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Menino on Casey Arborway Project: "You Better Be Prepared for the Second Big Dig"

Mayor Thomas Menino came out publicly against the "at-grade" plan for reconfiguration of the Casey Overpass area. He would have preferred a smaller bridge with a greenway beneath it.

Mayor Thomas Menino isn't happy with the state's plan to tear down the Casey Overpass and replace it with a network of ground-level streets.

Instead, he said he'd like to have seen a rebuilt, smaller Casey bridge with a greenway beneath it connecting the Arboretum and Franklin Park.

"Be a little creative," said Menino, who has been mayor for 19 years. "Sometimes you've got to think outside the box."

Asked how a big project like this could go against his wishes in his own city, he pointed to state authorities.

"It's their project, not my project," Menino said during a lunch meeting with reporters from local community news outlets.

He said a project like that might cost a little more than the approach chosen by the State Department of Transportation, but that it would be worth it.

Further, he warned Forest Hills residents to brace for serious disruption of their lives during construction.

"You better be prepared for the second Big Dig," said Menino, referencing the epic project that tore down the Central Artery and put it underground.

In other comments about Forest Hills, the mayor said Forest Hills MBTA station should be turned around so that it opens onto the business district. The closed-off way the station is designed sends people right from the subway onto their buses without encouraging stopping into any local restaurants or shops.

