Casey team prefers replacing Shea Circle

July 22, 2011
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(Courtesy Illustration) The Morton Street ring road concept, coupled with a Shea Circle re-design.

FOREST HILLS—Design sketches for possible replacements for Shea Circle and re-routing of Morton Street were presented to the Casey Overpass replacement project’s Working Advisory Group (WAG) at its July 13 meeting.

The WAG supported turning Shea Circle, the rotary at the eastern end of the Casey Overpass, into a signalized intersection and turning Morton Street into a one-way ring road. But no official decisions have been made.

The WAG member’s priorities, including encouraging the use of mass transit and other green modes of transportation and increasing green space in the final design, were also presented.

In survey results announced at the meeting, 47 percent of WAG members want a smaller and lower overpass to replace the Casey. Another 47 percent want no overpass at all. The remaining 6 percent would like an overpass similar to the Casey.

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 survey said that 95 percent of the 21 respondents found it acceptable to eliminate and replace or modify the landscaped Shea Circle with another type of intersection.

With that in mind, the design team presented three design concepts for Shea Circle, the roundabout at the east end of the Casey Overpass. Shea Circle is the current meeting point for Rte. 203, Yale Terrace, Morton Street, Forest Hills Drive and Forest Hills Street. It is also a gateway to Franklin Park, a link the design team has been charged with emphasizing.

The first option would be a roundabout with minimal alterations except for moving access to Forest Hills Street away from the circle.

The second option, dubbed the “egg-about,” would be an elongated roundabout with traffic lights at the east and west intersections and only one access point for Yale Terrace and Morton Street.

The third option would include the complete removal of the circle and its replacement with a standard signalized intersection that was largely supported by WAG members, except for a small but significant minority.

Though the old trees inside Shea Circle would be sacrificed, “You’re getting the green space where you can actually use it,” said WAG member Nina Brown.

“It’s clean, simple and straightforward,” said WAG member Don Eunson.

The design team also presented new sketches for the treatment of Morton Street and its many access points around the Casey.

The preferred design would make Morton Street a ring road—a one-way street that would loop around behind the West Roxbury Courthouse District and only have one access point.

“It [would] create a nicer residential scale,” said WAG member Allan Ihrer.

The other design would maintain numerous access points, cutting down on driving time, but maximizing the possibility that regional traffic would use it as a shortcut.

In the same WAG survey, encouraging the use of mass transit and other green modes of transportation and increasing green space were the top goals for the design team, as decided by the 21 respondents.

Two-thirds of respondents said that if traffic volume is handled well, regional traffic would be acceptable on surface streets, removing the need for a replacement overpass.

Eighty-five percent of respondents said they “almost never” bike or walk across the overpass, though a majority of WAG members want a sidewalk and bike lane in the replacement overpass, if one is eventually chosen.

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

Updated version: This version corrects the location of Shea Circle.

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