MEPA on Casey: No further study needed

January 18, 2013
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The Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office (MEPA) determined today that the Casey Arborway project does not require further study in the form of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and that the project may proceed as planned.

A state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) public hearing will update the community on the current, 25-percent-complete state of the design. It will likely be held in the first week of February.

Supporters of the current at-grade street network preferred that an EIR not be issued, keeping the project moving. Supporters of restarting the project in favor of a replacement bridge would have preferred that an EIR be issued, which would likely delay the project beyond its funding deadline.

The MEPA report makes clear that it is only about the environmental aspects of the Casey Arborway, not about approving the entire project.

“MEPA is an environmental impact disclosure process; MEPA does not approve or deny a project, but serves as a forum for a project proponent to identify potential project-related environmental impacts and propose mitigation measures to offset these potential impacts,” the MEPA report says.

“MEPA also does not control, dictate or validate public process format and content or project preference criteria,” the report says. “Such control is beyond the purview of MEPA.”

The MEPA report also states that a regional air-quality study found “no significant changes” in vehicle miles or hours traveled between the current street network and either the chosen at-grade street network or the discarded bridge option.

Supporters of a bridge option have been requesting furthering air-quality studies for months, expressing concerns that an at-grade network would increase vehicle hours traveled, polluting the air more. But the report states that the project does not trigger the need for a more in-depth air-quality study.

MEPA review was triggered because the project would cut down nine trees of 14 or more inches in diameter at chest height, as well as more than 80 smaller trees. A total of 190 new trees would replace them.

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 full MEPA report and certification of the Casey Arborway document is available at scribd.com/doc/121014500/MEPA-certificate.

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