The design phase of the Casey Arborway project began with a discussion on parking, bus traffic, street names and the announcement of Shea Circle’s future: a standard intersection to be named Shea Square.
While the design has been assumed to be future of the rotary for months, it was finally announced as the state Department of Transportation’s (MassDOT) official decision at the first Design Advisory Group (DAG) meeting on April 30.
The design team presented an updated schedule for the project. The DAG also discussed other changes and improvements such as parking, a dedicated traffic group, drop-off lanes and street names.
Under the current design, which is still subject to fine-tuning, the Casey Arborway/Route 203 will intersect with Forest Hills Drive on the north and Morton Street on the south. Yale Terrace will be located further away from the intersection and only intersect with Morton Street.
The idea to replace Shea Circle with a standard intersection was suggested by members of the project’s former Working Advisory Group (WAG) early in the planning process as a way to increase safety. Many WAG members mentioned a high number of car accidents around the rotary last year.
The majority of the feedback was favorable to the Shea Square design, a design team spokesperson said.
Parking drew attention after the meeting.
There are 105 parking spaces reserved for the West Roxbury Courthouse at 445 Arborway underneath the existing overpass. These will be removed as part of the project, MassDOT spokesperson Michael Verseckes said. The current plan would replace only half of them.
Under the current Shea Square plan, 52 diagonal face-in parking spaces have been placed along the frontage road in front of the West Roxbury District Courthouse and Arborway Gardens condominiums. Thirty-two of those would face Arborway Gardens.
“They’re decimating the slight residential feeling we have in favor of courthouse parking,” Arborway Gardens resident Valerie Schechter told the Gazette. “I don’t think they’re taking into consideration the quality of life of Arborway Gardens residents. We’re terrified of what they’re doing.”
Verseckes reiterated that any parking plans are susceptible to change.
“We’ll continue to work with the Design Advisory Group to find the best possible solution” for parking distribution, he added.
The DAG also started discussing improvements to the South Street/Washington Street corridor on the west side of the Forest Hills MBTA station.
Drop-off and taxi lanes are being expanded to both sides of Washington Street, though the allocation of spaces—how many for taxis, how many for drop-offs, and what areas will be devoted to which—has not yet been decided, the design team stated.
The state’s design team expects the design to be completed by July of next year and the project to be completely built by September 2016. Construction is expected to begin April 2014, the design team said.
DAG members welcomed the design team’s idea of forming an in-depth traffic discussion group. About half of the DAG’s membership showed an interest in participating in the extra in-depth discussions, especially after DAG member Allan Ihrer corrected the design team on a few points regarding bus traffic.
“After a year of meetings, we will finally may have a meeting where we just look at traffic issues,” Ihrer told the Gazette in an email.
The area’s traffic and the project’s ability to successfully deal with it has been a major point of contention for much of the process.
A small patch of land adjacent to Yale Terrace will be created, and the design team asked for preferences as to its future. Parking and added green space were some of the DAG’s ideas.
The design team also asked for input on street names around the Forest Hills area. Because of the area’s many past street projects, many streets start, stop or change names without seeming logic. One example is the two parallel Washington Streets on either side of the MBTA station. No decision was reached.