Bus garage may be smaller, louder

FOREST HILLS—The proposed Arborway Yard MBTA bus facility may be 20 feet narrower than originally planned. But that would leave a larger gap for sound to escape into the neighborhood, possibly changing the design of a soundproofing canopy that was the product of a long community battle.

There are no “heavy concerns” about noise problems at this point, said Merlin Southwick, chair of the design committee of the Community Planning Committee for the Arborway Yard (CPCAY), the resident group overseeing the site at the corner of the Arborway and Washington Street.

“Mostly, if it can lead to a more effective, efficient facility, we’re willing to do it as long as it doesn’t have a negative impact on the adjacent neighborhood,” he said.

The part of the facility in question is a bus garage surrounded by an outer insulating wall. In recent design meetings, Southwick said, MBTA planners said a 20-foot-wide travel lane into the facility is no longer needed, so the garage’s width can be reduced by that amount. That will leave a gap between the back wall and the outer wall that is 20 feet wider. The outer wall will not change position.

That gap is going to be covered with an acoustic canopy to divert engine noise and mechanical sounds, the product of lengthy sound studies a few years ago.

“The canopy will be adjusted to deal with any changes,” Southwick said. “I believe there is some agreement that the technical sound modeling has enough data that we won’t have to regenerate existing data.”

“What we’re concerned about is not any sort of tweaking of the design, as long as there are no changes with any fundamental agreements we have,” said CPCAY chair Henry Allen. “Obviously, no one wants to go through any [further] sound design studies. We’ll have to take a good look at that.”

CPCAY and the MBTA are aiming to complete design and begin construction of the facility next year. A critical step before that is relocating a pole yard on the site to make all of the land available. Allen said CPCAY is setting a deadline of October for that move.

After the bus facility is built and the existing temporary facility is dismantled, about 8 acres of land will be sold off for “community use.” There has been talk of including the land in the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s Forest Hills planning process, but the MBTA has said nothing definitive about its disposition process, Southwick said.

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