Casey Arborway Project Completion Delayed
Press release, March 16, 2016
According to documents recently released by the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board (MAAB), completion of the Casey Arborway project has been delayed. MAAB is a state agency that enforces regulations to ensure public buildings are accessible to persons with disabilities. The documents state MassDOT told MAAB at its hearing November 2 that substantial completion of the Casey Arborway project—removal of the bridge at Forest Hills and construction of a six- to seven-lane surface roadway—is now scheduled for December 2016, three months later than the deadline the public was told since the start of the project in 2011. The public has not been informed of the new completion date and the project website has never included a full schedule showing milestones and basic information, like the completion date.
For years, MassDOT officials claimed that project must be complete by September 30, 2016, the end of the the Accelerated Bridge Program, the state program funding most of the project. They repeatedly refused to address issues raised by the public because of the looming deadline. The three-month delay will extend the project beyond the funding deadline.
Additional Project Elements Behind Schedule
Other critical changes presented to MAAB include:
$25 m for Bike Paths, Shea Circle, Busway Relocation, New Headhouse; $0 for Mandated Accessibility Upgrades
MassDOT has not been upfront when discussing the “total project costs.” MAAB officials said access improvements like those
mandated by 521 CMR (state regulations designed to make public buildings
and facilities accessible to, functional for, and safe for use by persons with disabilities) estimated at $10.4 million should have been funded when the Casey Arborway project was funded because they are part of the project. It’s not that 521 CMR is a new regulation (in effect since 1968) or that MassDOT Casey project officials weren’t aware the costs could be high. Meeting notes from a Casey WAG meeting on Sept. 13, 2011, show project officials knew 521 CMR regulations could be triggered and “it could mean retrofitting the whole station” [Steve McLaughlin].
MassDOT Board and Public Misled on Project Costs
When the Casey Arborway project was presented to the MassDOT Board of Directors on October 22, 2014, MassDOT officials did not tell the Board that the Casey project would require another contract for over $10 million, instead claiming the “total project cost” was bridge and roadway work. Despite Bridging Forest Hills member Kevin Moloney addressing the Board and informing it that the project cost it was voting on was $10 million less than the real cost, no one on Board even asked if the project cost presented was correct.
Bottom line: by ignoring the Casey project’s access improvements required by 521 CMR and not funding them, MassDOT officials artificially kept the price of the at-grade project below the estimated cost of the replacement bridge/new surface streets alternative. The estimate for the bridge alternative was about $73 million; the total cost of the at-grade project including these required upgrades is close to $82 million if $2 million in police details is held as a constant. It seems clear the access improvements were not included in the project to ensure that the cost of the project that was seen by the public would appear to be lower than the estimated replacement bridge cost.
What else has MassDOT misled the public about?
Above: Mass. Architectural Access Board Findings and
Decision on Casey Arborway (Jan. 2016)Bridging Forest Hills Honored by City Council Resolution
Council Cites BFH Commitment to Upholding Social, Political, Economic and Environmental Justice for all Boston Neighborhoods & Beyond
The Boston City Council issued an Official Resolution congratulating Bridging Forest Hills, the multi-neighborhood coalition of residents, businesses, commuters, cyclists and transit users who supported replacing the dilapidated Casey Overpass with a new, smaller bridge. MassDOT rejected a new bridge in favor of widening the surface road to six and seven lanes to accommodate the 25,000 vehicles that used the bridge daily in addition to existing local traffic.
The Official Resolution, signed in late December by then-President of the City Council Bill Linehan, extended its congratulations to Bridging Forest Hills in recognition of its “Organizational mission, staff/volunteer commitment and member support to uphold social, political, economic and environmental justice for all families and neighborhoods in the City of Boston and beyond.”
“What a tremendous acknowledgment! If only we had succeeded in that mission,” said Kathryn Deputat of Bridging Forest Hills upon reading the Resolution. “But in the end, stronger forces prevailed, unfortunately.”
The Casey Overpass was demolished in late 2015 and construction of the surface roadways is underway. The new target date for the entire project’s completion has not been revealed but is expected to be late in 2017.
After 7 months, Gov. Baker's Office Issues Statement on Casey Arborway
Seven months later, this communication from Gov. Baker's Chief of Staff says "it appears all opinions from the involved stakeholders were heard."
It is disappointing the Governor's office ignored for months scores of calls, e-mails and letters opposing this project. Only after receiving about 1,600 petitions calling for a moratorium did the Governor's office decide to have one-sided conversation with MassDOT, the architects of one of the biggest frauds in recent MassDOT history, and conclude that the project is worthy.
