Editorial: The public’s right to Casey data

The Casey Arborway Design Advisory Group should not become the Design Audience Group. MassDOT is presenting it with major project changes, but withholding for months the data to support some of those changes, ensuring that the DAG’s advice has been two steps behind.

In March, MassDOT presented a Casey Arborway plan that expanded the asphalt by adding a seventh lane. That major change, drawn on a tiny map, was not mentioned by any MassDOT planner and was only noticed later by project critics.

DAG members immediately requested updated traffic analysis for the impact of that change. Incredibly, it took more than six weeks and a Freedom of Information Act request to get the data, which showed that the seventh lane made traffic considerably worse.

MassDOT had no response to that data for two more weeks. Then it said the data didn’t matter because there were already more changes to the project that no one knew about. MassDOT officials actually berated the community for discussing outdated data—outdated solely because MassDOT itself had withheld it for no good reason.

DAG members requested traffic data for the current plan and a sensible pledge to get traffic data for future updated plans. MassDOT released the current data, but was noncommittal about the future. Until recently, it also withheld for half a year an important independent review of the project.

MassDOT says it would be burdensome to release constantly changing data. Fair enough. But surely MassDOT can release data for major project revisions during or prior to their unveiling at the regular DAG meetings.

Casey Arborway data does not belong to MassDOT. It is the property of the people of Massachusetts. We have the right not only to see that data, but to see it promptly enough for it to matter.

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