Letter: JP must work together on overpass plan

The planning for a replacement of the deteriorating Casey Overpass presents a rare opportunity for Jamaica Plain, the Forest Hills neighborhood and the Emerald Necklace park system to repair damage from a past mistake. As the Arborway Coalition representative on the WAG (Working Advisory Group), I have received many heartfelt comments, all in favor of the at-grade option, but am also very aware that others in JP and beyond feel strongly pro-bridge. Fortunately, both options are significantly better than the existing convoluted and dysfunctional street pattern at Forest Hills. Much of the difference between them (besides cost) is a matter of preferences and trade-offs. The at-grade, tree-lined urban boulevard and the elevated highway both can work.

Anything involving such a dramatic traffic change can be scary and difficult for most of us to imagine. At some point, we either trust the data and traffic models—or not. This community is known for having many passionately involved hard-working citizens on both sides of most issues, and the outcome often benefits from many good questions being asked. How do we know when there have been enough questions and answers? Endless process benefits no one, and the demolition of the bridge is scheduled to begin in 2013. We need time to develop the design that is selected.

Elected officials are not traffic engineers, and when they receive calls from concerned residents, they are in the difficult position of trying to explain data that they may not understand themselves. As the stewards of this area, I ask them to keep things moving in a positive way that is both responsible and fair, with fact-based decision-making at the core.

Now that the decision between the two options has been delayed, I implore: residents to ask any remaining time-sensitive questions; MassDOT to answer these time-sensitive questions; elected officials and MassDOT to communicate clearly to our citizens.

As we move forward, it is our collective responsibility to work together to ensure that whichever option is selected is done well. This weak link of the parkway can be transformed into a strong green connection between the Arnold Arboretum and Franklin Park, and Forest Hills can become a transit-oriented village that lives up to its name: green, with visible hills nearby and thriving!

Sarah Freeman, Arborway Coalition, Casey Overpass Working Advisory Group, Jamaica Plain

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