Pro-bridge group petitions mayor to reboot Casey project

October 30, 2012
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Bridging Forest Hills, the group that advocated unsuccessfully earlier this year for the Casey Overpass to be replaced by a new bridge instead of new surface streets, is circulating a petition to Mayor Thomas Menino that asks him to pressure the state to go “back to the drawing board.”

“Please, Mr. Mayor, help stop this bullying of JP’s citizens by MassDOT. We don’t want a congested, polluting traffic nightmare rammed through Forest Hills,” reads part of the petition, which is in the form of pre-printed post cards addressed to Menino.

The group also recently issued  colorful posters promoting its cause, which began appearing this week on Centre Street storefronts.

“I think elected public officials need to become aware that a lot of people, if not a majority of people, once they hear about [the Casey replacement plan], are opposed to the plan,” said Kevin Moloney, who is a member of Bridging Forest Hills as well as a member of the official Design Advisory Group advising the state Department of Transportation about the plan.

MassDOT plans to demolish the aging Casey Overpass, the State Route 203/Arborway bridge over Washington Street at the Forest Hills T Station. A community process about replacement options and a final design began in March 2011 and is ongoing. After months of meetings and divided community opinion, MassDOT rejected the alternative of a new bridge and instead opted for new surface streets and parkland, a project now called the Casey Arborway. Supporters say it will be more attractive, better for pedestrians and bicyclists, and restore the Arborway to its intended green uses. Critics say that traffic now passing over the area on the bridge will jam up the surface streets, despite MassDOT’s new configurations and traffic models that say otherwise.

Among the locally active groups in support of the Casey Arborway surface-street replacement are the Emerald Necklace Conservancy and the Boston Cyclists Union.

Bridging Forest Hills was active in the community debate through the Casey Arborway announcement last March, but has been largely invisible to the public since then. But, Moloney said, it has continued meeting regularly and has grown, particular as concerns about the impact of the plan on MBTA bus service has increased. About 15 to 20 active members meet regularly, he said.

The petition post card begins by saying Menino “share[s] our concern about eliminating the Casey Overpass.” That apparently refers to Menino’s interview with the Gazette earlier this year, when he said he would have preferred the new bridge alternative and warned that the construction could be a “second Big Dig.”

Moloney said that Menino has had City officials regularly attended the Casey Arborway planning meetings and made those comments to the Gazette. The intent of the petition is to get the mayor to go further and “take a leadership role” in pressing MassDOT to reboot the planning process.

“We want real options that include plans for a well-designed bridge,” the petition says.

The petition post cards are being circulated by volunteers around the neighborhood. They can be mailed by the signer, or Bridging Forest Hills will mail them on the signer’s behalf. Moloney said he does not know when the group will mail in its post cards, but said, “It’s going to happen soon.”

He said the group’s website, bridgingforesthills.com, soon will be updated with information about the petition.

The full text of the petition post card is as follows:

“Dear Mayor Menino:

“I am glad that you share our concern about eliminating the Casey Overpass. Substituting a 6-lane, street-level highway at Forest Hills will have a devastating impact on Jamaica Plain.

“We challenge the Mass. Dept. of Transportation’s hurried decision to remove rather than replace the Casey Overpass:

  • Route 203 is the main East-West route to the Longwood Medical Area, Fenway Park, and college neighborhoods. The street-level plan will cause more congestion for everyone! JP Deserves HONESTY.
  • Use the money to build a Beautiful Bridge! JP Deserves GOOD DESIGN.
  • JP Deserves TO BE HEARD.

“Please, Mr. Mayor, help stop this bullying of JP’s citizens by MassDOT. We don’t want a congested, polluting traffic nightmare rammed through Forest Hills. As our neighbor, we known you don’t either.

“Send MassDOT back to the drawing board!

“We want real options that include plans for a well-designed bridge.”

A Bridging Forest Hills poster hanging in the window of Classic Cleaners at Centre and Green streets. (Gazette Photo by Rebeca Oliveira)

  • Lynn McSweeney

    I’ve lived in Jamaica Plain for 26 years; never owned a car. And I’m FOR a bridge to replace the Casey.

    When I first moved here, I walked or biked everywhere. Now I walk with a cane, have asthma. A 6-lane street-level highway running across South Street at Forest Hills will not only restrict our access to the Orange Line and Roslindale, but will make it impossible for anyone who walks slowly (baby-strollers) to cross in one traffic-light cycle’s time. We’ll also have to breathe in the extra exhaust from idling vehicles that are waiting at the additional lights. Adding to the pollution will be the many “bow-tie” U-turns the street-level designers hope will avoid grid-lock – but which will definitely add to the time and gas used by much of the traffic.
    A few years ago, I participated in the 39 Bus citizens’ advisory group. There was intense debate about every change proposed to each and every bus-stop. That group was not consulted about the radical changes now planned to the 39 bus route by MassDOT’s Design Advisory Group. “70% of JP wants the at-grade solution”? Where does such an unsubstantiated statistic come from? Was there a neighborhood-wide vote?
    Please, by all means, let’s poll our neighbors – the ones who actually live here or use the bridge to commute – and see how many prefer a bridge. Most of my neighbors hate the idea of a street-level highway. Yes, the Casey Overpass is ugly and needs repairs. Let’s replace it with a smaller, attractive bridge. Such bridges exist! Because one thing is even uglier: a neighborhood so snarled by gridlock that cars will cut through our smaller streets to avoid the snail’s-pace of the street-level highway.
    If JP had not been vocal 40 years ago and “refuse to accept the recommendations of the experts”, we would now have I-95 cutting JP in half, instead of the Southwest Corridor park. The fate of our neighborhood is once again threatened by bad traffic decisions. We must speak up.

  • Clay Harper

    I too say “enough already” to this extremely vocal group who refuse to accept the recommendations of the experts and the more than apparent will of the majority of affected residents. I wholeheartedly support the decision to tear down the unsightly bridge and replace it with an at-grade solution and strongly encourage the members of the Design Committee to continue their hard work refining and improving the plans. I have deep faith that the ultimate result will be a huge improvement for the local and surrounding community.

  • http://twitter.com/kehutchinson Kate Hutchinson

    This is ridiculous. JP HAS BEEN HEARD. 70% of JP wants the at-grade solution. The bullying here is being done by the Pentad of Jeff Ferris, Ann MacKinnon, Allen Ihrer, Kevin Maloney, and Bernie Doherty, who desperately would like everyone to believe that they run JP like some sort of Tammany Hall. They shout down others at public meetings, accuse trained engineers and planners of lying without grounds, and refuse to accept facts.

    This whole Casey process has been well-managed and transparent from start to finish with lots of input from the community. I’m sorry this group can’t accept that of the three proposed designs, the one chosen is one they don’t personally approve of.

    Instead of wasting everyone’s time and MassDOT’s money, maybe these people could instead focus on creating the best possible outcomes within the at-grade solution. Or they could run for office and waste their own time and money for a change.