Letter: Surface street option points to better future

The following letter was sent to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation:

Thank you very much for soliciting public comments on the “bridge/no bridge” alternatives for the Forest Hills/Arborway/Washington Street interchange following the removal of the Casey Overpass.

This is a critical juncture for our Jamaica Plain/Forest Hills community. What will the future hold? Will we continue down the path of ever more numerous single-occupant automobiles commuting from the suburbs to downtown Boston and back again, passing through our community as fast as physically possible? If that is the objective, perhaps a new overpass is the way to go, notwithstanding its extravagant cost and the deleterious effects it will have on residents, pedestrians, park users and the environment in our local community.

I happen to believe that is not our future. I see a future in which there are fewer, not more, cars traversing the Arborway, Washington Street and the Forest Hills interchange than there are today. I see a future in which it is safe and even tranquil to walk in the parks that adjoin the Arborway/Jamaicaway without fear that a speeding runaway car will veer off the roadway and wipe out anything in its path. I see a future in which residents of the historic homes lining the Arborway/Jamaicaway will not live in fear that one of the speeding vehicles that have taken out so many of the historic oaks will plow into their homes, now that most of the trees have been removed. I see a future in which the historic parkways will actually serve, as Frederick Law Olmsted intended, as connectors rather than barricades between the beautiful parks of the Emerald Necklace and adjoining communities. I see a future in which bicyclists, runners, pedestrians, mothers pushing baby carriages and unaccompanied schoolchildren can actually use and cross the Arborway/Jamaicaway without fear for their lives. I see a future in which the tranquility of the parks is not disturbed by the never-ending screams of emergency sirens, and where the park air that our children breathe is not polluted by plumes of vehicle exhaust emanating from the adjoining parkways. This better future that I see will be brought closer to reality by an at-grade reconfiguration of the Forest Hills interchange, and will be pushed even farther into the future by the creation of a new overpass to allow commuting automobiles to “fly over” the Forest Hills interchange. The responsibility for making this critical choice has fallen to you. I hope you make the choice that will support “smart growth” and help wean our area from over-reliance on ever-increasing numbers of automobiles (rather than walking, biking and public transportation) as primary means of getting around.

Fifty years ago, urban planners made an enormous mistake when they decided to build the Casey Overpass. You have a rare chance to correct that mistake. Please choose the at-grade (no-bridge) alternative.

Kevin J. Handly & family, Jamaica Plain

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