Overpass WAG members announced

April 15, 2011
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The community members of the “working advisory group” (WAG) for the Casey Overpass demolition and replacement project were announced, along with the current status of the project, in an open community meeting on April 6 at the Agassiz Community Center.

The list is still not complete, though it is nearly so, John Romano, municipal affairs liaison for the project, said at the meeting.

“We tried to do our best possible” in assembling the WAG, Romano said. “We took what we thought was a reasonable representation” of nearby groups for the WAG’s membership’s first draft, he added.

Project organizers then expanded the WAG, in response to pressure from other groups and associations who felt the need to be represented, Romano said.

Valerie Schaecter, a nearby resident, specifically asked for contact information and accountability from WAG members during the April 6 meeting. Project organizers are not publicizing that contact information for now.

Before the meeting, many residents could be overheard expressing wary concern over the project, due to its perceived secrecy before then. After the meeting, most community members left satisfied, but some were still expressing dissatisfaction.

“I cannot have very great confidence in their listening to community input when they [the MBTA] haven’t done so with the Arborway Yard,” Henry Allen, chair of the Community Planning Committee for the Arborway Yard, said at the meeting.

The WAG’s first unpublicized meeting took place on March 16, when the WAG and project organizers discussed the possibilities after demolition: a new bridge, a surface road, or a combination of both. These same options were presented to the community, along with Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s (MassDOT) traffic studies of the area on April 6.

The current project schedule includes: coming up with a replacement concept by October; designing the plan from then into 2013; then demolishing the overpass and building the replacement by June 2016.

That could mean up to three years of construction and related traffic re-routing—a major neighborhood concern. Traffic management will be discussed in detail once a replacement concept is in place.

The project has no specific budget yet and is drawing on a $1 billion state bridge fund. Steve McLaughlin, MassDOT’s co-project manager, said that very roughly, building a new bridge could cost $70 million and building a new surface road could cost $30 million, as the Gazette previously reported.

The WAG has members from about 25 area organizations and public officials, including representatives from state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz’s, state Rep. Liz Malia’s and O’Malley’s offices. It also has members from Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Boston Redevelopment Authority, Boston Transportation Department, Boston Parks and Recreation Department and the Mayor’s Office, according to Paul King, MassDOT’s co-project manager. It will give detailed advice on the replacement options. The general public can attend WAG sessions, but will have little or no chance to speak.

Full community meetings will be held between sessions to report on the WAG’s ideas and get general public comments. The full meetings also will feature displays of detailed information and a chance for anyone to talk directly with all of the planning officials.

The next community meeting is scheduled for May 18 and the next WAG meeting is scheduled for April 20. Agendas and further details are posted online, along with project notes and presentations, at www.massdot.state.ma.us/caseyoverpass.

The Monsignor William J. Casey Overpass is the elevated section of Route 203 connecting the Arboretum at the Arborway, over Washington and South Streets, and the Southwest Corridor to Shea Circle at Franklin Park and the Forest Hills Cemetery. The overpass is located directly adjacent to the Forest Hills MBTA Station. It currently carries less traffic than in recent years with approximately 24,000 vehicles per day.

Public input is welcome. Romano can be reached at john.romano@state.ma.us or 973-7028. King can be reached at paul.c.king@state.ma.us or 973-8137.

WAG Community Members
Kevin Wolfson, Livable Streets
Jeffrey Ferris, Southwest Corridor PMAC
Fred Vetterlein, Stonybrook Neighborhood Association
Karen Schneiderman, Boston Center for Independent Living
Judge Kathleen Coffey, West Roxbury Court
Andy Schell, Washington Street Business Group
Bernard Doherty, CPCAY
Elizabeth Wylie, Asticou Neighborhood
Mike Epp, JP Centre/South Main Streets
Mary Hickie, Emerald Necklace Conservancy
Don Eunson, WalkBoston
David Watson, MassBike
David Hannon, Asticou/Martinwood/South St. Neighborhood Association
Kathy Kottaridis, Washingtonian Court Condominium
Genie Beal, Greenspace/Boston Natural Areas Network
Allan Ihrer, Stonybrook NeighborhoodAssociation
Dale Mitchell, Ethos
Sarah Freeman, Arborway Coalition
Michael Halle, Boston Police JP Traffic and Parking Committee
Suzanne Monk, Franklin Park Coalition
Michael Reiskind, JP Business and Professional Association
Bob Dizon, Boston Cyclists Union/JP Bikes
Nina Brown, Arboretum Park Conservancy
Charles Fiore, South Street Business Community
Liz O’Connor, West Roxbury Court House Neighborhood Association
Emily Wheelwright, Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council

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