Matt May 24, 2012 at 08:23 PM
David.... Don’t waste your breath Liam is the type of JP Ultra Moonbat who moves into the neighborhood and then complains about gentrification. It’s a losing battle trying to argue with a nitwit.
Liz O'Connor May 24, 2012 at 08:28 PM
I am wondering how it is possible that this is happening without the Mayor's support. It might be the state's budget but it is most definitely the City's problem if it doesn't work. It would be great to see more active participation of the City's staff and representation of the City's interest in the planning and preparation for this second coming.
Pete Stidman May 24, 2012 at 08:45 PM
Very shocking that the mayor would not reach out to the community before making these comments. Typically he has always supported the neighborhoods, and about a 2/3 or more majority of Jamaica Plain has supported the at-grade version after exhaustive meetings on the subject. His comments reveal that he is not fully aware of the vast benefits the at-grade version will bring to the neighborhood, and hasn't been in touch with the hundreds, nay thousands of people who are really excited to see the ugly barrier between JP and the rest of JP as well as Roslindale, Hyde Park and West Roxbury go away. The traffic works! I encourage everyone to contact the mayor's office to respectfully let them know how they feel: mayor@cityofboston.gov 617.635.4500
Liam Sullivan May 24, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Removing elevated highways reduces the volume of auto traffic as has been demonstrated in cities from San Francisco to Seoul. Watch this film to see how it works: http://www.streetfilms.org/mba-highway-removal/ Plans for improved sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes, bike paths, and public transit improvements will take even more cars off the streets at Forest Hills.
Christina Fritsch May 24, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Where was the Mayor when the hearings and debates were happening against at grade?? Very little help and way too late! Seems to me he wants the credit for being involved, not, but will blame us residents for the bad out come. Thanks for nothing!
Pete Stidman May 24, 2012 at 10:37 PM
On second thought, the JPgazette's story puts the mayor's comments in a slightly different context, toward the end of the story he seems to be saying that he is okay with it being a state decision (as opposed to here where it is framed as him pointing his finger). While we should certainly let him know our thoughts for his own information, it does not seem he is trying to change the decision. Always good to try and read between the lines of these stories.
Chris Helms (Editor) May 24, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Thanks, Pete. Here's a link to the Gazette's post: http://jamaicaplaingazette.com/2012/05/24/mayor-i-would-have-kept-casey-overpass/
Larry Cronin May 25, 2012 at 05:07 AM
It could be a "feeler" on the Mayor's part. Who knows-maybe more to come? Years back the JPNC had a presentation from the Conservancy on the need to restore the "missing link" between the Arboretum and Franklin Park, and it sounds similar to that vision. I know some of the people who advocated against the overpass will come to profoundly regret the decapitating at grade option that has much more Robert Moses in it than Jane Jacobs. Just because it's at grade doesn't mean that it's human scale. Unfortunately, in the attempt to slay a monster, a bigger one has been created.
Michael May 25, 2012 at 11:31 AM
What a jerk huh? He's probably thinking of all those folks who aren't even constituents who work in the Hospital area, et al. and who live in Mattapan, Milton, Quincy and points south who commute on 203.
Michael May 25, 2012 at 11:41 AM
High-idle/slow-speed, less costly at all costs thinking is the wave of the future! Thank god the DOT chose the cheaper plan with more pavement, traffic lights, and peak hour crawl for pawns who don't live in Boston. . . Your tax dollars at work. Oh wait, you probably don't believe in taxes. So be prepared for what you get.
Phil Lindsay May 25, 2012 at 01:41 PM
I'd say the Mayor was trying to be on both sides of this one.... The DOT is a convenient political buffer, but he knows there are a lot of big mouths still against it and he wants to stay friendly with them. Traffic calming and complete streets should remain the mantra and the At Grade Solution does that. Besides the Overpass has been an expensive recurring maintenance nightmare! Good riddence!
ann merritt May 25, 2012 at 02:11 PM
As I sit here watching the traffic flow on the Casey overpass, above the ground traffic, bicyclists and pedestians in a non-stop flow, i still can't understand why so many vehement bicyclists demand to have all this traffic join them on the ground level where gridlock and menacing drivers put their lives at risk. I must be missing something! Urban dementia?
Joan Wood May 25, 2012 at 03:30 PM
