Suffolk Downs released plans last Friday to address regional transportation improvements as part of its proposal to build a resort-style casino adjacent to the 77 year-old horse track.
Only three days prior to the release of the plans, Suffolk Downs and Caesars Entertainment, its partner in the casino project, announced the $1-billion gaming, entertainment, and hospitality structure that, if granted a license from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and pending votes in Revere and East Boston, will combine with the racing establishment there.
Critics of the proposed casino resort have repeatedly raised concerns over the impact a casino will have on the existing infrastructure and traffic coming through East Boston and Revere since talks began on the project in 2009.
But Councillor-at-Large Anthony Zambuto, who has worked closely with other city officials on the mitigation plans, said that “this is the best chance we’ll ever have to mitigate the traffic situation on 1A and the Route 16 interchange.”
“Any improvement is good,” he added. “It’s to (Suffolk Downs’) benefit.”
Indeed, Suffolk Downs has committed $40 million to improve the roads and intersections that will be paramount to the business should the casino be built at the track.
In preparation, Suffolk Downs has been working with the Boston-based transportation consulting firm Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. (VHB) since 2009 to address the development.
“We’re committed to improving transportation conditions for residents, neighbors and regional commuters who have long experienced local traffic delays . . . And those improvements go far beyond the potential impacts of resort patrons,” said David Black, Senior Project Manager at VHB in a press release.
In Revere, plans include local roadway improvements designed to enhance safety and operation issues in some of the city’s busiest areas. Reconfigured ramp connections will ease traffic from Rte. 60 and Bell Circle to improve the flow and provide greater access to route 1A, a press release from Suffolk Downs states.
Other improvements include:
Route16/Harris Street: Geometric modifications to improve operations and safety, and provide missing pedestrian phases; Route 145/Tomasello Drive: Enhanced intersection to improve Suffolk Downs Resort access and safety; Winthrop Avenue/Bennington Street: Curb relocations and lane reconfigurations to improve safety and traffic operations; Route 1A/Tomasello Drive: Signal and turning lanes to enhance primary Suffolk Downs Resort access and safety; Route 1A/Boardman Street: Flyover and Boardman intersection redesign to address deficient conditions and improve local access.
In addition, some of the money for the improvements will be spent to enhance connections to the Suffolk Downs MBTA station, local bus routes, a shuttle service to water transportation and Boston hotels, as well as access for bikers and pedestrians on Suffolk Downs property, along 1A, and in Orient Heights.
The press release further states that the transportation improvement will “eliminate the need for resort patrons to use neighborhood roads by enhancing connections to the site through the MBTA, private coaches and shuttles, and an aggressive Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan.”
Results from a study conducted by Suffolk Downs and VHB, which are posted on the Suffolk Downs website, found that most people travel to and from Suffolk Downs along 1A from the north and south and through Revere via route 60.
In addition, the study found that 55 percent of visitation to the resort will occur from Friday through Sunday. During weekdays, most patrons are projected to come to the casino in the late afternoon and early evening hours.
The study also projects that nearly 12,500 vehicles will visit the resort on a weekly basis, slightly less than those at Foxwoods Casino and only a quarter of that of Logan Airport.
Fifteen percent of visitors will travel to Suffolk Downs using public transportation and private coaches and shuttles, the study also stated.