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Casey Overpass: At Grade or Bridge?

There are those who feel the fix on the table is a poor solution. What do you think?

The state has determined the best solution for the dilapidated Casey Overpass is to demolish it and rebuild the area at street level.

Bridging Forest Hills, a local group that seeks a new bridge in the area, has railed against the choice. Some residents feel the decision will create gridlock in the area.

The state will host a walkthrough and another public meeting regarding the overpass a week from Thursday.

What’s your take? How would you solve the Casey Overpass/Arborway situation? Leave your opinion in the comments. 

steve dudley December 04, 2012 at 10:20 PM
We have "sidewalks and bike paths with "vista sights " and "desire paths" now on the bridge, from the Arboretum to Forest Hills Cemetary.
George P. Zoulalian December 04, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Why can't you believe that cars can travel through two major intersections with no "chaos" "misery" "nightmare" etc. if we synchronize the lights, provide right turn lanes, and limit left turns to two dedicated U-turn lanes at each end of the project.? It has been designed and tested and it looks great! We do not create a structure that will disintegrate to the point of falling down like we have AND we address the fact that as many cars are going up and down Hyde Park Ave and Washintgton Street as are just going up and over. And where is the discussion of the thousands of transit users and pedestrians that also use the area? They will get a new totally accessible entrance to the T on the SW Corrider side and a more efficient street pattern for the hundreds of busses that come in from the South, North, and East. It is the whole picture that convinced me. PS Even though much if it is for city streets - it costs Biston ZERO dollars.
George P. Zoulalian December 04, 2012 at 10:31 PM
Boston
Ken Griffin December 04, 2012 at 10:32 PM
"Traffic Engineers" and "Urban Planners" thought running Rte. 95 through JP was a good idea, until the neighborhood figured it out and put a stop to it. I am pro-bridge, and no amount of engineering, planning or traffic modelling can dictate the "behavior" of a motorist trying to barrel through the Forest Hills area. I have lived in JP since 1981, and moved to Forest Hills in 1994. The rise in vehicular traffic congestion has been overwhelming - regardless of the politics, I fear the at-grade solution is on the way. Seek alternate routes...
M. Gonzalez December 04, 2012 at 11:44 PM
I think the analogy to the failed I-95 project is correct because that was also designed by "experts". I'm not completely sure but I also believe it was going to be funded entirely by Fed $'s. They also thought it was a done deal but a concerted group of people made sure it didn't go through. Let's be that concerted group of people.
nancy December 05, 2012 at 04:17 AM
Funding will be lost?!! WHere did you get that info from?! There are NO specific deadlines in the legislation authorizing the Accelerated Bridge Program (Chapter 233 of the Acts of 2008; http://www.malegislature.gov/Laws/SessionLaws/Acts/2008/Chapter233). The only deadline in the legislation relates to repayment of the bonds issued to fund the $3 billion program ("All bonds issued under this section shall be payable not later than June 30, 2046.").
Michael Halle December 05, 2012 at 07:43 AM
Nancy, I'm absolutely no expert with regard to state or federal funding of capital projects like the accelerated bridge program -- maybe someone who is can weigh in. But I can relate what was explained during the advisory group process, consistent with available online resources. The authorizing legislation you point out doesn't set a deadline; it establishes a urgent commitment to make our bridges safe as motivated by the I-35W Mississippi River bridge collapse in 2007. The specifics of the 2016 completion deadline come from the Commonwealth capital plan, which in turn is based on a bond issue backed by federal "grant anticipation notes", which effectively allow Massachusetts to borrow against future federal transportation dollars. But for me that's beside the point. The purpose of the money is to improve the safety of our bridges. Communities from across Massachusetts are competing for this money, as they should. Unspent or delayed safety-related money benefits no one; every project completed has the potential to save lives. I'm not speaking in hyperbole. There are known urgent engineering defects in the Casey Overpass and any number of other spans in our state (and nation) that can only be patched for so long. We can have our spirited discussion and engage in our "what ifs" and "if onlys", but at some point responsibility says you move ahead with the plan you've got. I want neither regret on my shoulders nor concrete on my head.
Scott December 05, 2012 at 01:00 PM
Annie Dookhan was "professional" chemist too, how did that work out? These traffic engineering hacks were paid to come up with the solution that the state wanted. I believe my own eyes and those of neighbors (all who say it will be a disaster). I would listen to a traffic engineer that wasn't on the take, but there analysis should be verified.
