Overpass team tackles traffic

November 4, 2011
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FOREST HILLS—The Casey Overpass replacement project’s planners said at the last Working Advisory Group (WAG) meeting on Oct. 25 that either replacement option will handle future traffic better than the current configuration.

A single-bridge alternative and a surface street-only alternative underwent extensive traffic projections to see how they would each cope with projected 2035 traffic.

“Overall, [the alternatives] work comparably,” even though a few specific routes on one design might take longer than the other, said Gary McNaughton, part of the design team.

The design team explained that east-west vehicle traffic over a surface street would take an additional 30 to 90 seconds. The design team pointed out that any time gained by going over a relatively speedy bridge would be cancelled by the traffic caused by Murray Circle just west of the overpass.

Fears of commuters avoiding a longer surface road were also allayed by the design team, who pointed out that any route alternatives that might cut through residential areas would take longer than staying on Rt. 203.

A point of contention between the design team and the WAG members was the design teams’ inclusion of extra amenities only on the surface street design option, despite the fact that many of them would also be compatible with a bridge option.

Those amenities include re-locating the MBTA Orange Line exit to the north side of New Washington Street; pedestrian and cyclist improvements to Washington Street south of the current overpass; and better drop-off points near the MBTA station.

The design team said that, due to likely budget constraints, those amenities would only likely happen with that design.

WAG member Jeff Ferris requested that a budget for the extra amenities be drawn up separately from either design, so that the WAG could make that decision.

The design team has previously stated that it did not favor one design over the other.

At the previous request of WAG members, the design team also presented other projections of large-scale traffic projects for comparison. The Central Artery project downtown used traffic projections for 2010 in its design, which have now been shown to have exceeded actual 2010 numbers by 13 percent.

The design team has previously said that they are designing for a “worst-case scenario” of heaviest expected traffic growth.

The design team expects to have a final design selected by mid-December. The design would be completed by July 2013 and construction is scheduled to be completed by October 2016.

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.

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

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