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.

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