Does Gov. Baker care about those EXCLUDED from the conversation, the users of the bridge, and the other neighborhoods affected? Does Gov. Baker care that MassDOT may have "listened to" its opponents but with cotton in its ears so as not to HEAR. Apparently, they didn't hear because thousands think the no-bridge scheme is wrong and the result of a biased process that never gave a fair shake to a new replacement bridge. And the e-mails and meeting notes obtained through costly Public Records Requests confirm this!
This is not over. Read this and take action. Call the Governor's Office at 617-725-4005!
Send construction complaints to MassDOT!
If you have been injured, nearly injured, disturbed by concrete dust blowing, feel police details are inadequate, observe dangerous practices in the work zone, or have any other complaints, you can send an e-mail to: CaseyArborway.Construction@dot.state.ma.us or call 617-571-7878 or 857-368-9041.
Councilor Charles Yancey Speaks out on "Grave Concerns" About Casey Overpass Demolition
Councilor Yancey expressed grave concerns about the Casey Overpass project that will eliminate the overpass and replace it with a 6-lane to 7-lane roadway. He is in the process of setting up a City Council hearing to give those who were not consulted or were completely ignored during the hurry-up planning process that led to the announcement the bridge was coming down a chance to hear about the project and voice concerns. Click here to view a video and read the article from the JP Gazette: http://www.jamaicaplainnews.com/2015/05/07/yancey-on-casey-i-have-grave-concerns-about-this-project/11446
MassDOT Meeting Shows Agency Fiddles While Forest Hills Chokes
Route 203 Casey Overpass Elimination Protested at May 7, 2015 Meeting
Over 125 protested plans to demolish the Route 203 Casey Overpass in Forest Hills and replace it with a 6-lane to 7-lane surface
road with up to 5 new traffic signals. Participants held "Forest Hills Needs a Bridge" sign and were asked to call on Gov. Baker
to pause the project to make see if the state is doing the right thing.
The bridge will be closed completely May 16. MassDOT officials and contractor personnel struggled throughout the meeting to answer questions, including why the variable message signs outside the project area say "construction" instead of "demolition"; why the upgrades to Forest Hills station—a whopping $11 million worth—are hidden from the public and NEVER described in any schedule; total construction cost ($74,115,000); and how many meetings were held in Mattapan.
Councilor Charles Yancey spoke about the confusion and lack of awareness that still exists and announced the City Council will be holding a hearing soon. He said hi responsibility is to determine the safety and health impacts—never analyzed—and make sure the project doesn't help one neighborhood while hurting another. "I have grave concerns," Yancey said.
Contact Gov. Baker at 617-725-4005 and say a moratorium is needed NOW!
Save The Casey Online Petition
We’re making progress, and we need your help:
We believe it is wrong to spend $75 M+ to create a 6- or 7-lane highway amidst Emerald Necklace parklands, add up to 5 new traffic lights, impair pedestrian, bike and bus travel, and disenfranchise Boston’s poorest neighborhoods to relieve MassDOT of bridge maintenance at Forest Hills. The Casey Overpass was built to alleviate gridlock due to mixing of local and regional traffic in this already busy transportation hub. MassDOT’s at-grade plan reverses that. It’s not only a bad idea, but also tragic, maybe criminal, lethal, and at minimum a gross disservice to tens of thousands of citizens impacted by this decision.
That's why we created a petition to Governor Charlie Baker.
Will you sign this petition? Click here:
AND DO PLEASE CIRCULATE THIS WIDELY to any and all you know who care about human rights, safety and health. Post on your Facebook page, Tweet – whatever you can do. Thanks!
Councilor Yancey Stands Up For Casey Overpass Users
Click the image below for coverage from The Bulletin, or click here to read the Hearing Order on the Casey Overpass filed by Councilor Yancey (opens PDF).
Another big crowd attended a MassDOT meeting at The English High School about the upcoming Route 203 Casey Overpass demolition.
The vast majority of the crowd opposed the plan, holding "Stop this Project" and "It's Just a Bridge; Let's Build it and Get Over it" signs and asked Gov. Baker to pause the project and take a second look at the lunacy of MassDOT's plans.
Despite trying to bore the crowd into leaving by spending more time on the science of noise than on the traffic impacts, residents and business owners from Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, Roslindale, and Dorchester stated their dissatisfaction with MassDOT's bridge-elimination plan.
Letter: Casey Protesters Were Angry for Good Reasons
Jeffrey Ferris writes in to the J.P. Gazette, Feb. 13, 2015 - click here to read his letter to the editor.
