Twin bridges could replace overpass

June 24, 2011
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Busway reviewed

Twin bridges could replace the Casey Overpass in a proposal made to the Working Advisory Group (WAG) on June 14 at English High School.

The meeting also covered possibilities for the South and Asticou streets corridor, next to the Forest Hills MBTA station, a stretch of road identified early on as one of the top three problem spots in the area. They involved busway changes and traffic light fixes.

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 bridge idea presented at the June 14 meeting was for a split overpass—east-bound traffic on the south side of New Washington Street and west-bound traffic on the north side—which would allow for pedestrian and bicycle multi-use paths to be easily integrated into the design.

WAG members were divided on the idea of pedestrians and bicyclists sharing the bridge with cars. Some supported the idea, while others thought pedestrian and bicycle access should be limited to street-level. No decision was reached.

Another concept for a single overpass, narrower and not as tall as the current bridge, was presented previously to the WAG. The design team still has not decided what the replacement bridge would look like, or if one would even be included in the final design.

As part of the possible re-design of the South/Asticou corridor, the design team has been consulting with the MBTA about including a redesign of Forest Hills station’s upper busway.

The busway redesign would expand the capacity of the station’s busway and possibly re-route the 39 bus away from the Casey overpass, allowing for greater flexibility in the project’s overall design.

It could also change the timing of the many traffic lights in the corridor, reducing backed-up traffic.

If the redesign of the busway is successful, many of the frequent traffic problems in the area would be greatly reduced, if not solved, according to the design team.

“This is a huge element in solving this problem,” Michael Epp, a WAG member, said.

The design team has been expressing cautious optimism over the possibility of the busway redesign, noting on various occasions that MBTA officials have welcomed suggestions and “not shot anything down yet,” as Paul King, MassDOT’s co-project manager, said at a previous meeting.

Some WAG members expressed doubt with the MBTA’s cooperation, however, noting the T’s failure to build the nearby Arborway bus yard.

“Every single issue we mention, we’ve been lied to by the MBTA…You can’t trust what these people tell you,” said Bernard Doherty, a WAG member who is also active with the Community Planning Committee for the Arborway Yard (CPCAY).

WAG member Kevin Moloney also noted that re-routing the 39 might add time to its route, which might cause more stops to be cut when the MBTA changes the 39’s stops this fall.

For more information, see www.massdot.state.ma.us/caseyoverpass.

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