21 Aug 2014
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Town Officials, Residents Review Traffic Plans for Milford Casino

The proposed 3-mile collector-distributor road system for the Foxwoods Massachusetts casino is estimated by the developer to cost $100 million.

Town Officials, Residents Review Traffic Plans for Milford Casino
The proposed Foxwoods Massachusetts casino would draw 91 percent of its traffic from cars traveling on I-495, the developer's transportation engineers said Wednesday.

On the peak days for casino visitors, the total casino traffic initially will reach 22,700 on Fridays and 29,745 car trips on Saturdays. The traffic impact and analysis study discussed Wednesday, in a meeting at Milford High School, states that those volumes will reach 29,700 on Fridays and 36,800 on Saturdays if the gaming resort is expanded to include more tables and other attractions.

State data shows that I-495 now counts about 93,250 cars on Fridays, and 67,350 on Saturdays.

The project will impact local roads, to a lesser extent. Most affected will be Route 16 from Milford into Holliston, according to the traffic engineers. Because a new link to the highway will be created there, that area of Route 16 will have traffic increases of as much as 415 more cars an hour.

The experts say that because of that new Route 16 access, traffic will be removed from other key intersections in Milford, including up to 90 trips an hour taken off Fortune Boulevard/Route 85/Dilla Street.

The traffic study counts vehicle trips — the number of cars coming and going.

The traffic analysis was the result of a collaborative process between the developer's transportation engineer, Tetra Tech, and the town's consultant, Tighe & Bond, whose director of traffic said the report "appropriately evaluates current and future conditions" for the casino project. 

Tighe & Bond conducted a peer-analysis of the traffic impact report over a six-week period, said Joseph Balskus, its director of traffic and parking.

The Foxwoods Massachusetts report is available here. The peer evaluation report prepared by the town's consultant is available here.

Both the developer's traffic expert and the town's consultant agree that most casino visitors will use the highway, because most of the potential customers live at least 30 minutes away from Milford. The traffic counts for the casino are derived based on the population in the region older than age 21, and the number of seats at tables and casino games in the facility.
 
The region expected to produce traffic for the Milford casino includes about half of Rhode Island, portions of Connecticut and southern New Hampshire and the area of Massachusetts that includes Worcester, Lowell, Boston and other points within about an hour's drive, according to a development map.

Because the potential customers are traveling from so far away, they are expected to use the highway to access the casino, both consultants said.

Initially, Balskus said, he was skeptical that the casino would have such a small impact on local roads — with less than 10 percent of the traffic coming from any other place than the highway. Balskus is the lead engineer for the West Springfield casino project, working for the developer in that case. And in that project, 20 percent of the traffic will come on local roads.

But he said Wednesday that the towns within a 30 minute drive of Milford are relatively small, or somewhat rural, and will not produce the traffic for local roads.

"It made sense," he said.

The proposed access to the site is two-fold. The casino developer will build what is called a collector-distributor road system along I-495, extending for three miles, that would connect existing interchanges at Route 109 and Route 85 to the road, and then carry cars bound for or exiting the casino onto an access that would go over the existing interstate.

The collector-distributor roads, one on each side of the highway, to capture southbound and northbound traffic, will be separated from the highway by barriers.

Construction would consume land in the center median of the highway, to make room for the additional lanes of traffic. The outer footprint of the highway, then, would not change.

Once on casino property, the access road would connect through a link to Route 16, because federal highway requirements will not allow a dedicated access road to a private development. The connection to Route 16 will create a new direct link to the highway, and generate additional traffic on that road, engineers agreed. According to the developer's engineer, most of the new traffic would not be bound for the casino, but would be people realizing they have a direct access to I-495 from Route 16, and would use the casino's collector-distributor roads to get on it.

Milford Selectmen and residents asked questions of the traffic experts for more than an hour. In their questions, several residents asked whether steps were being taken to erect sound barriers along the highway.

Steve Pepe, who lives on Virginia Drive in Milford, off Route 109, said that to him and his neighbors, an analysis that 91 percent of the traffic will come from I-495 is not  good news. The access plan means that a 6-lane highway near their homes will become a 10-lane road, he said. "We are looking for a sound barrier," he said.

Steve Trettel, a leader of Casino Free Milford, an opposition group to the casino, pointed out that the materials, including the casino's traffic impact report, were not made available to most of the people attending the meeting until the afternoon before. How will a "30 to 50 percent increase in additional cars" on I-495 impact residents, he asked.

"Give us a clear, summary ... of what that traffic impact means," he said.

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