Letter: Surface traffic is no solution

There has been much discussion about the Casey Overpass replacement options over the past few months, and interest continues to grow, as demonstrated by the standing-room-only crowd at last week’s meeting introducing the public to the two design options: a new, smaller and lower overpass vs. a six-lane road at grade level (the “at-grade” option).

The planning window is closing. The options need to be understood by those most affected. I am writing in hopes of persuading my neighbors as well as the groups of cyclists at the meeting that replacing the bridge with an at-grade highway will not improve transit, quality of life, bicycle infrastructure or anything at all.

A well-designed bridge will provide real benefits—keeping cars away, improving travel times and providing an attractive connection between the Arboretum and Franklin Park. Failing to replace the bridge and creating six lanes of traffic in its place will create a host of new problems and create new barriers for all in getting around and getting through the area.

As many as 26,000 cars transverse the Casey Overpass daily. As anyone who travels the area knows, the congestion in Forest Hills is a serious problem most hours of the day from many perspectives (air quality, quality of life, safety). The consultants offering traffic forecasting data acknowledge that the “at-grade” option adds delays. They predict these will be 60-90 seconds for the average trip-taker and often say that this is not significant and won’t prompt drivers to seek alternate routes.

It is clear that the at-grade option creates two new problems:  1) longer, more congested travel times, and 2) six lanes of traffic through a neighborhood dense with pedestrians, cyclists, T riders and others.

Cyclists and pedestrians prefer crossing or riding in smaller roads that have vehicles traveling at lower speeds. Keeping two-thirds of the vehicular traffic on the bridge opens the opportunities for great place-making on the ground, allowing pedestrians and bikes and strollers and all kinds of non-high-speed travelers to move comfortably around and within the area. A replacement bridge will create space for things we all want to happen in Forest Hills: easy access for T-riders, safe roads and entrance to the bike path for cyclists and safe pedestrian crossings for all. The bridge creates space for human activity by removing lanes of traffic.

As Jeff Ferris said, the current Casey Overpass is an overbuilt, dark structure that most people consider blight. (Letter to the editor, Nov. 18.) 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.

A new bridge allows us to create great local space while diminishing negative impact from regional travelers moving through the area.  We who live here and move around, not always through, the neighborhood should embrace the opportunity to build a lower, smaller, attractive bridge.

Liz O’Connor

West Roxbury Courthouse Neighborhood Association

Casey Overpass Working Advisory Group

Jamaica Plain

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