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State Chooses At-Grade Option for Jamaica Plain for After Casey Overpass is Razed

The state's Department of Transportation decided not to build a smaller, lower bridge in place of the crumbling Casey Overpass.

The state has made its choice about the configuration of Forest Hills once the Casey Overpass is torn down. It will be a network of streets without a bridge, according to a statement by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

The decrepit Casey Overpass has been reduced to one lane in each direction for safety reasons. It will be torn down. The question was what will replace it.

The state had originally said it would make its decision known in December, but delayed that for further traffic studies.

The state had told State Rep. Liz Malia, D-Boston, that it would make a decision by the end of February. But it missed that deadline, too, while responding to questions from skeptics of the "at-grade" solution.

The debate has divided Jamaica Plain. Supporters of a new bridge say the "at-grade" plan . Supporters of the at-grade solution say it will knit JP back together and .

The attached video shows a simulation of how traffic and people will flow without a bridge.

Pasted below is the statement from Transportation Secretary Richard Davey:

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has selected the at-grade alternative for the Casey Overpass, which carries Route 203 over Forest Hills in Jamaica Plain.  The decision was made after an extensive public outreach campaign consisting of five public meeting and 12 Working Advisory Group meetings over a nine-month period.

That process has led us to determine that the at-grade alternative reconnects the neighborhood, provides more open space, incorporates more design elements that are pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly, and allows for more efficient bus movements through the area. 

The existing Casey Overpass is in the advanced stages of deterioration and is at the end of its serviceable life.  Moving forward, the design process will undergo a series of steps to reach completion; MassDOT expects construction to begin in October 2013.

For an archive of coverage of this important issue, see our Casey Overpass topic page.