How can this be? Marty Walsh campaigned for a moratorium on the Casey Project. Please call or e-mail Mayor Walsh and remind him that he said this. Tell him you want him to follow up and ask him to please act quickly since MassDOT is moving as fast as it can to award a construction contract.
Join us as we educate drivers, bus riders, cyclists and pedestrians about the proposed project. Let the Mayor know we are expecting him to act on this issue! Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to help.
Devil in the Details “Walk the Line” video: Check out this fascinating short video about some of the proposed new “enhanced” crosswalks at Forest Hills after the Arborway nightmare is built. Do you think the 115-foot-long crosswalk is the one Sec. of Transportation calls an improvement in his June letter? Watch the 2:36-minute video on Facebook or YouTube.
Bridging Forest Hills News Coverage
Boston Globe Opinion section: 'Casey Overpass Plan is Flawed'
Boston Globe Opinion section published this piece by Cranston Rogers, P.E., retired civil engineer, and Kevin F. Moloney, Casey Advisory Group member from JP. For entire piece, see:
A key point the authors make is that MassDOT led people to believe the bridge could not be repaired, thereby skewing the "planning study" by not including that as an alternative. What other alternatives were omitted to skew the "planning study" in favor of the preferred solution, an at-grade scheme?
The authors ask Mayor Walsh and Governor Patrick to act. "...Mayor Walsh has the duty to demand that moratorium. He has the right — and the obligation — to have his own people evaluate the situation. He should not rely on the attitude of the previ- ous city administration, which acquiesced to MassDOT at the expense of access and the quality of life. Governor Patrick should join Mayor Walsh in calling for this moratorium and not leave this flawed MassDOT project as his legacy in Boston.
JP Gazette “Casey Arborway will only add to local woes”
The Boston Globe “Key role of bridge at forest hills overlooked”
“Replacement of Casey Overpass will be a rocky road”
Boston Herald “JP overpass blues”
Uphams Corner News Letter to the Editor "Calling on Mayor Walsh for New Analysis"
Download our recent flyers: "What's Wrong With The Casey At-Grade Scheme?" and "How Did MassDOT Deceive So Many Into Thinking a Bridge is Wrong?"
MassDOT Secretary Davey Attempts Letter to BFH ‘Members’: Give MassDOT a B for effort. Sec. Davey’s letter Click to see letter for how MassDOT now explains its support for the at-grade and BFH’s comments.
City Actively Promoted At-Grade Scheme While Claiming it Had no Position: E-mails bought through a $440 Public Records Request show that some members of the Menino administration called a hand-picked group of people to encourage them to attend the Sept. 13, 2011, public meeting on Casey alternatives. Although the e-mails do not describe the nature of the “messaging” mentioned by BTD Commissioner Tinlin, the City employees in the e-mails seemed intent on making sure a list of seven people not only attend the meeting but also speak. City officials in the JP Gazette (Aug. 3, 2013) denied prepping anyone on what to say despite discussing “messaging” for the calls. So if the City wasn’t promoting the at-grade scheme and wanted to escape scrutiny, why would BTD Commissioner Tinlin ask, “No fingerprints?”
Click here for redacted (by BFH) copies of the “No fingerprints” e-mails and other revealing e-mails.
Marty Walsh issued a statement Thursday, August 22, 2013 in support of a new bridge to replace the Casey Overpass:
"I am calling on Mass DOT to fairly evaluate the option of replacing the Casey Overpass with a beautiful modern bridge that reflects the Olmsted tradition that protected this area for so long, a bridge that will unite and connect communities."
Your health and safety are at risk!
Here’s how and why we must demonstrate to those elected to represent us that MassDOT’s plan, like I-95 in 1970, is wrong:
1. project has significant regional travel implications that are continually understated.
2. the critical decision period in late 2011, MassDOT overweighted at-grade support from bike and parks
groups while actual users of the bridge had little or no knowledge of the planning study.
3. because “traffic works fine” under the at-grade doesn’t mean a six-lane highway with no normal left turns is appropriate here.
4. not too late. The funding will not disappear if MassDOT reconsiders this flawed plan. The 2016 deadline is a MassDOT-imposed deadline. Doing the right thing sometimes takes more time.
So please let your elected officials know you think MassDOT is wrong! Send a short message or call your state representative, senator, and city councilors. Then fill out the Governor’s online comment form to let him know.
Contact Your Elected Officials
MassDOT IS GOING TO PERMANENTLY REMOVE THE OVERPASS UNLESS PEOPLE LIKE YOU ACT TODAY! SIGN THE PETITION NOW. SEND EMAILS TO YOUR LOCAL ELECTED OFFICIALS...NOW--links are on left side of this page.
