Casey peer review released, gives thumbs-up

July 6, 2012
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FOREST HILLS—Following strong community pressure, state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) officials posted traffic analyses and a peer review of the Casey Arborway project online last week.

The peer review states that the traffic analysis done by the state’s team was “performed in a professional manner.”

Some community and Design Advisory Group (DAG) members are not satisfied, however, and continue to request more information from MassDOT.

“MassDOT’s approach is to see, hear and speak of no problems, but every chunk of data we’ve pried out shows more problems,” DAG member Allan Ihrer told the Gazette. “We just want to fix [them], and I don’t know why they’re ignoring us.”

“We absolutely will not deny anyone’s request for information,” MassDOT spokesperson Michael Verseckes told the Gazette. “As this project continues, we will continue to make every effort to get as much information as we can out there… The process for the Casey project has been more inclusive of neighbors than any other project we’ve done, and we believe it has been more robust as a result.”

Since the spring, DAG members have been requesting traffic data, analyses and communications that impacted various decisions in the Casey Arborway project, including traffic analyses that informed the decision to demolish the Casey Overpass.

DAG members David Hannon and Kevin Moloney, as well as Ihrer, have filed requests for more information from MassDOT. DAG members are seeking older information, such as discussions with state officials before the formation of the Working Advisory Group (WAG) last year as well as up-to-the-minute traffic analyses.

Many of those requests have yet to be answered, though some information has been released as a result.

Moloney told the Gazette that he does not think MassDOT has released enough information to satisfy the community. He added that Hannon has had to appeal to the state Supervisor of Public Records given MassDOT’s “failure and refusal” to fully comply with his requests.

“We absolutely want to provide as much information as we can, but we want to make sure we’re not putting information out there that may no longer be up to date as a result of any changes,” Verseckes said.

A second traffic meeting to discuss concerns more in-depth has not been scheduled, despite community interest.

State Rep. Russell Holmes, along with some DAG members, has been a proponent of further discussions on traffic, to address still-unsolved issues of congestion and possible MBTA bus back-ups.

The community also requested to view a peer review the state’s project team received in January from CDM Smith, a consulting, engineering, construction and operations firm. MassDOT received the review in January, then released a summary of the review last month, followed by the complete review last week.

The project’s website explains the delay between MassDOT’s receipt of the review and its release as performing “the work necessary to examine any faults found by CDM Smith, verify assumptions and data, and analyze and re-analyze the information to ensure that all concerns were fully addressed.”

In January, the state team received a draft review from CDM Smith in which 22 points, including requesting further traffic modeling and missing traffic data, were brought up. In May, the state team sent CDM Smith a memo with explanations and elaborations on those 22 points.

CDM Smith then released an amended final review, with no further comments. CDM Smith’s review and MassDOT’s comments are both now online.

“This process required substantial effort and time, but was well worth it in the interest of ensuring the best possible traffic analysis and design,” Verseckes said.

“We find that the traffic analysis provided for the Casey Overpass Project has been performed in a professional manner consistent with standard traffic engineering practice,” the peer review states.

Meanwhile, the state told the Gazette that a proposed “opening year” variation design would not be a big impact on the overall project cost of $52 million.

The state’s possible “opening year” design would have fewer lanes at first, but could still be easily expanded to a larger design to accommodate projected 2035 levels of traffic.

The complete planning study developed by the design team, a several-hundred-page document that includes all documents and design variations released to the public so far, is also now available upon request for pubic viewing at the Jamaica Plain and Roslindale branches of the Boston Public Library.

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.

The state Casey project website is massdot.state.ma.us/caseyoverpass.

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