Overpass WAG targets traffic

Rebeca Oliveira

Web Exclusive

FOREST HILLS—Members of the Casey Overpass replacement project’s Working Advisory Group (WAG) told the state design team what specific traffic areas they should focus on in their design during their May 4 meeting.

The WAG members debated whether local traffic should be more highly prioritized than regional traffic. Some WAG members liked the idea of giving higher importance to local traffic, which would favor a design without an overpass, while others supported the presence of an overpass to allow regional traffic to flow more freely.

“It’s been made clear to me that the overpass needs to stay,” state rep. Russel Holmes said, in support of regional traffic.

The design team also presented their projections for various modes of traffic that the overpass replacement can expect to deal with in 2035.

Andrea D’Amato, part of the design team, said that the design team’s goal is three design alternatives that would be presented to the WAG and the community for a final decision.

The Monsignor William J. Casey Overpass is the elevated section of Route 203 over Washington and South streets, next to the Forest Hills MBTA Station. Built in the 1950s, it has become too expensive to maintain and is now due for replacement. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) says the overpass is still safe to use.

The WAG consists of residents and elected officials and has members representing about 25 area organizations.

The four most problematic areas are—in priority order—the intersection of South Street and the Arborway; Shea Circle; South Street/Asticou Street; and the Forest Hills station passenger drop-off.

To address these areas, the design team projected the various kind of traffic expected in the area by 2035: vehicular, pedestrian, transit and bicycle.

The design team projected that, by 2035, pedestrian and bicycle traffic would increase by 13 percent and transit traffic would increase by 10 percent. Local vehicular traffic is expected to grow by 5 percent and regional traffic by 12 percent.

The design team said that these are extremely high projections for vehicular traffic.

“We want to have extreme numbers to make sure we don’t hit them,” D’Amato said.

WAG member Jeffrey Ferris asked the design team to increase their pedestrian/bicycle projection and was supported by several other WAG members, who mentioned Mayor Thomas Menino’s recent efforts to encourage cycling.

Ferris suggested a number closer to a 500 percent increase in bicycle ridership.

Four new members to the WAG were announced: Erik Gordon, representing the Forest Hills area; Cathy Slade, representing Roslindale; Mary Burke, representing Mattapan; and Judy Burr, representing the lower South Street neighborhood association and Roslindale.

The next community meeting for the Casey Overpass replacement project will take place on May 18. [See JP Agenda.] For more information, see www.massdot.state.ma.us/caseyoverpass.

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. The project must be completed by June 30, 2016 in order to qualify for the special Accelerated Bridge Program funds.

Public input is welcome. John Romano, municipal affairs liaison for the project, can be reached at [email protected] or 973-7028. Paul King, MassDOT’s co-project manager, can be reached at [email protected] or 973-8137.

Correction: Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this article attributed Holmes’s quote to City Councilor Tito Jackson.

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