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What Does Friday's Casey Overpass Traffic Snarl Say for Post-Overpass Future?

When the state shut down the outbound lane of the Casey Overpass on Friday, it caused epic traffic tie-ups. Could it have been a preview of life without the overpass?

The abrupt shut-down of the Casey Overpass lane leading out of Boston on Friday caused epic traffic headaches. Mary Mulvey Jacobson recounts her gridlock nightmare:

The back ups started at the intersection of the VFW Parkway and Centre Street near Hebrew Rehab. An utter nightmare. This is what we will have to look forward to when they remove the Casey Overpass.

The overpass will be torn down starting next year and replaced with a network of surface roads.

Others saw in the incident further proof that the overpass is too decrepit to keep standing any longer than necessary. Liam Sullivan chimed in this way on the JP Patch Facebook page.

I hope this convinces Ferris and the Overpassing Forest Hills crew to stop stonewalling the plan to tear out the bridge. Otherwise we'll have a real mess and may have a tragedy.

He's referring to JP entrepreneur Jeff Ferris and others who have for the community than surface roads.

What's your opinion? Does Friday's traffic muck-up show us the future? Or will the network of surface roads, which will replace the confusing layout currently in place, move traffic at least as well as an overpass?

Follow all the Casey Overpass news at the JP Patch Casey Overpass topic page.

Michael Halle September 04, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Jerry, I'm not a traffic engineer, and I wholeheartedly support MassDOT's declaration that the buck stops with them when it comes to designing and building the intersection. However, when you raised the question about turns at the December meeting, I did follow up with MassDOT and looked at the standard traffic guidelines. From MassDOT statements and my understanding of the turns, they can be completed by any of the standard vehicles that would use the roadway. The largest vehicles would use some extra space carved out of a newly-widened sidewalk in front of the Arboretum, which is standard practice for this kind of turn. There is also room to shift lanes slightly to make the turning radii slightly bigger. On your second point, traffic designs are published, analyzed, and standardized specifically to eliminate the need to bring in local experts from other projects. The turns aren't especially complex - Michigan Us sometimes replace all left turns with rights in the intersection. The Casey turns are more like the median U turns on Mem Drive and VFW Parkway in West Rox. The Danish Cyclist you mention was asked for ideas by an advocacy group, not MassDOT, and has no official role in the project. Finally, I know work has been done to consider off-peak left turns. I personally don't favor it -- it makes enforcement harder, increases driver confusion, and complicates pedestrian crossing. We'll see. Coolidge Corner has zero left turns, yet business booms.
Jerry O'Connor September 04, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Thanks, I'd be very interested to see specifics on the U-turn. Do we know that we can get the sidewalk from the Arboretum? What if it snows? How much space is there to spare? What if truck drivers don't think they can make the turn? If we wind up with heavy trucks driving on the Arborway because of any these factors, I'll take no satisfaction in saying I told you so. I hope you are right, but I am unconvinced. I'd like to see the data and I hope it's better than the state's. As for traffic designs, I must disagree. I think that design specifications are there to set standards, not to eliminate the value of professional experience. I am unfamilair with any profession in which experience doesn't matter, and I think that in every project issues arise that are not in the book. That's why, if you were hiring someone to build you a house, you'd hire an experienced builder instead of someone with a book about how to do it. I think that there is no excuse for not bringing in experienced professional know-how. As for the feasibility of alternative traffic patterns, who knows. I don't. I do know, because I live here, that the closure of the overpass for its many repairs during off-peak times doesn't affect us very much at all. On the other hand, making the neighorhood drive around in mile-long oblongs for the rest of their lives is a bit of a burden. That's why it is worth taking a serious look at the proposal -- which we don't seem to be doing. Thanks again.
karen harris September 13, 2012 at 10:29 PM
It is clear that the bridge is crumpling and needs to come down ASAP. Traffic is already a nightmare at Forest Hill.s The traffic jam (that I unfortunately got tied up in) is proof positive that surface roads ain't gonna cut it. There will be tie up in all directions, transit, etc. Don't fool yourselves into thinking surface roads will not lead to a traffic nightmare. Once it's done there's no turning back!!
Sandra Stark December 09, 2012 at 05:09 PM
The traffic now does not reflect the burden created by all the new housing on South Huntington and Centre Streets. There will be hundreds of new cars in the area. Currently we do not have a realistic picture of what is to come.
Michael Halle December 10, 2012 at 04:15 AM
Sandra, The long-term traffic analysis for the Casey replacement project comes from the Central Transportation Planning Staff (CTPS) of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), an independent state planning organization. They are the central authority for planning in 101 cities and towns in the Metro Boston area. Their analysis includes information about both major and minor planned developments throughout the region, as well as population grown and changing transportation and traffic patterns. While some projects like the South Huntington ones may or may not be specifically included, the model includes many projects throughout the region that few other people would even be thinking about yet. The in-process and future Forest Hills development is included. More information is being constantly added. CTPS analysis for Casey includes estimates for 2035 and tacks on something like 10% more traffic just to be sure. There are probably just as many people who argue that CTPS numbers are overestimates than under. The goal of the estimate is to have a design that is neither under-built nor overbuilt. All Casey replacement candidates, including the at-grade and rejected bridge alternatives, used exactly the same CTPS traffic models. If you don't believe that traffic model, you also can't say if a bridge or any other plan should work or not. While not omniscient, it's probably the best we've got.

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