Janis Lippman March 08, 2012 at 07:51 PM
The Forest Hills neighborhood will feel like a real neighborhood once again. The bridge made it feel like you were adjacent to a stretch of highway. If you're really in a hurry take the train, don't drive. We need less cars on the road, not more. Great decision. Janis Lippman
David Hannon March 08, 2012 at 07:54 PM
@AW: DOT predicts an increase in traffic volume over the next 25 years. Those who currently use the overpass are distance commuters who will still be driving to and from work. An aesthetically pleasing, lower, shorter, half the width bridge will serve us all better.
William Furr March 08, 2012 at 07:55 PM
Hurrah! Sanity prevails! Now we can get down to the interesting part, which is using the 25% and 75% design phase meetings to make sure cyclings, pedestrians, and transit users are *prioritized*, not merely "accommodated". If anything, it's the pass-through car traffic that contributes nothing but noise, pollution, and danger to the neighborhood that needs to be "accommodated".
Phil Lindsay March 08, 2012 at 08:19 PM
I've lived in Boston for over 30 years and had they not decided to tear down the overpass it would be the third time since I've lived here it has required rebuilding. Let's face it the overpass is a dinosaur. If you look at the entire length of Route 203 the overpass was perhaps the longest stretch of open road for the entire 6 miles or so it passes from Dorchester to West Roxbury. I've lived through two shut downs and it was never as bad as expected. Now to get the State Planners to get down to designing a Complete Streets project instead of something that still tries to bow to the mighty automobile. Most data suggests we'll be safer, healthier and our businesses more profitable by opening it up and bringing all the traffic down to one level. So yahoo! I can't wait.
Mark Tedrow March 08, 2012 at 08:25 PM
A big thank you to Mass DOT! It's great to hear that a people friendly and cost effective approach has been chosen in favor of the highway style bridge supported by so many "armchair engineers". Yes, there is still work to be done to help improve pedestrian and bicycle connectivity for the at-grade solution. As another Mark says "I wish it was four lanes rather than six"." At least the two outer lanes are dedicated turning lanes and with everyone having traffic lights, just maybe we will start to see a slight speed reduction on the Arborway, at least until Murray circle.
Laura Barr March 08, 2012 at 08:45 PM
I just wish this could stay hush hush until I'm able to sell my house- there's no way anyone will want to live in the Bourne area after this nightmare, adding thousands of cars a day to the already horrible traffic at Forest Hills. Plus no turning left off of 203- this will cause a nightmare scenario at the entrance to the Arboretum, which NO ONE from the DOT wants to even think about, much less plan for. Arghhhhh. I do enjoy watching the fantasy video, though.... How are they able to simulate Boston traffic with no Boston drivers??? They must have programmed it with Seattle drivers or something.....Not a single blocked intersection! Amazing
NickE March 08, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Agree whole heartedly. The argument that this is going to "stitch the neighborhood together" is nonsense. 6 lanes of traffic does not stitch a neighborhood together.
NickE March 08, 2012 at 09:07 PM
"it is built there will be fewer cars on the road, those cars will be less polluting" That's an awful big assumption to make. I live a block away. Putting 6 lanes of traffic at grade won't make the area better, and increased travel times for most destinations will increase traffic. Not sure how this option was even considered, other than the fact that it will cost substantially less for the DOT.
NickE March 08, 2012 at 09:13 PM
This is not a solution to the problem. Traffic studies have noted that the at grade solution makes already horrendous traffic in the area worse, and 6 lanes of at grade traffic does nothing to improve the connectedness of the area. The DOT is taking the cheap way out. As a civil engineer who lives a block away from the monstrosity that is the current overpass, I know that it can't stay the way it is. But logic states that you don't call something a "solution" when it makes an existing problem worse. Every day traffic is backed up in this area with the current arrangement, and it's only going to get worse. Would an elevated roadway be a perfect solution? No, but it would exacerbate the problem like this solution will...of course it would cost more money, which is likely the reason behind choosing the at grade plan.
Doug Rand March 08, 2012 at 09:32 PM
A bridge by definition connects two things over something else and usually without much regard for the thing below it. Thus eliminating the bridge option means that you eliminate an eyesore and stitch the neighborhood back together. There is no perfect solution here, but this makes sense to me. Think about what removing the artery has done for at least visually connecting people to the waterfront. Removing the bridge will visually connect the Forest Hills neighborhood with the rest of JP.
Barbara Gibson March 09, 2012 at 11:34 AM
