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Two Parallel Bridges, or None, Could Replace Casey Overpass

Planners met Thursday with residents to discuss options about what to do after the hulking overpass is torn down.

“The structure is done. Its life is over,” were the opening words by Paul King, project manager for the Casey Overpass Project, during a public meeting held yesterday at the auditorium on McBride Street.

Residents affected by the demolition of the Monsignor William J. Casey Overpass attended the meeting to learn more about construction designs and the likely restructuring of surrounding streets proposed by the project’s consulting team.

“I live on the Arborway, so I see constant flow of traffic,” said Paul M. Vanecko, 39. He said he is very concerned with what will become of the area, specifically how it will affect bikers and pedestrians.

Vanecko, who has lived in Jamaica Plain for 13 years, said he stopped using the overpass about a year ago because it did not make him feel safe.

“I am willing to hit more traffic lights than go on the overpass,” Vanecko said.

Based on the 2008 “Structural Condition Investigation and Traffic Study” report of the Casey Overpass, the overpass’ drainage system is ineffective, creating leakage problems; several lenses that should protect the lamps are hanging or missing; and all median stringers, a type of support structure, show severe corrosion.

It was the third public meeting about the demolition of the overpass. The consulting team and members of the Working Advisory Group presented concept design studies focusing on Shea Circle (the rotary leading to Franklin Park), Washington and South streets.

One of the proposed design concepts, the "Traditional Intersection Design," plans to remove the bridge, create on-street bicycle lanes, sidewalks, and pedestrian crossings.

Maureen Chlebeck, a traffic engineer working on the project, said that a downside of this concept is its restriction of left turns, which can complicate access. There is also no direct link between the MBTA and the Southwest Corridor Park.

“How big do streets have to get?” questioned Chlebeck, referring to the concept.

The consulting team also suggested the possibility of constructing two parallel bridges along New Washington Street. Each bridge would only have one lane, with traffic traveling east and westbound.

“To bridge or not to bridge? That is the big question here,” said Jeffrey Ferris, representative of the Southwest Corridor Parkland Management Advisory Board and Advisory Group member.

Ferris said the bridge created interesting opportunities for the community but still raised concerns over sidewalks and the need for shoulders to be used for emergency vehicles.

Installing traffic lights at Shea Circle was also pitched as an option at this meeting.

King said that once the designs and plans have been finalized and agreed upon, construction would be scheduled to start in mid-2013 and finish by 2016.

The project is part of the governor’s $3 billion Accelerated Bridge Program, aiming to reduce and improve deficient bridges throughout the state. The administration plans to repair or replace more than 200 bridges during the program’s eight-year span.

Some residents said it was important to identify which streets should be restructured, noting that drivers who are frustrated by traffic congestions may speed by neighborhood streets.

They agreed that no matter which option is chosen, it is something that they will have to live with for a long time, with enduring safety consequences.

The consulting team concluded the meeting by saying they would analyze the suggestions and feedback from the audience and would discuss the development of "preliminary alternatives" at the next meeting.

RICHARD Heath July 01, 2011 at 09:11 PM
Richard Heath / 42 Bourne St The new Casey Overpass is seen by many as a way to solve many traffic issues in Forest Hills. These issues have multiple city and state jurisdictions each with their own budgets and processes. It must be kept in mind that this is a Mass DOT process and they have a specific right of way for which they have a budget. And a strict time line . The Overpass is a part of a regional east -west commuter route and it requires being studied primarily in that way. The positive potential of a new bridge would greatly benefit Forest Hills if seen in this jurisdictional context . This is a DOT process not an MBTA or BTD-they are spectators The potential for a well designed lower span heavily screened with trees with a gently graded approaches is very positive for Forest Hills. The best parkway bridge architects need to be consulted The potential for wider parallel at grade sidewalks is also important. Sidewalks on the bridge itself should not be considered. A pedestrian flyover such as at Storrow Drive might be considered only if the Parks Dept installs desperately needed signage and maps throughout Franklin Park. Use of such an expensive flyover would have to be demonstrated to justify the cost. If there are no signs at Franklin Park people will be baffled about where to go when they arrive at the Forest Hill entrance. Franklin Park is still - as it was designed to be - a drive-to destination from Forest Hills.

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