As a born and raised Bostonian who finally, after 55 years was forced out of the city because of high rents, I guess I have to say - I left at the right time. For once, Menino is right - this project is going to be an absolute DISASTER, both in the construction and the final result, and I can see it coming like a freight train. The very concept of building what is actually a 7 lane highway (I understood there's actually an extra lane) in JP is just such an incredibly bad idea - actually ASTOUNDINGLY AND INHERENTLY BAD - that I cannot conceive of anyone with the smallest amount of common sense supporting it. I now live off a smaller highway in suburbia and cannot imagine living near or having to cross anything bigger. You people who support this are simply INSANE. I am really sorry to see what was once a great neighborhood probably be irreparably damaged by this really stupid idea. Do you really think that pedestrians and bikers will be better off crossing or riding 7 lanes of traffic than having a bridge that diverts traffic away?It doesn't work in suburbia with our traffic so I don't know how the hell you're going to make it work in JP, but maybe you have alternate laws of physics. The only thing that gladdens my heart is that all you yuppies who so completely change (and wreck in my opinion) neighborhoods like JP, are going to be so absolutely miserable when this project is done, that you'll probably all move back to your suburban hell holes where you belong.
William Furr May 25, 2012 at 05:31 PM
What do you think folks in JP and Forest Hills live next to now? It's certainly not your suburban highway; it's an elevated freeway with on- and off-ramps and traffic that goes way too fast in their race to the red lights at Murray Circle or Shea Circle. A well-designed 7-lane highway is much better than what we have now, and much better than building yet another highway overpass through the area. Even better would be to trim it even further down to 2 car lanes, put in a train line from Milton Center and/or Quincy to Longwood, and lay down some really nice bike paths. But that's just crazy talk, sadly. To see what this road will probably be like, I suggest spending some time walking around Roxbury Crossing. Busy orange line station, busy six-lane highway, busy arterial cross streets, and a decent bike path, too. Similarly near Jackson Square. It's not ideal, but it's a hell of a lot better than an elevated freeway, and it's nice enough that developers are putting in a fancy mixed-use condo development right there on Columbus Ave in Jackson. If you really think the neighborhood around the bridge won't be improved by tearing it down, you haven't spent much time walking or biking around underneath it.
Joan Wood May 25, 2012 at 11:16 PM
William Furr I know what they live next to now....I lived in Boston for my entire life up to age 55 and just moved out about a year ago because of the high rents. I lived in Roslindale specifically for several years, so I know EXACTLY what they're living with as I took those buses out of Forest Hills every day. Let me tell you what you're going to be GETTING: A NIGHTMARE. You are going to have probably YEARS of construction and end up with 7 LANES OF TRAFFIC. I live right off Route 109 in Metrowest, and it's all I can stand to cross or drive. Your highway system is going to be a hell of a lot more than that. And the Roxbury Crossing highway area is NOT remotely comparable to JP as there are far fewer residences and businesses right there. I go to the Veggie Fest at the Reggie Lewis Center each year....I sure as hell would NOT want to be LIVING right in that area, especially as an older person. I think the basic problem is that the yuppies who thought this up and are supporting it, are NOT city people. They are actually suburbanites who move to the city as the burbs are so devoid of life and interest. Which of course...is what the suburbanites CREATE. Then in the city...you try to re-create the same life you had...in the burbs!! That 7 lane highway is SUBURBAN THINKING...not something a CITY BRED person would think of. And what's going to happen is all the yuppies who are promoting this plan, are going to hate the results and flee JP once it's done.
Larry Cronin May 26, 2012 at 01:04 AM
It seems like some basic well meaning principles have been misapplied here, such as: "It's good to remove any neighborhood bisecting barriers". Example: The dismantling of the Atlantic Ave. El that cut the city off from the waterfront (1942). Unfortunately, the Central Artery and Southeast Expressway were already on the drawing board (prior to 1935), so they quickly re- separated the waterfront from the city in the interest of relieving major traffic flow problems complicated in part by the building of the Sumner Tunnel. One would think it was obvious to see that the waterfront was going to be cut off, but it wasn't. Eventually we got the Big Dig to try to correct the wrong minded thinking that seemed so forward looking at the time. Likewise, the Casey, a Parkway extension not intended to carry the traffic it did, LOOKS like another man made obstacle in need of correction. But its impact pales in comparison to the seven lane Hydra that's supposed to replace it. It IS a NIGHTMARE, and it will turn Forest Hills into an Island. The Casey and Riverway Bridges resemble what you see in NYC around the Parkways--with Olmsted everywhere. They can be made to work, and upon further review, don't look so bad compared to a traffic mixer that will itself need a future remedy.
Joan Wood May 26, 2012 at 02:17 AM
