Casey Overpass: Is JP on the Same Page?

With the 25 percent design hearing finished, and a plan on the table, how do you feel about the plan to build an at-grade roadway at the site of the Casey Overpass.

State transportation officials hosted the 25 percent design phase hearing for the Casey Arborway project last night.

The project will involve a teardown of the over 60-year-old Casey Overpass bridge above Forest Hills, and the building of an at-grade network of roads in the area.

The project will reshape the Forest Hills landscape. Forest Hills MBTA station will undergo a few changes, and Shea Circle will become Shea Square.

Some residents oppose the project, others have been in favor, but there has been no shortage of opinions. Now that the project has reached the 25 percent design phase, it is going to move forward.

How do you feel the project has progressed thus far? The public had the opportunity to sound off about the project last night; do you feel the community is on one page regarding Casey Arborway, or does the area'a population continue to be divided on the issue?

yogasong February 28, 2013 at 12:49 PM
Approximately 2/3 - 3/4 of those in attendance tonight want a new bridge. I’d say that’s a landslide. Those who take the bridge during peak commute time are probably not even JP residents and have no idea of this process and how it will impact them. I am a reasonably aware JP resident and didn't even know about this until about a month ago thanks to an involved neighbor. Please let your friends from Dorchester, Mattapan, Milton and Quincy know about this project – it impacts them! Supposedly the at-grade decision has been made despite the fact that the majority of residents prefer a new bridge. We need to let our elected officials know that a bridge is what the majority wants. Last night’s meeting organizers said that the decision was made by the executive branch of state government. PLEASE Contact Governor Patrick's office, your state reps, and Mass DOT to stop the on-grade solution and to build a new bridge. Contact the top DOT Decision-Maker: Richard A. Davey Secretary and Chief Executive Officer Massachusetts Department of Transportation 10 Park Plaza, Suite 4160 Boston, MA 02116 Toll Free - 877-MA-DOT-GOV (877-623-6846) At grade comments to: Thomas F Broderick, PE Chief Engineer MassDOT-Highway Division 10 Park Plaza Boston , MA 02116-3973 Attn: Accelerated Bridge Program
mgrots February 28, 2013 at 01:00 PM
I simply cannot see how adding the traffic that currently flows on the overpass to the ground level traffic patterns (particularly at peak times) will reduce congestion and increase safety. It is contrary to any logic that I can see. However if the same traffic engineers are employed that developed the plan for the current Forest Hills traffic pattern, I can understand how they may think that more cars on the roads will result in less congestion.
george kordan February 28, 2013 at 01:26 PM
count me as in favor of the better option, a bridge.
Kevin Handly February 28, 2013 at 02:02 PM
The at-grade plan is a reality. Let's focus on the choices before us.
Liam Sullivan February 28, 2013 at 02:38 PM
It's all about induced demand. Build a new elevated highway and maintain Forest Hills as a highway interchange and you will have an autocentric design that will bring lots of cars to the neighborhood that will get snarled in traffic jams. Design a city road that does not prioritize motorists over all others with space for walkers, bicyclists, and improved public transit and auto traffic will decrease.
Pat Larkin February 28, 2013 at 05:13 PM
If you want traffic backing up beyond the pond and Faulkner Hospital, continue as planned. A new bridge is the only way to go to keep traffic moving, Please write to the people in the first comment, above, to appeal this awful plan.
Chase M. Billingham February 28, 2013 at 05:14 PM
The problem with this theoretical idea of "induced demand" is that it deals in abstract automobiles going over abstract roadways in traffic engineers' computer models. In reality, those automobiles contain real human beings trying to get from their real homes to their real workplaces and back again. People who live in Mattapan, Dorchester, Milton, and Quincy and who work in the Longwood area drive to work. There is no good alternative transportation option for that route, and they will continue to drive to work regardless of what happens to the Casey. The at-grade advocates proudly admit that their preferred design will make automobile travel more difficult on this stretch of road, and their theory tells them that the frustration that this design will cause will ultimately dissuade drivers from using their cars. However, the rerouting of all of this traffic through several stoplights, while making these commuters' lives more difficult, will not change the locations of their homes or their workplaces, and it will not make alternative travel options more feasible for them. What that means is that, despite the theory behind "induced demand," those cars will be there no matter what. Those drivers don't want to be stuck in traffic in our neighborhood every morning and afternoon. And we don't want them there, either. Proponents of a new bridge recognize this reality. At-grade advocates ignore it.
yogasong February 28, 2013 at 05:25 PM
Well put Chase. Believe me, I'm as much a tree hugger as the next JP'er but I'm trying to put myself into the minds of the suburbanites who use that stretch of road. It's just reality as you so clearly expressed.
