By Rebeca Oliveira and Peter Shanley, Gazette Staff
FOREST HILLS—The community reacted to Mayor Thomas Menino’s comments calling the project a “second Big Dig” and stating his preference for a new bridge to replace the Casey during a sit-down lunch with city reporters on May 25, first reported on the Gazette website.
A replacement bridge was an alternative discarded by the state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) earlier in the project.
The “Big Dig” was the unofficial name of the downtown Central Artery project that caused traffic headaches for years.
Menino said sometimes people have to think outside the box and his vision would have the overpass being rebuilt with green space underneath it. That would connect Arnold Arboretum to the Franklin Park, creating one continuous line of green space, he said.
“Be a little creative,” said Menino. “Does it cost more money? Yes. But look what you are doing environmentally.”
Although a new bridge would be Menino’s preference, he noted the state has authority over the project.
“I don’t run it,” he said.
Deciding between tearing down the Casey and replacing it with an at-grade street network or a new, smaller bridge was a major point of contention during an earlier phase of the project.
The mayor “waited until now, when the decision has already been made, to state an opinion,” Forest Hills resident Gerard O’Connor wrote in an open letter to the mayor. “It defies belief that [he] didn’t make up [his] mind on this subject until today.”
“I am astonished that you [the mayor] would shrug and walk away from such an important public works project in the very heart of the city,” O’Connor wrote. “It’s impossible to imagine, in contrast, you abdicating to the state-appointed gaming commission the entire authority to determine how and where to locate a casino – even though it’s ‘their project’ and you ‘don’t run it.’”
The mayor also noted that vehicles will need to be rerouted through neighborhood streets while the overpass is torn down and the streets are realigned for the surface road. He said that unless the project is well managed, there will be some issues, leading to his “Big Dig” comment.
“That was a joke, to compare the two projects,” said Boston Cyclists Union Executive Director Pete Stidman. “Obviously, construction challenges are going to be there. [The mayor is] going to be watching every step of the way to make sure they do a good job mitigating for the community.”
“MassDOT has worked extensively with the community on this project and will continue to do so as work progresses. Like any major infrastructure undertaking, there will be impacts to the community during construction,” MassDOT spokesperson Michael Verseckes.
told the Gazette. “However, we will be working to implement an extensive traffic management plan to mitigate the impact on the surrounding businesses and residents.”
The city’s transportation department (BTD) did not return a Gazette request for comment.
The Casey Arborway, an at-grade surface street network, will replace the crumbling Casey Overpass. The Casey Overpass is the State Route 203 bridge over Washington Street at the Forest Hills T Station. The process has been fraught with controversy since it was first announced in late 2010.