Casey team debates bridge vs. no bridge

As decision time looms near, the Casey Overpass replacement team is choosing sides on whether to ask for a replacement bridge or a new street network without a bridge.

According to the design team, either option would handle projected traffic increases well, and both would improve on the current street network.

Working advisory group (WAG) members, who are assisting state planners in the project, spoke in even numbers in favor of either option at the last WAG meeting on Nov. 9, though the at-grade alternative scored better on the group’s goals.

“I feel more connected to the community when I’m on the street. I see that kind of potential with the surface [road-only] option,” said WAG member David Watson.

“It’s a landmark, an icon. It’s a gateway,” WAG member Jeff Ferris said in support of a bridge. He continued to say that he would choose a bridge over an at-grade option for its looks.

“You can mitigate [the space under a bridge], but it’s not a space that attracts people…If we [don’t put in a bridge], it’s an opportunity to kick off a renovation of the area,” said WAG member Don Eunson.

“I think there’s potential there for an aesthetically pleasing bridge that gets traffic off the ground,” said WAG member David Hannon.

The design of a future bridge would be decided at the 25 percent design stage, which is scheduled for next year.

State Rep. Russell Holmes, a regular attendee at WAG meetings, restated his preference for the bridge option because of its importance to regional traffic.

“I hear biases on your team” against a bridge, he said, reiterating a point he’s brought up in many past meetings.

The state’s design team has previously stated that they do not have a predetermined design.

The WAG-selected measures of evaluation (MOE), which will be used to rate how well each alternative meets the WAG’s goals, were also applied for the first time. The two scores are for the mobility—how easily all forms of transport can move in the area—and livability—how people interact with the design.

The higher the MOE score, the better that alternative met the team’s goals. MOE scores are not meant to rank options against each other, Andrea D’Amato, part of the design team, reminded the WAG, but instead to gauge how well they meet design goals.

“MOEs are only one tool” of evaluation, she said.

MOE scores were also given to the current street network for comparison.

The current street configuration scored minus 10 on livability and minus 10 on mobility. The bridge concept scored 0 on livability and 3 on mobility. The at-grade option scored 13 on livability and 7 on mobility.

An upcoming public meeting at the State Lab building at 305 South St. Nov. 21 will cover traffic studies and livability analyses on the bridge and at-grade alternatives.

The design team will also hold a public information meeting in Mattapan on Nov. 22. Holmes has requested such meetings in affected regional areas.

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.

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