by Wynn Resorts, but Wynn officials said the decision was largely good news. The state decision raises a large number of specific transit and traffic issues that need to be addressed, but the company was given a green light on most other environmental issues related to its proposed casino in Everett.
State transportation officials, in a letter to Wynn, also indicated they were receptive to selling two small parcels of land owned by the MBTA to the casino operator for use as the entrance to the Everett site. “While no agreement on these parcels has been finalized, should the proponent ultimately receive a casino license from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, the MBTA will negotiate the possible sale of this property consistent with all relevant requirements related to the disposition of public property,” state transportation officials said in the letter.
Mohegan Sun’s report to the state did not just analyze the environmental impact of building a casino in Revere, but also included a similar analysis for two commercial development options at Suffolk Downs, one using existing zoning rules and a second requiring a special permit from Revere to allow more dense development at the site.
The casino company sought to show that its casino option would yield less traffic and more open space than the two commercial development options. The owners of Suffolk Downs have suggested they will shut down the track and redevelop the site if Mohegan Sun fails to win the Greater Boston casino license.The commercial development options analyzed by Mohegan Sun featured different amounts of office, retail, residential, hotel, and parking space on the site. The site is bracketed by two Blue Line subway stations.
Under existing zoning rules, the report suggested the owners of Suffolk Downs could build 400,000 square feet of office space, 515,000 square feet of retail space, a 150,000 square-foot meeting center, two hotels, and 4,823 parking spaces at the site. Under the denser development option, the report suggested 1 million square feet of office space, 225,000 square feet of residential space, nearly 821,000 feet of retail space, two hotels, and 6,586 parking spaces could be built.