karen harris February 28, 2013 at 07:30 PM
But we live in a city , where there are lots of cars, not the suburbs. If that 's what people want that's where they need to to. Can't have it both ways, sorry!
karen harris February 28, 2013 at 07:48 PM
I went to a meeting a while ago it was already a done deal. I left really upset that minds were made up and we are all going to have to suffer the consequences of a bad decision. Better find a new route home!!
Clayton Harper February 28, 2013 at 08:24 PM
I've been to several of the hearings on this topic and strongly support the decision to create an AT-GRADE solution to replace the crumbling bridge. The professionals involved are making every effort to accomodate community concerns and to craft a design solution that serves the greatest good and the immediate community's needs. As a near-abutter, I'm much more concerned about the fabric and future of my own neighborhood than the convenience of suburban drivers, and I applaud the effort to re-knit the disparate portions of the Emerald Necklace back together again while improving the flow of traffic through a complex series of intersections. I also appreciate the great patience and tolerance that the professionals have shown toward what is, to me, a vocal and antogonistic opposition that has been obstructing and disrupting the good-faith efforts to create the best possible outcome for the area - a crown jewel gateway to Boston's greenspace. The at-grade decision was finalized more than a year ago. Get. Over. It.
karen harris February 28, 2013 at 08:44 PM
Liam Sullivan February 28, 2013 at 08:47 PM
You misunderstand the concept of induced demand. Building highways that prioritize automobiles over all other users make people believe that it is reasonable to live at great distances from the city and drive to work. It is in effect a government handout to residents of suburban sprawl and a tax on those of us who live in Forest Hills and have to with the increased volume of traffic the overpass creates not to mention the pollution, risk of asthma, and the infrastructure slicing our neighborhood in half. And it is not sustainable. The continuing economic crisis, peak oil, and climate change mean that the lifestyle of living in distant suburbs and commuting in single-occupancy vehicles will have to end. For 60 years, the "solution" to traffic problems is to build more highways and it hasn't worked because no matter how many highways you build there always will be more cars. Forest Hills gives us the opportunity to break the failed strategies of 60 years and begin to rebuild the urban fabric in an environmentally-friendly, transit-oriented manner. The Forest Hills Improvement Initiative will bring new housing to the neighborhood in the coming years. Perhaps those subarbanites once they no longer have their unsustainable lifestyle subsidized by the government for which we pay the externalities will be among the new residents of a transit-oriented Forest Hills.
Chase M. Billingham February 28, 2013 at 09:22 PM
In response to Mr. Sullivan at 3:47: I don't misunderstand anything. I understand the implications of "induced demand," and I understand (and, to some extent, sympathize with) the moral crusade you seem to be on regarding the benefits of urban living and the unsustainability of automobile commuting. But let's clear up two points. (1) Dorchester, Mattapan, Milton, and Quincy are not "distant suburbs," and in fact these places have much higher population densities and public transit ridership rates than most of the country. That is to say, your moral indignation is misplaced. (2) The "at-grade solution" doesn't transform the Forest Hills area into some Jane Jacobs fantasy world, as its advocates seem to believe. Rather, it brings a six-lane highway onto street level. This is the fundamental absurdity of the at-grade advocates' argument. Because, as Mr. Sullivan says, "[f]or 60 years, the 'solution' to traffic problems is to build more highways and it hasn't worked," their suggested remedy is . . . a new six-lane highway tearing through our neighborhood? Absurd. The idea that we should punish "those subarbanites" for the ramifications of decades of top-down urban policy is condescending. It reflects an inaccurate conception of the ways that communities develop over time, and it takes no account of class and race and the ways that these limit residential mobility. It would be lovely if everyone wanted to move to J.P. But most either can't afford to, or don't want to.
Liam Sullivan February 28, 2013 at 09:53 PM
I actually advocate a four-lane road and believe that this design process should be used to pare down the road to what serves the neighborhood's many users with no one prioritized as any others - bikers, walkers, transit users, local business and drivers. The elevated highway is a completely autocentric solution. The six lane road is an improvement but still tilted in favor of the automobile. There are a lot of "bridge" advocate talking out of both sides of their mouths with concerns of dangers to bikes & pedestrians and traffic congestion on one side and the absolute insistence of constructing at great cost a new elevated highway in the city. I believe we should be coming together in this design process to make the road better for all users, but instead of contributing ideas the overpass advocates seem intent on sabotaging the process and accepting nothing but a cars-first model. For these reasons I find it hard to believe that overpass supporters care for bikes/pedestrians/transit or anything other than being able to drive their cars without having to stop.