Larry, you're obviously right about these past projects and the 7 lane Hydra coming to JP. I think another factor we should not under-estimate is the desire of businesses not to "kill the job". They have a penchant for creating unnecessarily massive public works projects that are ultimately ineffective at best, and milking them for unbelievable amounts of money. These companies prey on naive and foolish people like those who support the 7 lane project. I don't understand exactly what the hell is so awful about a bridge?? Some of our most beautiful structures in this country....are bridges. Why can't we have a design contest and actually create something that will be both beautiful and functional - and enduring - instead of creating this massive jobs and graft project that will create havoc in JP for years and end up leaving an ungodly traffic mess - one that as you so aptly put it - makes an island of Forest Hills? As I say, the 7 lane highway is a suburban solution...NOT an urban one. I hope people in JP come to their senses and fight this thing. I suppose ultimately I should support the highway as I believe it will end up driving the yuppies out of JP - something I would love to see. However, even more than that, I would love to see JP at least physically, if not spiritually, remain an intact, vibrant and beautiful neighborhood...if such a thing can co-exist with the current crop of yuppies and their money grubbing obsessions.
R. Mauré May 26, 2012 at 03:36 AM
The bridge could be designed with pedestrian access. The view downtown from the bridge is great! Make the bridge attractive, a focal point, with a thriving business district below. BTW, it's not a freeway. It's a bridge.
Liam Sullivan May 26, 2012 at 04:42 AM
It would be nice if the Overpassing Forest Hills advocates would be honest and stop the whole 7-lanes fib. In the current design the road is 6-lanes wide with one left-turn lane for buses just east of the intersection with Washington St. The design process is still going on and anyone who honestly wants to see a narrower road should be advocating for such. Currently there is one lane in each direction on the overpass and one through lane in each direction on New Washington St. (plus turn lanes) Despite hysteria over congestion these four lanes carry current traffic adequately and outside of rush hour are already overkill. I believe a road with four-lanes for through traffic and an extra right turn lane at intersections plus the aforementioned left turn lane for buses would suffice especially as redesigned intersections would remove many of the current obstacles to surface traffic flow. The improved facilities for walking, cycling, and public transportation will take some more cars off the road as well. If you're really opposed to the width of proposed Casey Arborway I suggest you join me in advocating for a narrower road and not fighting a lost battle for a new highway overpass.
Larry Cronin May 26, 2012 at 07:46 AM
Likewise, there is a difference between a highway, and an overstressed Parkway in need of redesign. So too, investing any "community knitting" qualities in an at grade highway interchange is a big fib. There's no done deals until they're done. For example -Arborway Yard. DOT says they're moving forward but that doesn't mean they'll finish. We were told that I-95 was a done deal, they even tore down part of the soul of the city and displaced thousands. How do you like your South West Corridor Park?
ED May 26, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Joan, Who do you think you are? Always about the yuppies. You left so shut up. That bridge is God awful and anything that replaces it will be better. It is a dangerous , disgusting mess. I live next to it. Some things NEED to be gentrified. That Whole Foods everybody bitched about has made the place better. Why do all you old hippies move out and complain? Please!
Maura May 27, 2012 at 02:29 AM
Liam, I fail to see how "improved facilities for walking, cycling and public transportation" are actually going to succeed in taking any significant number of cars off the road. Why do you think this will happen?
Luis June 04, 2012 at 03:12 PM
Maura, allow me to respond for him. With better, safer facilities for alternative non-motorized transportation, those who want to bike or walk are encouraged to do so. The more people that actually do it, the more visible it becomes, the likelier it is that others will consider it viable and will try it out, leaving their cars behind. It's something that has been shown to work in other cities and can work here.
Liam Sullivan August 04, 2012 at 06:05 AM
Because it's happened elsewhere, including Kendall Square as documented in the Boston Globe: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2012/07/25/in_kendall_square_car_traffic_falls_even_as_the_workforce_soars/?page=full The Walking Bostonian blog puts it best in this commentary http://walkingbostonian.blogspot.com/2012/07/added-traffic-is-not-inevitable.html: "There is nothing inevitable about it; the transportation choices of the community today will ultimately shape what traffic is like tomorrow. If the community decides to promote wider roads and parking lots, then traffic will increase accordingly. If instead the community decides to promote non-car transportation, then traffic will not increase. It's in our hands." If we build wide, high-speed/high-capacity roads/overpasses and other amenities for cars (like lots of free parking) in Forest Hills, we will have a traffic-choked future. If limit cars to a narrower, slower road with facilities for pedestrians, bicyclists, and improved public transportation, some people will get out of their cars and congestion will be eased. It's that simple.