What's missing from this traffic simulation 1. pedestrians who will interrupt the cycle with their walk signal 2. rush hour traffic volumes where traffic builds exponentially when stopped at lights 3. rush hour bus volumes needing priority interrupt for left hand turns You don't need a traffic simulation to show stalled traffic. T
William Dawes March 09, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Now instead of a bridge dominating your view, cars will dominate the landscape.
Rich P March 09, 2012 at 02:07 PM
I dont live in the area, but do drive the area really often and love JP for all it's interesting facets. I am truly divided 50/50 on either solution. Pros and cons to both all obvious so wont repeat them. HOWEVER, there are 2 points I would add, that I have not seen: 1. why was there no discussion of an underpass similar to the storrow system, It could have been in either direction, the current line under the casey line, or the side streets, Washington and Hyde P ave going under the long 'casey line' surface streets. 2. I do think that tearing down an elevated system seems to improve neighborhoods. Recent examples are the elevated T along Washington and the big dig's elevated central artery. Both big tear downs truly did 'knit back together' 2 parts of town . The central artery wall did cut off the water front and now a beautiful parkway , yes WITH several lanes of traffic including heavy trucks , vans, cabs etc, is far better than the elevated artery and creates a sense of one Boston, not 2. Similarly, I do think there will be a beautiful sense of one from 'main JP' to Forest Hills. JP will no longer 'end' at the Casey wall but transition far more visually easy into Forest Hills. I would then envision that, over the years, the Forest Hills renaissance could become a real phenomenon.
Ken Pope March 09, 2012 at 02:10 PM
I hope they have a plan to deal with all the School buses which stop all traffic there each morning...... Between the double parking waiting for the buses and the buses themselves it becomes gridlock each morning at 7:15...
Meegwell March 09, 2012 at 02:25 PM
I'm a bit late to this conversation, but what about digging some trenches a-la Orange Line style and allowing the N-S traffic to pass below grade while the E-W traffic passes at grade, or vice versa? Seems like this would make for a pretty and close to seamless re-stitching of the neighborhood. This has probably already been discussed, but just thought I'd throw it out there and look at the reaction.
Michael Halle March 09, 2012 at 02:53 PM
A couple of commenters have mentioned the idea of underpasses for Hyde Park Ave or Washington Street to pass under New Washington. At first glance, this concept seems very appealing. It was investigated by the design team based on a request from the advisory committee. It was rejected as impractical, however, for two major reasons. First, the underpasses would need to ramp up and down, which for instance would mean the ramps would need to start back where the businesses and the MBTA lower busway are on Hyde Park Ave. Look at Huntington Ave under Mass. Ave. for similar ramps. Second, the underpasses would only deal with straight-through traffic. There would also need to be a set of turning lanes on the surface to allow traffic to move along other desire lines. These turning lanes would need to be next to the underpasses and their walls, widening the intersections at locations where space is already very tight. The resulting design would have a major negative impact on adjacent properties as well as users of the street. Given that the backups that happen on Washington and Hyde Park Ave are only in part due to the Casey overpass and New Washington St (other major contributors include Washington Street itself out to Roslindale and Egleston Squares), the negative impacts weren't offset by many positive gains.
Michael March 09, 2012 at 03:05 PM
The video simulation is interestingly well lit and weather free. I'd like to see the simulation which was done for a December evening commute in driving snow. Oh, they didn't do THAT simulation... hmmm. So basically, the approval was based on fantasy. Huh. I'm happy I live east of Forest Hills. I'll seldom have to ride through the 6 lane suture that will "knit" Olmstead's vision together with wide black fabric and rows yellow and white stitches. They say people get what they deserve. I thought we deserved better.
Michael March 09, 2012 at 03:08 PM
The Orange Line is already in a trench right there... They could dig deep under the OL. Or they could build a bridge. Oh, wait, never mind.
Michael March 09, 2012 at 03:10 PM
4. Snow
Scott Thomson March 09, 2012 at 03:23 PM
I'm looking at the bridge from my kitchen window right now, so glad it will be gone! Hopefully this will help with the constantly backed up traffic on South Street too!
Max "Jay" P. March 09, 2012 at 05:13 PM
I'd like to see a pedestrian bridge at the corner of South & New Washington with ramp access to the SW Corridor Park for cyclists. it seems like a cheaper solution that would allow for an "iconic bridge" (proposed in a previous Patch discussion about the overpass) and mitigate some of the pedestrian issues.
RICHARD Heath March 09, 2012 at 05:35 PM
