I’ve spent 12 years working on the Arborway Yard, two years on the Forest Hills Improvement Initiative. I’m fairly well acquainted with issues that concern residents of the Forest Hills area, especially traffic and transit. As a Casey Overpass project WAG member, I represented 300 residences of the Stonybrook neighborhood, which is used as cut-through for traffic. Traffic is a big quality-of-life and safety issue for us, but here I write on my behalf only.
For nine months, those WAG members deeply concerned about traffic issues were told to be patient and wait; traffic would be thoroughly studied at future meetings. At the end of those nine months, MassDOT finally devoted all of 40 minutes to the key issues of traffic, transit and traffic modeling predictions. During those 40 minutes, WAG members pointed out factual errors, omissions and technical problems that needed correcting. At the next WAG meeting, there was no follow-up to address these. Then the last scheduled WAG meeting was mysteriously cancelled.
Months later MassDOT emailed out an FAQ document with “answers” for us. The presence of this document is tangible proof that the WAG process was less than legitimate; we should have had these “answers” presented to us in public and we would have then tested them publicly. The FAQ itself just restates the same data with the same errors, omissions and technical problems. Apparently this became the basis for MassDOT’s at-grade decision.
Perhaps correct facts might have changed the bridge/no bridge outcome? MassDOT adamantly refuses to discuss it. But recently they did, behind closed doors with no community involvement, decide to stuff in an extra seventh traffic lane. Maybe that’s a nonverbal admission that there were big problems?
The WAG will now morph into the DAG for design work. If the DAG is to have any chance at successfully integrating a busy six- to seven-lane thoroughfare with busy Forest Hills T Station and two busy arterial streets, it needs to have accurate foundational information. Right from the start, MassDOT must work with the DAG to get the solid publicly tested data on traffic, transit and traffic modeling it needs to make good decisions. This is not being obstructionist, as some have said, only sensible.
Jamaica Plain has become balkanized over the Casey solution, in part because many believe their well-founded concerns were virtually ignored. As well as improving the DAG’s work, an additional benefit of legitimately addressing traffic issues, prior to commencing design work, may be some mending of this rift.
Casey Arborway DAG member