Tell your friends, neighbors, and co-workers!
BRIDGING FOREST HILLS: Statement of Purpose
Bridging Forest Hills is a group of local citizens who believe the MassDOT decision to not replace the Casey Overpass is wrong. The fundamental concept is that every traveling mode is served better with less surface street traffic on the smaller street network required with a new replacement bridge.
Forest Hills is a transportation node for every form of urban transportation. Eight arterial routes converge here: Washington Street from north and south, South Street from north and south, Hyde Park Avenue and Walk Hill Street from the South, The Arborway from the west, and Morton Street/Route 203 from the east. Walkers, bicycles, local traffic, regional traffic, city busses, school busses, taxicabs and trains are all funnelled through this area. It is blessed to be surrounded on three out of four directions by the Arnold Arboretum, Forest Hills Cemetery, and Franklin Park. This is also what creates the transportation funnel with no adjacent transportation routes to alleviate the traffic through this node.
Although there is a popular design concept today of removing urban viaducts as featured in the article “The Life and Death of Urban Highways,” this is a bridge, not a viaduct. Many communities around the world have benefited by removing elevated highways, but every other one had other routes to relieve the traffic load, and were not a node with this many arterial routes converging. e.g. With the removal of the Central Artery, all its traffic was put underground!
Some of the many benefits that a new replacement bridge can provide are:
1. Pedestrians and cyclists can cross New Washington St./Arborway easier and safer with a narrower crossing. This is what our bike and pedestrian advocacy groups have been requesting for years, and is best accommodated with a new bridge.
2. On-street cyclists can move throughout the area easier with new bike lanes and fewer cars. Bike lanes were promised from the start of this project, and now MassDOT wants to eliminate them, despite national, state and local guidelines that call for bike lanes. (AASHTO)
3. The 39 bus terminus can stay where it is to minimize travel time for this busy high-priority route. The current plan calls for moving it to behind the Roslindale busses. Not only does this complicate and lengthen bus route 39, but also crimps future transit expansion possibilities.
4. There is no need to rearrange significant MBTA infrastructures.
5. The mid-block crossing from the Southwest Corridor Park can be retained.
6. There is less pavement on the ground with a new bridge, thus more open-space allowing for fabulous Emerald Necklace Parks connections to be made on the ground.
7. Sidewalks on the bridge would provide additional connections, allowing Emerald Necklace park users, both pedestrians and cyclists, to completely avoid 2 major intersections.
8. In addition, sidewalks on the bridge provide views from the Stoney Brook Valley into the surrounding city and parks as well as from downtown to the Blue Hills. It becomes a destination in itself within the Emerald Necklace.
9. Least impact on Route 203 regional traffic providing important access to our hospitals and to Boston’s largest growing employment sector of the Longwood Medical & Academic Area.
10. Provides the best opportunity to improve the flow of local traffic in the Forest Hills area, as well as the N/S commuter traffic.
11. Best serves the needs of local businesses and new development with normal traffic patterns and turning movements.
12. Local air quality is improved with less cars stopping and idling on the ground with fewer traffic lights.
13. Although the bridge may create a psychological barrier, this can be overcome with good design. But a 6-8 lane roadway here will be a real physical barrier for anyone passing through.
14. Safety of the traveling public was never rated. Statistically there are fewer accidents when there are fewer cars on smaller streets.
15. A fabulous new bridge will create an iconic focal point for Forest Hills. Modern bridge design would create a much slimmer, sleeker bridge than is there today.
16. The geography lends itself to a bridge because the Arborway comes off a hill that is already at the required elevation.
17. Frederick Law Olmsted, the Emerald Necklace architect, incorporated bridges and separation of modes here and many other of his parks as he designed for contemporary use.
18. We need a different bridge design than the one and only design that was shown in last year’s alternatives analysis. The bridge can be designed with much smaller intersections creating the best safety and Level of Service for all.
Bike Advocate Favors Surface Replacement for Overpass from Chris Lovett on Vimeo.
The existing bridge is higher and wider than necessary. Any new structure would be one lane in each direction and lower.
The existing bridge carries 24,000 vehicles per day (vpd) and between 1,350 and 1,700 in the a.m. peak hour. New Washington Street carries about 12,000 vpd.
Few other east-west alternate routes exist, so no traffic is expected to be diverted from this corridor in the future, according to CTPS.
Existing traffic is expected to grow on the overpass by 5% and by 14% on surface streets.
Surface streets and traffic patterns will be improved by removing the massive existing bridge and replacing it or not.
Cost estimates in 2008 dollars to build a new bridge ranged from $57.5 million to $73.7 million.