State questions Shea Circle plan

January 18, 2013
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The state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) plan to turn Shea Circle into a standard signalized intersection is being questioned by the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC).

MassDOT has been told by the MHC that the planned future of Shea Circle—the intersection of the Arborway, Morton Street and Forest Hills Street—would create an “adverse effect” to the area. MHC is asking MassDOT to review alternatives to the plan.

As part of the Casey Arborway project, wherein the aging Casey Overpass will be replaced by an at-grade street network, MassDOT submitted the project for state Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) Office approval. The MEPA review will decide if the project requires a more in-depth analysis or if can proceed as proposed. It was expected to be issued today, MEPA analyst Holly Johnson told the Gazette.

The MHC stated in a letter to the MEPA Office, a copy of which was provided to the Gazette by JP residents Kevin Moloney and Jeffrey Ferris, that the state’s plan to replace Shea Circle with a standard signalized intersection would “have an adverse effect on Shea Circle, the Morton Street Historic District, and the Metropolitan Park System of Greater Boston.” The Emerald Necklace, which includes the Arborway and by extension, Shea Circle, is part of that system.

MHC “requests that MassDOT reconsider [discarded] alternatives” like redesigning the roundabout. Its letter to the MEPA office also states that the MEPA filing “did not adequately address the reason for choosing the preferred alternative over the less damaging [alternatives].”

Moloney and Ferris told the Gazette that MHC’s letter casts doubt on the whole Casey process. They are prominent opponents of the Casey Arborway plan and would like to see the Casey replaced with a smaller bridge.

It is unclear whether MHC has the authority to stop or delay the project. A Gazette call to MHC spokesperson Brian McNiff was not returned by press time.

“The Historical Commission has asked us to review our proposal, which we will,” MassDOT spokesperson Michael Verseckes told the Gazette. “However, our goal with the new design of the Casey Arborway is to make the roadway safer.”

“Shea Circle is a high-crash location and handles a high volume of vehicles on a daily basis. The intersection’s ability to handle or accommodate pedestrians or cyclists is extremely limited. The intersection is dangerous,” Verseckes said. “By converting Shea Circle into a conventional four-way intersection, MassDOT will be able to design an intersection that has better controls for the flow of traffic and better accommodations for pedestrians and cyclists.”

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. Shea Circle is the roundabout at the eastern terminus of the overpass.

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