Richard Heath 42 Bourne St Twice in 40 years I will witness dramatic change in Forest Hills. We survived the massive SW C project- which dwarfs the overpass project. The State DOT made decision. The Commonwealth thru federal funds will pay for an at grade roadway but the city of Boston on roads under its jurisdiction must be responsible too. The success of the at grade solution will depend on traffic flow south northon Hyde park Ave. Washington St and South st. These are city roads. the city must plan ow and budget for synchronized traffic lights. neck downs. striping. crosswalks, no parking zones, school bus stops. etc. Forest Hills in itself has never been neighborhood- since 1806 when it was tollgate on the turnpike from Dudley Sq to Providence it's been a transit hub. We thought the Orange line would make it a neighborhood and that didn't happen. But that is not wrong or bad. There are two Forest Hills the one Mon thru Ffri and the One on weekends and holidays. After 40 years I am accustomed to this place I chose to live in because A. the rents were cheap ( ok that was 1972) and it was on transit lines. In summary the city of Boston now must participate and make this at grade solution work those of us who live and walk here and as for those who drive thru here to go to work/ school
Michael Halle March 09, 2012 at 05:50 PM
I'm having a little trouble visualizing exactly what you are proposing, but in any event pedestrian bridges aren't typically especially attractive or inexpensive options nowadays. They must have lots of ramping so that people in wheelchairs can get up to them. In constrained locations, that means a lot of back and forth ramps. And that means extra expense. Just as an example, the pedestrian bridge across Memorial Drive in Cambridge near Magazine Beach was recently replaced under the Mass. Accelerated Bridge Program. The new bridge will meet current accessibility and construction code. It is only eighty feet long with a single straight span and a ramp at both ends. According to the budget numbers on the MassDOT site, the cost of the construction contract was more than $3.5 million. As a side effect of circuitous ramping, overpasses are often ignored by able-bodied pedestrians and cyclists who choose instead to take a more dangerous dash across the roadway. So it's often safer to just make the roadway crossings better and forget about the overpass completely, unless they are truly necessary.
Anne McKinnon March 09, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Can we stick to comments that don't misleasd? Both a new bridge and at-grade would "transform our streets and parkland to be safer, more multi-modal and more pleasant." But the bridge option increases usable open space by 53% and the at-grade option, only 30%. Fact.
Chris Helms (Editor) March 09, 2012 at 06:44 PM
That's a great point, Richard. Thanks for perspective on Forest Hills (which I've been in only seven years -- but have high hopes to stay a long time.)
Larry Cronin March 09, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Six Lanes can be as bi-secting as the Overpass. Forest Hills shouldn't be looked at as if it didn't impact the rest of Jamaica Plain. I would anticipate that this project will cause some drivers to change travel patterns, and that the impact will be to increase traffic and speed (when not backed up) on Lamartine and Amory Streets.
Ken Griffin March 10, 2012 at 03:39 AM
Wow. Well, I wanted a new, elegant, award-winning bridge – preferably designed by an engineer from Japan or Finland with a flair for the fantastic. Looks like I’m getting an Edward Scissorhands kind of stitch job to pull my neighborhood back together (I’m embarrassed to admit living in JP for 31 years and not even realizing that!) as well as more green space (because a combined 1,025 acres of Forest Hills Cemetery, Franklin Park and the Arnold Arboretum is not enough). Maybe a six-lane mini highway really is the answer – I can only hope the State tracks traffic flow for at least 18 months after substantial completion of the project. It will be interesting to see who was really “right”…
Peggy Maxwell March 10, 2012 at 11:08 AM
Nice solution ! and it really is a solution! cost effective ethically appealing and it would work and could be initiated during the tear down meaning less construction time.
Marc near the Park March 12, 2012 at 10:35 AM
The underpass would have to go under the Orange Line and Commuter Rail tracks, that would probably cost big $$$.
Joan Wood March 18, 2012 at 04:38 PM
I was born and raised in Boston 55 years ago and was forced out to the distant suburbs because of the high housing costs. It's interesting to see the yuppies left in the neighborhood fighting over which ones can make a bigger mess of what's left. JP is a great neighborhood - or WAS until the yuppies moved in -- but it's insane to think that SIX LANES OF TRAFFIC is going to "improve" JP somehow. Are you all demented or just really stoked on that evil weed? Six lanes of traffic is going to make that area pretty much unliveable - you'll be overwhelmed with traffic, congestion, smog, and I don't know how pedestrians will get around - or T commuters. As for those of you fantasists who believe there will somehow be "less" cars in 3-5 years...only if we end up living in the Mad Max dystopia. We're NOT going to be driving electric cars and there are NOT going to be fewer of them. The economy is simply driven by oil and that is not going to change any time soon. It may never change until the entire society collapses. Wake up and smell the gas. It's coming to a neighborhood very near you. Guess I left at the right time.

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