Letter: New bridge is no improvement

December 16, 2011
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In your most recent editions, you have published a number of letters advocating for the replacement bridge to replace the Casey Overpass. I would like to offer a counterpoint to those letters.

The most important thing to remember is that independent traffic studies show that traffic will flow through the area at essentially the same pace with either scenario. Bridge supporters who say otherwise have no facts to back them up. There will not be massive backups with the surface option, congestion won’t be worse, and cars won’t be detouring through quiet neighborhood streets. In fact, study after study shows that when you remove facilities that promote traffic like an overpass, traffic volumes decrease. It is the opposite of, “If you build it, they will come.”

Since the surface option and the bridge option will both handle traffic equally well, the decision is really about what else the neighborhood wants to get out of the Casey Overpass project. In the bridge option, they get a slightly narrower bridge and nothing else. It will be no more or less iconic than the decrepit bridge that is there now. It will just be newer. A new bridge will not be a thing of beauty. It will be a place that provides shadows and great surfaces for graffiti and little else. It will not improve facilities for bikers or pedestrians, add to public space, spur development or do a better job of connecting the Southwest Corridor Park to the Arboretum. And to reiterate, it won’t even provide any benefits for drivers over the surface option.

A bridge says to everyone that the area is a place that is worth passing by, not stopping in. No one cares about the land under a bridge. If you doubt this, simply take a tour of the bridges around Boston. There are ugly, unloved and unkempt areas under or adjacent to the current Casey Overpass, at Charlesgate near Fenway, at Neponset Circle, at the Jamaicaway overpass of Route 9, all along the O’Brien/McGrath Highway in Somerville and Cambridge, and in many other places around the city.

In contrast, there are examples around the world of the revitalization of an area that can happen when a bridge or elevated highway comes down. We have one of the best examples anywhere right here in Boston at the Rose Kennedy Greenway. San Francisco has the Embarcadero, Seattle is getting ready to rid itself of the Viaduct, Seoul has reclaimed the Cheonggyecheon River, and the list goes on. The worldwide trend is to remove bridges, not replace them. Tearing down the Casey Overpass will improve property values, increase interest in development in the area, and add public space and bike facilities while improving connections between two great parks. And it will do all of this without making traffic worse and saving $20 million of public funds.

The people of JP, Roslindale and Roxbury have a choice to make that will impact the area positively for decades to come. The choice has nothing to do with traffic. We can choose to have a new park, better biking facilities and the promise of a much more beautiful neighborhood filled with new development. Or we can choose to have a big, expensive bridge and nothing else.

Jason Turgeon, Roxbury

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