The Gazette editorial of Oct. 7 read, “All things being equal, replacing the Casey Overpass in Forest Hills with surface streets rather than another bridge is the better option.” But all things are not equal.
The planning for replacing the Casey Overpass at Forest Hills is coming to a close. The options are whether to design a new smaller modern bridge, or to eliminate the bridge completely and bring all Route 203 traffic to the ground. MassDOT told us the community is making this decision, but the process has been skewed against a bridge.
As a member of MassDOT’s appointed Working Advisory Group (WAG), I have been attending meetings since March to help make this decision. At the Nov. 9 WAG meeting, it appeared the no-bridge solution will be the slam-dunk answer. But many of us question the assumptions, goals and data driving this. The idea of a replacement bridge has been presented as another ugly barrier separating neighborhoods and preventing reconnecting the Emerald Necklace.
I believe a well-designed attractive replacement bridge can actually unite our neighborhoods and provide a better Emerald Necklace connection. Sure, given enough lanes, traffic engineers can design roads to handle any volume of traffic. But replacing the bridge with seven or eight lanes of traffic on the ground is a new barrier. As a cyclist or pedestrian, I would find crossing or being next to a smaller road easier and more appealing. By keeping two-thirds of the traffic up on a bridge, moving through this area would be much easier than with all the traffic on the ground.
Keeping easy access for cars at Forest Hills is important for all local businesses. Eliminating east-west left turns, replaced with “bow-ties,” will discourage people from driving to the local businesses. This will affect not just the struggling Forest Hills business area, but also others up and down Washington and South streets. As much as we local businesses love our walking and biking customers, we also rely on people being able to drive here.
MassDOT has said that with the bridge option, there will not be a good Emerald Necklace connector between the Arboretum and Franklin Park. This is absolutely not true. There are both on-street and off-street paths in both the bridge and no-bridge options. The bridge option actually takes up less overall space on the ground. The bridge could also have a sidewalk on the south side so a bike or pedestrian could skip two major street crossings.
The current Casey Overpass is an overbuilt, dark structure that most people consider a blight. But it has also served a valuable function moving regional traffic through Forest Hills. This area is a transportation node that funnels all modes through it. Cars, buses, trains, bikes, walkers and runners all pass through here. The bridge will keep regional traffic moving through while maintaining optimal local access.
Please come to Monday’s public meeting and show your support for a new fabulous iconic bridge at Forest Hills.
Jeffrey Ferris, Ferris Wheels Bike Shop