Letter: Overpass process seems anti-bridge

July 22, 2011
By

The following letter was sent to Paul King, the state Department of Transportation co-project manager on the Casey Overpass replacement project:

I am writing with concerns about the Casey Overpass process.

Procedurally, the project discussion seems to be skewed in favor of the at-grade concept. The number of proffered schematic designs about the at-grade option within the Working Advisory Group and at the community meeting on June 29 dwarfed any discussion about an overpass. Further, even before any meaningful discussion on the overpass option took place, WAG members were asked which option they preferred. Surely, such a question without members having reviewed meaningful schematics on the overpass option was premature and seems to belie a predisposition on the state’s part for the at-grade option.

Conceptually, while one of the stated goals of the project is “to balance circulation for all modes and all users,” the schematics told a different story. They all showed very large roadway configurations where automobiles governed pedestrian, bicycle and transit vehicle circulation. Further, when asked at the meeting if the at-grade plan would accommodate future traffic growth, a team member astounded me by answering, “Yes.” Surely, however, we should be designing roadways to restrict rather than promote automobile volume. It was coincidental, but instructive, that the lead story in the June 27 issue of the New York Times reported that major European cities were discouraging automobile use, not promoting it. Everything we know about protecting the quality of urban living supports this environmental approach.

Also conceptually, the schematics presented at the meeting on the 29th removed the current grade-separated Forest Hills Station loop for the No. 39 bus. Such removal, however, would violate one of the stated goals of the project, which is to “maintain and improve” the three current transit vehicle loading points at the station. Removal would also increase bus travel time to Copley Square with potentially damaging effect on ridership and limit the future growth in public transit capacity at the station. Such a decrease in future transit capacity in order to accommodate future automobile capacity is nonsensical.

I understand that one of the schematics proposed a loading lane for the No. 39 bus close to the current loop and another proposed the construction of new bus platforms at the Roslindale end of the station. In the case of the loading lane, the bus would lose its separated right of way, would have to loop in street traffic to get back to South Street, and would traverse an additional and very large signalized intersection at lower Washington Street. In the case of the new bus platforms, the No. 39 would have to travel farther along South Street and cross two more signalized intersections in order to get to its loading point. Further, these suggested reconfigurations of Forest Hills Station would have to be paid for by the MBTA and not by Casey project funds. Is this realistic given MBTA finances? Why are we even discussing these options? They have no funding source, would degrade route No. 39 service and would harm future growth in transit capacity.

Franklyn P. Salimbene

Jamaica Plain