John December 05, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Today there is a bridge, or by-pass, over Forest Hills; traffic is miserable and the local area suffers in its shadow. It is in fact the bridge that makes Forest Hills a traffic nightmare and not such a nice place. The four bridge on / off ramps introduce unmanageable complexity and circulation redundancies to the existing roadways. From the analysis that we have seen of at grade solution (including the independent consultant's review), it is clear traffic will flow better than it does today. So for 60% of the cost for a replacement bridge, we are spared the blighting presence of a by-pass plus the on-going added cost to maintain a new bridge. This is a no brainer. We know bridging Forest Hills does NOT work, lets not repeat the same mistake. So tell MassDOT, "Don't By-pass Forest Hills".
Michael Halle December 05, 2012 at 03:20 PM
Scott, I'm all for "spirited discussion" and I accept that heated disagreement is part of many a Boston public process. But accusing the professional engineers working on this project of what are criminal acts goes far beyond that. If you have any actual evidence of your charge, please present it in public, or bring it forward to the Attorney General. There *has* been review of the engineering plans by outside firms and individuals. We can express our differences without sinking to this level of social discourse.
Greg Hunt December 05, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Don't you find it ironic that the same people who rallied against a highway going through Jamaica Plain are the very same ones advocating for a new highway-like overpass bridge to be rebuilt?
Liam Sullivan December 05, 2012 at 04:38 PM
Ironically, the I-95 opponents of a generation ago fought to prevent construction of a highway because it would blight the neighborhood for the benefit of people driving cars from outside the city whereas the people citing the I-95 want to rebuild the overpass for the benefit of people driving cars through Forest Hills to the detriment of the neighborhood. And the opponents of the at-grade plan being very deceitful in the words they use. Take for instance the word "bridge". There is no bridge in Forest Hills, there never was a bridge, and there never will be a bridge. That's because there is nothing to bridge in Forest Hills. What is there now is an elevated highway. Cities throughout the world are demolishing elevated highways not due to some utopian, hippie vision but because they do not do the job they're built to do. Instead, building and widening highways intensifies congestion while removing them improves traffic flow as fewer people are inclined to drive (read up on Braess's paradox for more details). Considering that a new overpass would actually increase the amount of auto traffic in Forest Hills, the at-grade option is a no-brainer due to its many other benefits such as improved facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists, better access to public transportation, landscaping & public space, benefits to local business, and that development in Forest Hills & Arborway yard will not be depressed by an overlooming highway.
steve dudley December 05, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Greg, I guess the irony is lost to me. We want a streamlining of a bridge that has been here for 50+ yrs, and served us well, not ramming through a superhyway by eminent domain through many residential areas where there had never been a road.
steve dudley December 05, 2012 at 08:03 PM
Hi John , Liam said it's not a bridge, never has been. Maybe an " elevated highway" , "a monstrous concrete obelisk casting dark shadows on helpless peasantry" dividing them one from another and Jamaica Plain in general. Mmmmmmmmmmm I prefer to call it " The Soaring Rainbow Path that knits peaceful Greenspaces together" ...how's that? I kinda like the hyperbolic rhetorical banter. Season' Greetings!
Carol J. Thompson December 06, 2012 at 08:16 PM
The at grade solution is rediculous as far as I am concerned. A new bridge is a better solution. Those of us who live on Froest Hills Street and surrounding area will suffer greatly with the at grade solution.
Susan Fialkin December 06, 2012 at 09:06 PM
I think that the bridge is the only solution to terrible traffic problems, and gives us an opportunity to design the street level area to be an attractive, natural space for pedestrians and cyclists.
Sara Driscoll December 07, 2012 at 03:42 PM
There is no way that this current plan is a good idea. Anyone who was here in the early 70's sees this as just another way to separate the neighborhood like the utterly ludicrous idea that was I-95 running through the community. We fought that with the aid of the folks in Hyde Park, Roxbury and the South End and won, instead the incredibly reasonable and beautiful Southwest Corridor that accomodates bicycles, foot traffic, playgrounds, etc. The new traffic design will only lead to more idling cars, trucks and buses creating more asthmatic conditions and cause the commuters from Dorchester, Roxbury and Milton to have to sit in traffic rather than smoothly ride over the already cramped and stinky Forest Hills. When a new bridge is built, which we understand would create a mess for awhile, then they could also reconfigure the traffic a bit if need be but DO NOT REMOVE THE BRIDGE OVER FOREST HILLS!! Thanks for this forum.......Sara Driscoll
