Editorial: Take a pass on an overpass

October 7, 2011
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All things being equal, replacing the Casey Overpass in Forest Hills with surface streets rather than another bridge is the better option. A surface solution would untangle some of the insane intersections in the area. It would be friendlier to pedestrians and bicyclists, who are treated like targets in the current configuration. It would be cheaper. And it would make that section of the Arborway an actual parkway as intended, rather than an ugly mockery of one.

And all things are indeed equal, according to state planners. They say that motor vehicle traffic, current and future, would be handled about the same by a bridge or by surface streets.

However, planners must make that argument more convincingly and intelligibly than they have so far. No one who lives near or drives on State Route 203 can take traffic impacts as a matter of faith. The traffic analysis should be easily understood by average folks. It should address the fact that perception can be as important as reality when drivers decide which route to use.

Residents should be prepared to scrutinize the traffic analysis with an open mind. Much of the pro-bridge sentiment appears to be based on the idea that traffic should zip through Forest Hills as quickly as possible so it can become some other neighborhood’s problem. But consistent flow, not maximum speed, is a key to good traffic planning.

The obsession with speeding cars nearly destroyed JP in the 1960s with plans for an interstate highway through the neighborhood. It has turned the Arborway and Jamaicaway into ridiculously dangerous versions of Le Mans. It has given us the overbuilt, overshadowing hulk that is the Casey Overpass.

If all things are equal, it is time to stop making the same mistake and to pass over another overpass.

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