Letter: Overpass process was unfair, biased

It appears that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is ready to announce a decision on the approach to be taken for the replacement of the Casey Overpass at Forest Hills. It is very likely that MassDOT will decide in favor of its “at-grade” plan to handle all of the east-west and north-south traffic in Forest Hills in a complex set of intersections. The “at-grade” plan will add 24,000 ground-level vehicle trips per day to the thousands of north-south and east-west vehicle trips per day already at ground level, all to compete for passage through this congested urban center.

Does it not make sense to support an aesthetically pleasing replacement bridge for the east-west through traffic on Route 203 that would be much narrower, shorter and lower than the present Casey Overpass to reduce substantially the traffic jams that the “at-grade” plan inevitably would produce?

No doubt, MassDOT will claim in support of its expected announcement, that its decision is supported by a consensus of the members that make up its Casey Replacement Project Working Advisory Group (WAG) and that the process was open, fair and inclusive. Nothing could be further from the truth!

The WAG process has been restrictive, unfair, non-inclusive and biased in favor of the “at-grade” plan from the very beginning.  For example, no owners of any of the businesses at Forest Hills or close by it were WAG member participants; the process involved “homework” assignments for WAG members that basically were just busy work; MassDOT insisted that, at the beginning of the process, the WAG members spend hours of meeting time preparing numerous “methods of evaluation” for the project when the WAG members, virtually all of whom are not construction or traffic engineers, had no expertise in traffic analysis or road or bridge design; and MassDOT cancelled the December WAG meeting, has not published all of the comments from the public on the two present alternatives, and never made the pros and cons of each of the two alternatives subject of a debate by the WAG members and never called upon the WAG to vote.

It also now appears that independent experts have found serious flaws in MassDOT’s at-grade proposal as well as in the MassDOT’s alternative bridge proposal.

We, the undersigned members of the WAG, believe that the decision of how, and with what, to replace the Casey Overpass is too important for Jamaica Plain and its close-by neighborhoods to be made in secret by MassDOT and upon a flawed pre-decision process.

Bernard Doherty, Jeffrey Ferris, David Hannon, Kevin Moloney and Elizabeth Wylie

Casey Overpass Working Advisory Group, Jamaica Plain

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