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Atlantic City Casino Tunnel Briefly Opens

30 July 2001

ATLANTIC CITY – July 30, 2001 – As reported by the New York Times: ``It has been called more bad names than a cheapskate slot machine, but the Atlantic City tunnel to the growing north end casino district has survived its critics, and opened -- briefly -- Friday to a shower of confetti and high hopes.

``But after a pedestrian walk, a street festival and grand-opening ceremonies, communications problems postponed the opening to car traffic, which had been scheduled for 6 p.m. Officials said that the problem involved emergency responders in the tunnel, which would open once the problem was solved.

``The tunnel is expected to lead to a new boom in construction in the isolated Marina District, more than a mile northeast of the phalanx of casinos standing shoulder to shoulder along the oceanfront Boardwalk.

``The idea for the 2,200-foot tunnel, officially called the Atlantic City Expressway Connector, was conceived six years ago to solve traffic problems in the western part of the city and to lure one more big player to Atlantic City.

``…The big player was Steve Wynn of Las Vegas, who committed his Mirage Resorts Inc. to building a billion-dollar showplace in the Marina District if the state would provide motorists a straight shot from the Expressway to his front door. Mirage also paid $110 million of the tunnel's $330 million cost.

``When the deal was made to go ahead with the tunnel, some called it Steve Wynn's driveway. And when Wynn sold his company to MGM Grand Inc. and walked away from Atlantic City, the project became "the tunnel to nowhere." Donald Trump sued to block the project that was so clearly aimed at funneling gamblers to his rival's casino, but he relented when a U-turn was added that led to the Trump Marina.

``Later, Boyd Gaming Corp. offered to build the Borgata, an immense copper wedge that is now rising, at a cost of $1 billion, where the Mirage hotel was to go. The Borgata, scheduled to open in 2003, will have 2,010 rooms, more than any hotel in Manhattan except for the Hilton New York, on Avenue of the Americas, which has 2,086 rooms.

``…George Nelson, a retired Atlantic City police officer, said: `I never knew what the excitement was about. I remember what this city was like before the casinos came in, and you can just see how much better this place is now. If this thing is going to help, I don't have a problem with it.'…"

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