Letter: Bridge would be a repeat mistake

I am a 22-year resident of Jamaica Plain and I strongly support the at-grade solution to replace the Casey Overpass. As an architect, I vehemently and completely disagree with the concept of a bridge replacement. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reconnect the Emerald Necklace and to restore a critical piece of urban design for future generations. Frederick Law Olmsted’s original design for the Emerald Necklace, where intact, is still remarkably viable today. The places where that viability breaks down are those locations where “modern” interventions have been insensitively inserted, such as with the Casey Overpass and the current street pattern around the Forest Hills MBTA station.

A replacement bridge will continue to have negative impacts in all directions. In the east-west direction, the Casey Overpass is a high-speed roadway completely incongruous with the Arborway Parkway it feeds into. A new bridge will simply perpetuate this problem. The MassDOT team has presented the results of its traffic studies showing that either solution, bridge or at-grade, will handle the traffic more or less equally, and in either case more efficiently than current conditions. This leaves not a single convincing argument for a bridge.

In the north-south direction, a lower bridge will still present itself as a wall for the majority of its length, maintaining the existing condition of cutting off and isolating Forest Hills from South and Washington streets and from the Southwest Corridor Park entrance. Getting on and off the bridge as it rises to a workable height pretty much guarantees this outcome.

When the Casey Overpass was built in the 1950s, automobiles and the subsequent highways they required were idolized in our culture as symbols of the future. We know now that this outdated thinking is not in the best interest of the life and health of people and their communities. As we plan the future of the Forest Hills area, let’s keep the focus on creating a more livable neighborhood by promoting walking, biking and public transportation while still respecting the need for drivers to get from one place to another. The MassDOT team has demonstrated that the at-grade solution meets many more goals for both livability and mobility than a bridge. Let’s not make the same mistake twice by building another bridge when the at-grade solution is superior by every measure.

Beth Worell, Jamaica Plain

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