Joan Wood August 04, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Liam, you're living in a fantasy. The only thing that's gonna get people out of their cars is if the economy continues to collapse and there are no jobs to go to. Well, that might not get them OUT of their cars technically as people may have to resort to living in them. What the naive article about Kenmore didn't research is, if traffic died down in Kenmore....where did it go to pick up? It's like pushing down on a bag of water, it goes down in one spot and up in another. The disaster that is coming to Forest Hills is not just about increased traffic. It could be the same or even less traffic and it will still be a disaster. What makes it a disaster is that you will be building a vast concrete wasteland in the middle of JP/Roslindale that pedestrians and bikers will cross with trepidation, and that will end up cutting that area in two and starving the local businesses around it. Don't tell me about the area around Roxbury Crossing as that is also a concrete desert that has no life to it and doesn't naturally fit into anything. At least there aren't a lot of residences immediately around it. End of Part 1
Joan Wood August 04, 2012 at 03:02 PM
Part 2 Moreover all you people who support this will end up paying the stupid tax probably because of years of construction. They will drag this job out just as they did the Big Dig, and it will cost FAR more than we are told. This is a ripe picking for corruption. I'm very disturbed by what I see happening in JP. It looks as though uber wealthy developers have grabbed the community by the throat and are determined to rape it repeatedly for the last dime. I'm disturbed by the spectacle of needless "boutique" hotels on Huntington when a much needed facility like Goddard has to close its doors. Instead of building this really, really, really massively STUPID road project that is going to destroy a part of JP that could be salvaged, you should put your efforts into stopping these gawdam developers from hell. Anyway, you highway pushers are too stupid and naive to listen to reason, I guess you will have to learn from your own bitter experience as you won't look at anything else that actually has happened in the City's history. You want to live in this fantasy world of pedestrians and bikes as though this were Amsterdam. Well it isn't, and Americans are not Dutch. The cars, even though I personally dislike them, will be the LAST THING TO GO, and that is reality. At least I don't have to live through what will become your daily nightmare for years so I guess that's my upside. I'm just very sorry at what's happening to a beautiful, vibrant, diverse community.
Michael Halle August 05, 2012 at 04:44 AM
The existing Casey overpass has unrepairable design defects, defects shared by other bridges around the country that have failed or are in danger of failing. It must be replaced. Replacing it will be highly disruptive. These facts are true regardless of anyone's opinions about what should replace it. They we clear from day one of this project, or perhaps even before. As bad as this situation is, there is one even worse -- far worse -- alternative: a sudden unplanned failure of an unrepaired overpass, quite possibly involving the loss of life. And as bad as this situation is, we're lucky to have an accelerated bridge program in place to pay to solve the problem relatively quickly and before the current structure reaches the failure point. We can have our meetings, our opinions, our visions, our arguments, our countless letters to the editor and blog comments and words exchanged. The basic underlying facts remain and can't be wished or lamented away.
Joan Wood August 05, 2012 at 05:31 AM
Michael Halle - everyone knows that the current bridge must be replaced - that is not in debate. However, replacing it with the at grade multi lane highway is much more of a project, than just putting up another bridge. I just cannot imagine this area of JP being devastated by a 7 lane highway, which will really create a concrete wasteland in between JP and Rozzie, rather than simply....BUILDING ANOTHER BRIDGE. Bridges can be beautiful structures as we know from looking at iconic bridges the world over. I've heard of the Bridge of Sighs but never the Highway of Sighs.
Michael Halle August 06, 2012 at 03:03 AM
There is no evidence that building a new bridge rather than building a new surface roadway would lessen construction impacts. In face, it is quite believable the opposite is the case given the complexity of operating two partially-overlapping spans at the same time while demolishing one and building the other, but no analysis has been presented (by MassDOT or anyone else). Either way, the demolition and construction will be highly invasive, as the Mayor has colorfully said. Any talk of a "devastating concrete wasteland between JP and Rozzie" overlooks the fact that there is currently an even wider concrete wasteland there right now. The width of the existing bridge and surface roadways is far greater than the future surface roadway. The current overpass was originally six lanes of traffic, and has no less than three surface lanes parallel to it and any point.
Joan Wood August 06, 2012 at 03:26 AM
Hello Michael Halle - I think this is a massive opportunity that is being missed to create something BETTER than what exists now. There is no sense in substituting one concrete wasteland for another. Something else could have been done, but I think this "solution" was arrived at before any real public process ensued. To me that is corrupt and elitist, but....I can't really say too much more as I no longer live in the community as I simply could no longer afford it, which I guess is the only real American sin. My best wishes to those remaining in JP, but If my 55 years of Boston city living has shown me anything it's that you have a real DISASTER in the making. I guess only experience will teach the naive.

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