Ken Griffin March 01, 2013 at 01:35 AM
The at-grade solution was the only option, as far as the State is concerned. The T is broke and needs the in-kind cash flow from the DOT to make long overdue upgrades to the Forest Hills Station campus. A bridge requires a long-term maintenance commitment from the DOT, and that is not an attractive option from an operations point of view. I am an advocate of a new bridge, but I get it – it’s not gonna happen. My greatest concern now is what level of effort will the Boston Police bring to bear to control the behavior of motorists moving thorough this area. People drive through the Forest Hills area with little regard to those around them – I’m afraid the engineer’s modeling does not take this into account…
Peg March 01, 2013 at 01:42 AM
I work as an electrician in JP. I drove my van to a job the other day and talked to the homeowner as I unloaded my tools, wire, boxes, laddar. She told me she supports the surface road as it will "frustrate all those drivers who wont ride a bicycle, and make them get out and walk". I pointed out to her that next time I came to work for her I would come by bicycle, but it would take me most of the day to get my tools to her house, then I would have to walk with my laddar, How much should I bill her for three days to do her 4 hour job? Peg
Pete Stidman March 01, 2013 at 03:19 AM
I can only comment on how dismayed I am by the people who continue to elevate traffic over the people who live in Jamaica Plain. One refrain heard over and over in that meeting by the bridge advocates was: "What about all those people who cut through our neighborhood? Why are they not here to speak?" By that logic, we should put elevated highways over every neighborhood in the city, so that no one has to take more than a minute to get anywhere, and the only neighborhoods one should have to visit, shop in or try to enjoy (under and overpass of course) is the one they work in and the one they live in. What the bridge advocates are actually doing is bullying people and trying to prevent a greener future with fewer emissions. From one of our members who no longer feels comfortable speaking at the meetings: "But what makes me not want to live here is this attitude and presumption that they are in the majority and that the process has been "unfair". I am sick of it. This is why I don't attend the meetings, it is too upsetting. All I can do is write letters at this point."
Sarah Freeman March 01, 2013 at 01:45 PM
Debate is great; but endless debates are giving JP a bad name - it seems like all we do is bicker. Proponents of both options have made their best case repeatedly, and thank you all for thinking and caring so deeply. If the JP Patch wants to conduct another poll about Casey, can it be about areas where MassDOT will need community input? Examples: What will the new parkland (approximately one and a half acres) look like? How about the T Station Plaza? Shea Square? or mitigating construction impacts? As the Arborway Coalition Rep. on the DAG, I'd like to hear your constructive input for the "new" Casey Arborway!
Megan Stokes March 01, 2013 at 01:46 PM
I'm super excited for the at-grade plan. More open space, better bicycle routes and no looming shadow overhead. There's a reason the at-grade plan has been chosen: it's cheaper, better for the community, and there's not a need for the bridge.
Megan Stokes March 01, 2013 at 01:47 PM
ann merritt March 01, 2013 at 02:09 PM
Thank you Mr, Chase. Good points. I am an autophile of long standing and resent the demonization of me and my fellow suburbanites by other posts on this site. I saw that new auto sales have increased in Massachusetts by 8% in 2011 and 7% in 2012. Also vehicles registrations in the city of Boston increase every year. And there is great political will to allow all the "illegal aliens" to get driver licenses. Perhaps an outreach program to them to convince them bicycles are better? My point is that vehicles are not going away and overpasses do not give birth to them. 70% of US workers drive to work. We cannot social engineer where people live and move about in some " Sims Family" type gulag. Replacing the Casey Overpass recognizes this reality and strives to accommodate it in the most efficient and beneficial manner for all. Zoom zoom.
Clayton Harper March 01, 2013 at 03:30 PM
Ken- my view is that the current flyover contributes more to speeding on the larger Arborway than the signalized at-grade will - or at least it did when it was 4 lanes and smooth. The Shea Circle/Square and Murphy Rotary on either end of this project limit the rush hour loads regardless of what's in between, but to me the new lights (near the U-turns) are going to tamp down the speed of through-traffic a bit. But I'm no traffic engineer.
Chase M. Billingham March 01, 2013 at 04:15 PM
