What We Did This Summer: Bridging Forest Hills September 2013 Update
Marty Walsh Publicly Supports a Bridge in Forest Hills
"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."
MassDOT Board member tells Highway Administrator, “I don’t know how they will do it without the overpass.” Twenty-seven Forest Hills bridge supporters attended the July 17 MassDOT Board Meeting. Limited to 10 minutes, seven addressed the Board including residents from Dorchester and Milton.
Board member Janice Loux, former Jamaica Plain resident, addressed the chair after bridge supporters made the case for a new bridge. She questioned the at-grade scheme and said, “I don’t know how they will do it without the overpass” and was not pleased with the consultant, HNTB.
MassDOT presents 75% design; comments run 3:1 against it: MassDOT dumped its 75% design plans on the community at an “informational meeting” July 1. Following a presentation on the current plans at The English High School at which MassDOT stated it had incorporated comments on the 25% design and revised the plans, representatives couldn’t remember one thing MassDOT had changed after receiving over 200 comments. To avoid hearing scores object to the at-grade scheme, MassDOT herded everyone out of the auditorium to crowd around exhibits. After the meeting MassDOT received over 164 comments (plus 5 comments that were missing from the transcript), and
74% rejected the at-grade scheme and called for a bridge.
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.
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.
On-bridge informational campaign returns! Laura’s crew holding Burma Shave-style signs on the Casey Overpass sidewalk are back after the summer heat. It’s clear that many, many drivers and joggers on the bridge are unaware of the State’s scheme. This campaign has done more to educate people who use the bridge to get to jobs and activities than MassDOT bothered to do during the entire planning study. No wonder MassDOT did no more than place a few legal notices buried in regional newspapers—people who need the bridge do not want it removed and could have objected. Help out and hold a sign—it’s fun and it works. Click here and put “Bridge Action” in subject line.
Click to see letter for how MassDOT now explains its support for the at-grade and BFH’s comments.
Truth about how MassDOT misled the public about Shea Circle revealed. An independent state agency—one not controlled by Gov. Patrick—has exposed the charade run by MassDOT’s Casey Overpass team involving Shea Circle, a National Register-listed historic resource.
1. During the planning study, MassDOT never revealed to the WAG and public that Shea Circle is a historic resource and that it’s obligated per CMR 950 71:07 to “eliminate, minimize, or mitigate adverse effects.” The status of Shea Circle is listed in a public-access database on the Mass. Historical Commission website. A professional could find out its historic status in 7 minutes.
2. Further, MassDOT maintained for 11 months it had “consulted with” MHC and had done preliminary outreach and implied there would be no problem eliminating Shea Circle. None of this was true. MHC does not engage with a proponent until it receives an official submission for review. That submission was the ENF, filed in Nov. 15, 2012. MHC responded on Jan. 8, 2013.
3. On May 22, 2013, MassDOT said, “The effect finding has essentially been made; it’s the mitigation that we’re doing now.” MassDOT was ahead of itself, saying what it wanted people to hear. None was true. MassDOT did not submit materials requested in January to MHC until June 21, 2013. Further, it ignored MHC’s request to “reconsider and further explore alternatives to avoid or minimize the adverse effect to Shea Circle” instead reiterating its plan to eliminate Shea Circle. MHC did not ask for mitigation—it would be premature.
4. Finally, MassDOT misled the DAG again when it said on May 22, “MHC didn’t want to have a meeting at which the public comment was negative because the design had changed...and that’s why they are comfortable working through this process with you and letting the design move ahead a little further.” (emphasis added). The regulations (CMR 950 71:07) call for the proponent to communicate with MHC as early in the planning process as possible, and MHC commented that it “is concerned to note that MassDOT has progressed to 75% design—a fairly advanced point to be at, without having consulted with the MHC regarding adequate consideration of alternatives.” (emphasis added). MHC wants alternatives at this point, not mitigation.
At the initial consultation meeting on Aug. 23, MHC made it clear again it wants alternatives that would avoid or minimize impacts to the historic Shea Circle. MHC stated the fact that Olmsted designed an intersection is irrelevant because the Circle is in the National Register.
Questions: Why didn’t MassDOT reveal that Shea Circle is historic for six months? Why the lies and secrecy about Shea Circle designs? Doesn’t MassDOT know the regulations? Why the delay consulting with MHC if this project is such a rush job? Stay tuned . . .
Bridging Forest Hills News Coverage
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”
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 Governor Deval Patrick’s office
TELL GOVERNOR PATRICK YOU DO NOT AGREE
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.