Letter: How surface-street option changed my mind

I represent the Emerald Necklace Conservancy (ENC) on the Working Advisory Group for the Casey Overpass Project. I am also a resident of Martinwood Road and consider myself an active member of the Asticou/Martinwood Neighborhood Association. However, on the Casey Overpass question I find myself not only disagreeing with many of my neighbors, but also having changed my original position.

As a volunteer with the ENC, I was delighted when ENC President Julie Crockford asked if I would participate in Casey meetings for ENC. Needless to say, I was very interested, given how close I live to the overpass, but it didn’t take me long to realize that I could be at odds with the ENC if it favored a no-bridge solution. Like others, I felt that, based on my personal experience, I could not imagine how Forest Hills would survive without a bridge for the regional traffic. I considered turning down Julie, but it was too good to pass up.

As the community process got under way, I was impatient at almost every meeting to get to what I thought of as the elephant in the room, the traffic. I appreciated the path taken by MassDOT to get us to identify a solution using measurable goals, but in my experience as an architect on large projects around Boston, I knew the heart of the matter lay in the traffic numbers. I also knew from experience that we could not expect real traffic information until we narrowed down the possible solutions. Nevertheless, I believed that real opinions would not surface until we had the numbers.

When the WAG was finally shown results of the traffic counts, I was astounded to hear the engineers say that either a bridge or an at-grade solution could handle future traffic projections. I was still skeptical. I did not begin to change my mind until we were shown that travel time differences between the two options were in the range of 30-90 seconds. The more I thought about the absence of a bridge, the greater options I believed could be provided for the neighborhood. Ninety seconds didn’t seem like too high a price.

I believe the traffic counts because I have worked with traffic engineers. I agree we should question the information we’ve been given and I think the WAG has done that. I think the engineers have answered our questions in a reasonable manner. It’s difficult to put personal experience aside and trust numbers, but I now believe we have a lot to gain with an at-grade solution.

I hope the review timeline is not extended further, devaluing work that has been done by the working group. If the WAG continues its process, we can get more questions answered. Revisions to the schedule will reduce time for design and construction of either alternative and possibly jeopardize project funding because of missed deadlines. I don’t believe anyone wants that outcome.

Mary Hickie, Jamaica Plain     


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