The thing that frustrates me and other bridge advocates is that we want precisely the same outcomes that the at-grade advocates claim to want. We want a neighborhood that is less, not more, auto-centric; a neighborhood that is more, not less, accomodating to cyclists and pedestrians; and a neighborhood that contains more, not less, green space. What frustrates us is the fundamental contradiction in the at-grade plan, which purports to achieve all of those goals by paving over the neighborhood with a massive new highway and by dumping tens of thousands of additional cars -- stuck in traffic, idling, honking, and spewing vapors -- into our neighborhood every day. I am not a suburban commuter, I'm a resident. I'm not trying to prioritize the needs of drivers over the needs of the neighborhood. I support a plan that keeps those cars out of the neighborhood, so that we can enjoy a more peaceful setting that is less dangerous to our bikers and walkers. If it appears as if the at-grade plan is friendlier to those groups than a bridge plan, it is only because no viable, well-designed, beautiful bridge-based plan was ever seriously considered by MassDOT and presented to the public. We bridge advocates are here to support our neighborhood. That being said, the needs of the commuters who use that bridge every day should not be discounted or ignored. Their lives will also be negatively affected by this at-grade design, and their voices need to be heard.
Sally Muspratt March 04, 2013 at 12:57 PM
Strongly support the at grade solution for the overpass and the squaring of the Shea circle interchange! Sally Muspratt
Anne McKinnon March 04, 2013 at 10:01 PM
Um, did you notice MassDOT's design is a highway that accommodates every single car that uses the bridge and the surface streets? MassDOT is prioritizing cars while providing barely adequate sidewalks, eliminating the direct mid-block crosswalk from the park to the station, no bike lanes forcing bikes and pedestrians to be dangerously close, If MassDOT weren't prioritizing cars it wouldn't build a 6-lane highway through Forest Hills.
frankly mr.shankly March 06, 2013 at 08:42 PM
I'm a big supporter of the at-grade. I keep feeling the fly-over commuters have no idea that this area is surrounded by vacant lots and the bridge itself harbors some rather sketchy activity underneath - removing the bridge suddenly brings daylight down to the ground and makes this area much more appealing for development and revitalization. I think right now the debate should be over how well the bike and pedestrian infrastructure is implemented. The previous design showed a gap in the link between the bike lanes on washington street and both the southwest corridor and south street. I feel like DOT is treating cycling as if it were a recreational activity, but most bike usage around this area is more utilitarian - commuting and errands. This bottleneck is THE CRUCIAL GAP in connecting roslindale's potential cycling population to the rest of the city. How well this is designed can have a huge impact on the city's goal of bike mode share. Both motorists AND cyclists prefer separate facilities - we need them now - otherwise we're not moving forward.
frankly mr.shankly March 06, 2013 at 09:12 PM
I wish people would just accept the fact that we're not getting a bridge and move on. there's still a lot of work to be done to make sure that this redesign meets the needs of all users in the area - and this "debate" is pointless. I'm most concerned about the bicycle connection down washington street toward ukraine way - a shared path has to be at least 12 feet wide to comfortably accommodate both cyclists and pedestrians - and cramming it up against the taxi stand/drop off zone is not such a great idea. I go back and forth on whether or not it's a good idea to reduce the 6 lanes to 4 - because that's a short intersection and not having enough space for cars to fill in can create a lot more problems... than a somewhat shorter distance for pedestrians (and there is already that median).
Clayton Harper March 06, 2013 at 10:17 PM
I have no real issue with the majority of your argument, Mr. Shankly - if I take it to be in favor of improving connections for non-motorists. But I can assure you that there are several very-much populated residential neighborhoods immeditaely abutting this project, not "vacant lots" (South/Arborway Rd/Hampstead, Asticou and Arborway Gardens in addition to the greater Forest Hills area). As one of those abutters I want the best possible at-grade design, accomplished with the minimum of inconvienience and disruption.
Liam Sullivan March 07, 2013 at 09:06 PM
Supporting an elevated highway with it's attendant access and exit ramps (which overpass supporters always seem to overlook) is by definition an auto-centric solution. It prioritizes motorists by providing space for a greater volume of cars (stuck in traffic, idling, honking, and spewing vapors) during peak hours, and to speed through at unsafe speeds at other times. It prioritizes motorists by the vast amount of money that would spent to build and maintain even the simplest overpass (that would need to be reconstructed in another 25-30 years) not to mention the exorbitant costs of the 'iconic bridge' some people advocate. That money would be better spent improving facilities for all types of commuters not to mention repairing actual bridges over bodies water elsewhere in the Commonwealth. If you truly want to improve the quality of life in the neighborhood and the needs of all road users, then I implore you to make those desires known through the design process so the ultimate road we end up with. But please, let go of the idea that we need an elevated highway and a highway interchange at the center of the neighborhood.


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