Carol J. Thompson December 07, 2012 at 04:11 PM
I totally agree with you Sara. Carol Thompson
Carol J. Thompson December 07, 2012 at 04:14 PM
I also hope that the community meeting will be widely published so that people will know where, when, and what time this meeting will take place.
Sara Driscoll December 07, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Nobody is denying that the bridge is falling apart.....the point is, replace it with something safe and aesthetically beautiful, and proportioned. The Emerald Necklace will benefit with the reduced emmisions. All the folks transiting the bridge now have no interest in hanging out in Forest Hills....with a bridge, it stays more community, not less. It is true folks like me are a bit late in the process but that doesn't mean change should be impossible. The shovels are not in the ground.....never too late
Michael Halle December 07, 2012 at 06:33 PM
Hi Rick, Of all road layouts presented or evaluated, today's conditions are the most likely to cause gridlock. That's mostly because of the turns vehicles have to make near the western end of New Washington St. There's no "straight through" move when exiting the Arborway traveling eastbound because the old trolley station used to be right in the way. For many routes drivers want to take, both the selected at-grade plan and the rejected bridge alternative handle traffic more efficiently the current conditions. But to your specific point, the hotspots that cause true aggravating gridlock today have been eliminated in the working plan. You raise an important issue about snow, which is a factor that must be addressed in the final design. But a bridge doesn't make snow magically go away -- in fact, bridges required more snow clearance and more chemicals to melt ice and snow than do normal roadways because they freeze faster (they aren't warmed by stored heat of the ground below). Where does the snow go now when the six lanes of traffic are cleared in the winter? If a new, narrower bridge were built to replace the existing structure, where would the snow cleared from the bridge lanes go? What's the environmental impact and maintenance cost of the extra salt and road chemicals that will eventually run off the bridge?
Sara Driscoll December 07, 2012 at 06:34 PM
The reason it most probably won't work is that the huge numbers of people who traverse the bridge every day commuting to the Hospital District and other locations, including Cambridge, have no interest in stopping in Forest Hills. If they want to, they can come down the ramps.....While redesigning the bridge, a redesign of the streets can take place. We all lived for years with construction going on during the creation of the Southwest Corridor......everyone thought I-95 raging through our community was a given, too......NOT....WE WON!!!!! I am a bike rider, too.....imagine not having the corridor to ride on but instead, the 4-lane freeway that was proposed.....really...think about what Forest Hills will look like and smell like with all of that unwanted traffic.....please!
Sara Driscoll December 07, 2012 at 06:49 PM
The Mass. Enviromental Protection Agency (MEPA) meeting is at English High School on Thursday, December 13th at 6:00 PM with a 3:00 PM site visit beginning at Forest Hills Station where anyone is welcome to accompany the MEPA representative as the visit takes place. Spread the word Bridging Forest Hills people! Let's really show our concern for the process to be reopened!
Michael Halle December 07, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Sara, You said, "The Emerald Necklace will benefit with the reduced emissions". I'm not aware of any evidence for this statement. Free-moving traffic on a Casey overpass still has to come from somewhere (for instance, Morton Street), and is quite likely to contribute to backups in other locations (for instance, Murray Circle on the Arborway at rush hour). To demonstrate my point, let's take the idea to a hypothetical extreme and see if it holds up. If a two lane overpass improves air quality on the Emerald Necklace, would air quality get even better with a four lane overpass? A six lane one? At some point, we'd just be encouraging more people to drive, and we'll end up clogging up someone else's intersection. You also said, "all the folks transiting the bridge now have no interest in hanging out in Forest Hills". We have no way of knowing what people's current and long-term interests are, or how businesses and civic institutions will develop in Forest Hills over the next twenty-five years to draw them in. What we do know is that the current Casey Overpass has made it easy to bypass Forest Hills and painful for drivers to stop through it on the way to their eventual destination. Just because the overpass has conditioned a generation of people to do one thing doesn't mean we need perpetuate it.
