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Casino at Coliseum would have major traffic impact

Inspection reports show air quality is safe in

Inspection reports show air quality is safe in public areas of Nassau Coliseum, according to a consulting firm hired by Nassau County. Credit: Newsday File, 2008/Alan Raia

As Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano talks with the Shinnecock Nation about building a casino at the Nassau Coliseum site, data shows major East Coast casinos draw tens of thousands of vehicles daily.

Connecticut's Indian casinos - Mohegan Sun in Uncasville and Foxwoods in Mashantucket - each draw between 15,000 and 17,000 vehicles per day, casino officials said. A 2001 study of the potential impact of a new casino in Bridgeport, Conn., estimated it would attract 21,000 vehicles on an average Friday, said the South Western Regional Planning Authority.

Officials said traffic associated with a casino at the Coliseum site, which would likely operate 24 hours a day, would trump that of Charles Wang's proposed Lighthouse Project at the site.

"Casinos are heavily auto-oriented unless they're in downtown city center," said Eric Alexander, executive director of Vision Long Island, a not-for-profit that backs sustainable growth in the region.

"What made the Lighthouse work from a transportation perspective was you had synergy of people living and working around the Coliseum," he said. "Here you'd have a special use."

Plan revealed Tuesday

Mangano sparked debate about a new casino in Nassau on Tuesday when he revealed he has been in talks with the Shinnecock Nation to build an "entertainment-sports resort" - including a casino and a revamped arena for the New York Islanders - at the 77-acre Coliseum site in Uniondale.

While Mangano has provided no specifics, the experience of southeastern Connecticut, where tribes built two major casinos in the 1990s, shows a marked spike in traffic.

In the 13 years after the Connecticut casinos opened, average daily traffic on nearby local roads nearly doubled, according to 2005 data from the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments, a planning consortium.

The most heavily trafficked road near the Connecticut casinos - Route 2A in Montville - sees about 41,000 vehicles daily according to the study, up from 16,800 vehicles daily in 1992 before the casinos were built.

Still, that figure is less than existing traffic volume on the Hempstead Turnpike. An average of 52,300 vehicles pass every day, according to 2009 data from the state Department of Transportation.

The Town of Hempstead's environmental impact study estimated that, if Islanders' owner Wang's Lighthouse project were built in full, traffic volume during the peak morning rush hour would rise by 65 percent - to about 3,700 trips. The evening rush would jump by 90 percent, to about 6,600 trips. At the Saturday midday peak hour, about 3,300 vehicles would pass the site - an increase of 260 percent.

But in a statement Wednesday, Mangano said: "A casino will have significantly fewer traffic concerns than the current project pending. Although we are in preliminary stages, traffic mitigation must be addressed if this concept is to move forward."

Connecticut's experience with casinos also shows it is expensive to build new roadways to accommodate casino traffic.


Millions for roads

The Mohegan tribe spent $35 million on highway improvements before the casino opened in 1996. Last year, the state spent another $16.4 million to improve the state highway that connects the casino to the Connecticut Turnpike, said Charles Bunnell, the tribe's chief of staff.

Lighthouse plans include about $55 million in proposed roadway improvements. Wang and partner Scott Rechler were to cover the vast majority of the costs.Communities near the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos have found it difficult to quantify side effects of the casino in their backyard, said James Butler, the executive director of the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments.

"It's very difficult for anyone to determine when someone is stopped for a DUI if they're coming from the casino or somewhere else," Butler said.

With Randi F. Marshall

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