FOREST HILLS—The Casey Arborway design team presented its proposed demolition and construction schedule at the latest Design Advisory Group (DAG) meeting on July 18.
The state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) team outlined the two-and-a-half-year, seven-stage demolition and construction plan, noting that it is liable to change, depending on weather and contractor suggestions. The first stages of demolition are expected to start in the spring of next year and construction is expected to end by September 2016.
Blue Frog Bakery owner Paul Jones, representing the JP Business and Professional Association (BAPA), brought up concerns over the impact construction might have on Washington Street businesses. MassDOT stated it is already planning steps to mitigate possible negative effects by limiting traffic reductions and designating a contact person for business owners.
The design team also released more information previously requested by the community, aiming to build the community’s trust, as pledged by MassDOT head Richard Davey in a Gazette interview last month. Meeting materials were distributed to DAG members ahead of the meeting and specific materials requested at the meeting were posted on the project’s website within days.
The current Casey Overpass will come down from the edges in to the middle, the team said. This will mean that for a few months in mid-2013, only the highest piece of the Casey, over Forest Hills Station, will remain standing before coming down.
“It’ll be artistic,” a design team member joked at the meeting.
“There’s a learning curve [in demolition], so contractors will be better and faster” by the time they tackle the part of the bridge over intersections, another team member said.
The schedule includes the flexibility to deal with harsh winters or other delays without missing the September 2016 deadline, the design team said. If the project isn’t completed by then, it will lose crucial federal funding.
A major challenge of the project will involve moving a retaining wall along the Arborway west of the overpass. The wall will have to be shifted several feet during construction to allow room for construction vehicles. It will be moved back to its original location by the project’s completion.
City liaison Katherine Fichter stated that neither the City nor the state plan on offering monetary restitution for lost business—an ongoing policy, she said. The design team, however, is considering having a liaison with the businesses on Washington Street during construction to make sure concerns are addressed in a timely manner.
No Washington business owners were present at the meeting. Jones said that reduced pedestrian traffic during construction could severely impact businesses along that street.
Business will likely be impacted while traffic on Washington Street is restricted to one lane in either direction for up to 18 months in 2015 and 2016.
The design team also said that it is currently vetting the smaller proposed “opening year” variation with the City.
The “opening year” variation, created to enhance pedestrian safety, is so called because it is aimed at accommodating 2016 levels of traffic, the year the new Casey Arborway is expected to open. It would be easily expandable to accommodate future lanes. Combined with other changes to the total design, it is a reduction of up to 22 feet of pavement for pedestrians to cross.
DAG member Allan Ihrer requested that traffic analyses be released to the community as they were done, not after the design team had time to evaluate them.
All traffic analyses created by a computer modeling program called Synchro 7 were released before the DAG meeting, McNaughton said.
A traffic count conducted by the city in February, requested more than once by Ihrer, was also posted online on the project’s website following the meeting.
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.