Overpass decision to come this month

February 17, 2012
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The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) will announce the decision for the future of the Casey Overpass by the end of the month, the Gazette has learned.

MassDOT has also posted answers online to some of the burning questions about the Casey replacement project posed by elected officials and the community since mid-November.

MassDOT Secretary Richard Davey said in a letter sent to state Rep. Liz Malia and U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano earlier this month that a final decision should be reached by the end of the month. MassDOT spokesperson Michael Verseckes confirmed that timeline to the Gazette.

In that same letter, Davey addresses many of the concerns voiced by those legislators and members of the community. A frequently asked questions (FAQ) document, along with an environmental justice study and an air quality study, have been added to the project’s website at massdot.state.ma.us/CaseyOverpass/documents.html.

The FAQ covers travel times and possible traffic delays and back-ups, accounting for future growth in the area and the reliability of the various traffic studies used in the project.

The environmental and air quality studies had been requested often as a means to decide between the bridge or at-grade alternative, especially by members of the Asticou Road area. Those studies were not expected until the planning stage of the final project.

Neither study found a significant difference between the alternatives. The air quality study found that “changes of air pollutions between the existing conditions and both build alternatives were minimal”—that is, neither bridge or at-grade option should cause a big change.

Davey promised to incorporate suggestions provided by Stephen Kaiser and Paula Okunieff, independent traffic engineers suggested by the community.

Kaiser wrote an independent review of the project and gave it to Malia last month.

Davey also committed to conducting a peer review of MassDOT’s traffic analysis by an independent traffic consultant as well as filing an Environmental Notification Form (ENF) before the 25 percent design community meeting.

The future of the Casey Overpass and adjoining Forest Hills area will hinge on whether the soon-to-be retired Casey Overpass will be replaced by a new, smaller bridge, or by surface streets alone.

The decision announcement was originally scheduled for mid-December. It was postponed to mid-January after elected officials, led by state Rep. Liz Malia, requested a delay in the decision amid community controversy. The decision announcement has not yet been rescheduled.

The Casey Overpass is the State Route 203 bridge over Washington Street and Hyde Park Avenue at the Forest Hills T Station. The aging bridge must be demolished in coming years.

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