Overpass to be replaced by surface street network

FOREST HILLS—After months of delay and speculation, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has decided that the Casey Overpass will be replaced by an at-grade street network and not a new bridge.

The decision was confirmed to the Gazette today by MassDOT spokesperson Michael Verseckes. Community meetings are slated for later this month.

“[The community] process has led us to determine that the at-grade alternative reconnects the neighborhood, provides more open space, incorporates more design elements that are pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly, and allows for more efficient bus movements through the area,” MassDOT Secretary Richard Davey said in a statement.

State Rep. Liz Malia first told the Gazette about the decision, after she was herself informed of the decision on Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s not great news, as far as I’m concerned,” Malia said. “They said they will do their best…There’s a lot of work to be done, whatever happens.”

A Working Advisory Group (WAG) meeting has been scheduled for March 20 at the State Lab. WAG meetings are open to the public, though the public is not expected to participate. A community meeting will be scheduled for the end of March.

A 25 percent design is expected by September. MassDOT expects construction to begin in October 2013 and finish by October 2016.

The decision announcement was originally scheduled for mid-December. It was postponed to mid-January after elected officials, led by Malia, requested a delay in the decision amid community controversy.

The decision was then rescheduled for late February, though MassDOT also missed that date.

The at-grade option is projected to expand New Washington Street to six lanes. It is expected to cost $52 million and includes roughly $20 million in improvements and MBTA station upgrades not included in the bridge option. If not covered by the Casey project, those amenities and improvements would have to come from MassDOT’s already-tight budget.

According to the design team, both a replacement bridge or a new street network without a bridge would handle projected traffic increases well, and both would improve on the current street network.

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.


Update: This story has been updated to include MassDOT comments and additional information. The WAG meeting date has been changed.

20 comments for “Overpass to be replaced by surface street network

  1. Anonymous
    March 12, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    Hope all your enthusiasm turns out to be correct. The ugly overpass was definitely coming down- a improvement. Three noisy, smelly, bumper to bumper lanes of rush hour traffic are not necessarily going to make Forest Hills an attractive area for commercial development.

    YellowRex argues against improved auto access by citing “If you build it they will come.” He ignores the people who already live in Mattapan, the fact that their public transportation options are lousy and that the MBTA is planning to make them worse.

  2. Butch Hobson
    March 11, 2012 at 9:10 am

    Seriously… If Liz Malia really wanted to help this process should could have commissioned an economic and community development study to accompany the state’s traffic and transportation work. What are the opportunities for positive, community-friendly growth and development around the Forest Hills train station? I think the opportunities here are enormous, especially if you don’t have a gigantic, ugly, noisy, polluting highway overpass running through the neighborhood.

    But let’s not wait for an elected official to get a clue. This is what we need to be talking about, folks! Let’s talk about it.

  3. Butch Hobson
    March 10, 2012 at 11:58 pm

    Fantastic. Great news for Forest Hills and surrounding neighborhoods. This thing was truly a ’50s era highway engineering abomination. It never should have been built in the first place. It’s great to see it coming down. 

    Now, who is going to run against Liz Malia? It’s time for leadership with a real vision for the future.

  4. FinallyInForestHills
    March 9, 2012 at 9:00 am

    Liz  Malia – seriously?  what did you add to this process except delays and some “expert” dude who could only disagree with the Federal traffic assumptions and couldn’t find fault with any other part of the process??  Forest Hills needed a workable solution – no option is perfect – you know what else Forest Hills needs?  more small businesses to attract more residents.  why don’t you commission a study on that – or better yet resign and actually take a risk and become a small business owner in JP.  bet that won’t happen…

  5. Dan
    March 8, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    The new bridge design would not “divide the neighborhood” any more than a 6 lane surface roadway.  In fact, the bridge was going to be located over a roadway.  I can’t wait till the silent majority sees these “bow ties” and other features the traffic engineers came up with to get an overwelming number of vehicles through surface intersections.  These “bow ties” prohibit left turns.  How many cyclists will be using the “bow ties”…riding straight through 2 major intersections, taking a signized u-turn, then through another major intersection, and then finally taking a right turn at another major intersection, which will assuredly not allow right on red.  Just to avoid a simple left turn.