Carol J. Thompson December 07, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Thank you Sara. I will be there.
karen harris December 07, 2012 at 11:37 PM
I agree and this is not JUST a JP issue. The traffic jams that are created will affect Hyde Park (Hyde Park Ave), Roslindale (Washington St.) Dorchester (Rt.203). Don't forget the traffic that created when the bridge had to be closed down for repairs several months ago! We need a REAL community process, not a few meetings no one knows about until after the fact.
Michael Halle December 08, 2012 at 04:00 AM
Karen, Perhaps you weren't aware of the five public information meetings devoted solely to the Casey Overpass project held before the at-grade alternative was chosen, or the public meeting held afterward to explain the decision. Hundreds of people attended these meetings. Each was advertised at least two weeks in advance and discussed at length in the JP Gazette and other neighborhood papers for the communities you mentioned. In addition, there have been about twenty five other meetings including the working advisory group, the design advisory group, and special presentations made by MassDOT to community groups in places such as Mattapan. I have attended all but two of the advisory meetings, and I don't recall any meeting having less than thirty people in attendance. The minutes and handouts for all the meetings are available on the MassDOT Casey Arborway web site: http://www.massdot.state.ma.us/caseyarborway/Home.aspx The front page of the site has a section "Upcoming meetings" in the sidebar. The traffic backups due to emergency repairs were unplanned events that tell us nothing about the functionality of the design-in-progress. They do tell us, though, that failures of the existing structure threaten and inconvenience many people, and that delays in replacing the bridge will only make matters worse as time goes by.
frankly mr.shankly December 08, 2012 at 05:57 PM
as someone who bikes daily through there, the at-grade option minimizes the number of potential conflicts between cyclists, pedestrians, motorists, buses, and taxis. currently if you're riding up washington street from rozzie you have to contend with 6 intersections (the off-ramp is scary - people don't stop at the red light), double parked taxis, buses, and jay-walking pedestrians. cyclists are forced to break the rules because otherwise it would be unsafe (which only exacerbates the ill-will toward cyclists). The bridge option didn't change this particular situation at all. I also find it highly disconcerting that a bike shop owner would be advocating for the less safe option. Obviously he does not bike through there. also - in light of the two recent cyclist deaths in Allston, intersection safety FOR ALL USERS should be our number one priority - not saving motorists an extra couple minutes in their commute. off-ramps and traffic circles are less safe for non-motorists. We've prioritized the car for far too long.
frankly mr.shankly December 08, 2012 at 06:16 PM
I want to respond directly to Mr. Ferris - so you think several intersections where people are speeding onto and off the bridge, buses constantly exiting and entering, and double parked cars and taxis are SAFER for cyclists? These aren't smaller residential streets with less traffic - these are a number of intersections with a large variety of vehicles - large vehicles - the kinds of vehicles that kill cyclists. I'd take one larger intersection where people can see me rather than a bunch of smaller intersections where I've almost been run over by trucks (because they don't want to wait behind me at a light) at least 3 times in the past year. Do you even bike through there during rush hour? or are you one of the people who illegally ride through the bus area and on the sidewalks? I'll gladly take you on my commute to show you just how awful it currently is. the bridge option wouldn't decrease these conflicts at all. for someone who is supposedly concerned about bike safety - I'm shocked that you're pushing the bridge option. accidents happen at intersections - remove the number of intersections and there's less chance for conflict. you of all people should know this.
frankly mr.shankly December 08, 2012 at 06:51 PM
I wonder if a study was done comparing the effects of 4 lanes vs. 6? There is such a thing as induced demand. also the debate about traffic is really odd - the overpass was built to accommodate something like 100,000 cars a day, but the actual number of cars in the entire area only slightly increased since before the bridge was built (in 1953, mind you) AND the original arborway was only two lanes. I'm thinking 6 lanes on the arborway might not even be necessary since the rate of traffic increase in the area over the past 60+ years has been miniscule. also - the debate about increasing traffic with new development? - how do you explain kendall square? more development and less traffic? how is that possible?

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