Casey project inspires Somerville

(Photo Courtesy Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership) The McCarthy Overpass in Somerville.

Activists in Somerville are pressing the state to immediately tear down a highway overpass, citing Jamaica Plain’s Casey Overpass as an example.

The state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is planning on spending 23 months and $10.9 million to repair the McCarthy Overpass, a structure that supports part of the McGrath Highway as part of the same Accelerated Bridge Program (ABP) that is funding the Casey project.

The McCarthy is a 1,700-foot-long overpass that looks like the Casey and is about the same age.

Meanwhile, MassDOT is conducting a “de-elevation” study on the overpass with a goal to turn it into a street-level boulevard in eight to 10 years’ time, after the repairs are complete.

However, many Somervillians want MassDOT to tear down the McCarthy Overpass immediately, citing the Casey Overpass project as an example of its feasibility.

“We have repeatedly asked why [MassDOT] has treated the Casey Overpass project so differently from McCarthy. They keep emphasizing what is different, not what is similar,” Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership (STEP) spokesperson Ellin Reisner told the Gazette.

STEP is an activist group advocating for transportation improvements for Somerville.

Reisner also noted the fact that the “de-elevation” of the McCarthy has broader political support in Somerville than the decision to tear down the Casey did in JP.

The current Casey project began as a repair project that turned into a complete renovation of the area and tear-down of the overpass after structural studies showed the Casey was at the end of its useful life.

The “Grounding McGrath” study, as MassDOT is calling it, is proceeding with a Working Advisory Group (WAG) similar to the Casey’s and other studies while the repairs are made.

“I guess you could say that Jamaica Plain is setting a trend in this regard.  We’ve had an unprecedented level of cooperation and engagement with the neighborhood, so MassDOT would be looking to implement a process [in Somerville] that is very similar,” Verseckes said.

That process has already started with WAG and public meetings, the latest of which was on May 31 and “very well attended,” Verseckes said.

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