  6. March 8, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    Thank God, sanity prevailed!  Now we can move on to the good part, which is using the community meetings at the 25% and 75% design phases to make sure cyclists, pedestrians, and transit users are *prioritized* over pass-through car commuters that add nothing to the neighborhood except pollution and noise.

    Hurrah to the WAG, to the advocacy groups, and to everyone who put their time and effort into this project to save us from yet another 50’s era highway project designed to “slay” congestion (as if that’s ever even possible!) and protect us from Soviet nuclear bombs.

  7. Weekend Cyclist
    March 8, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    Bad idea, sorry.  I get the open space argument but I am one of many who drive it every day.  Now I will be at-grade with my SUV….. idling at a red light.

    • rozzierat12
      March 8, 2012 at 3:13 pm

      I drive through there every day as well – I already idle out in front of forest hills at three different lights, and it’s currently a complete mess under the overpass because of the crazy on-ramps.  maybe they’d improve this with the new bridge, but as a driver I prefer the at-grade option.

  8. Jason Turgeon
    March 8, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    Fantastic news.  This was the obvious decision for so many reasons. I have complete faith that this will not make traffic any worse, and it might even improve it.

  9. Paul Schimek
    March 8, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Good news. But now let’s see if we can: reconfigure all the unused space in the area to provide development parcels for small retail maybe with housing above and usable miniparks; improve 39 bus operations and passenger amenities; accommodate cyclists on all the roadways, even if there is a path/sidewalk adjacent to the roadway.

  10. March 8, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    Huzzah! Such great news. 

  11. MrGoodmorning
    March 8, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    Good. This thing was an anomaly as it was. It won’t cause traffic. Overabundance of cars cause traffic, not road design. 

    • Gimme
      March 8, 2012 at 1:40 pm

       im not so sure about that

      • March 8, 2012 at 2:38 pm

        If you came to any WAG meetings or any Livable Streets presentations, you would know that every traffic study in the past 50 years has shown a “if you build it, they will come” correlation.  Building faster, wider, higher roads just brings more cars out; it does *not* reduce congestion, and can actually worsen congestion in the city centres where the local street grid is overloaded.

        Bringing cars to the urban street grid faster just overloads the street grid even faster, bringing on more gridlock.

        Sources available on request.

        • Dan
          March 8, 2012 at 3:10 pm

          What do these “Livable Streets” presentations say about traffic conditions around the last stop on the rapid transit line?  Forest Hills need to be rapidly accessable to buses and cars.  Having  locals traffic, pedestrians and buses conflict with cars that are passing through doesn’t help anyone. It just makes Mattapan 10 minutes farther from Moss Hill…which is probably the real motivation for removing the bridge. 

  12. Crimepunish
    March 8, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    great news…time to move into the 21st century

  13. cycler
    March 8, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    I think this is going to be great for the community- make a more vibrant and livable neighborhood without the shadow of a bridge overhanging everything.

  14. Anonymous
    March 8, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    This is going to creat soooooooooooo much traffic

    • Bike Advocate
      March 8, 2012 at 2:31 pm

       A team of civil engineers who studied the traffic patterns through the area decided that it would not cause traffic; you reading an article and having an opinion on the subject disagree. Hours of labor vs. 90 seconds of reading.  Who is more likely to be correct? You be the judge of that.

      • Dan
        March 8, 2012 at 3:34 pm

        Are those same engineers that said there would be no traffic in Boston after the Big Dig?
        I guess now the Moss Hill and Brookline residents finally got their way and have now effictivly made themselves 10 minutes farther away from Mattapan.

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