Following the state Environmental Policy Act Office’s (MEPA) determination that the Casey Arborway project does not require further study, the project is free to proceed. The Gazette asked state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) for updates on outstanding issues at this point in the project.
The next step for the project will be a public meeting to discuss the project’s status and timeline, called a “25 percent design hearing.” It was scheduled for Feb. 6, then postponed. A reschedule date was not available by the Gazette’s timeline. A project design advisory group (DAG) meeting is expected in March.
A similar hearing is expected for May, for the 75 percent benchmark. MassDOT expects to advertise the project for bid in mid-October, Verseckes said and construction is expected to begin next February.
The question of construction impact mitigation for Forest Hills-area businesses, first brought up in a DAG meetings last year, is under discussion between MassDOT and the City of Boston, Verseckes said.
“We will continue to work with the City on construction-related impacts,” he added. No monetary mitigation is expected for those business owners, as the Gazette previously reported.
Another ongoing concern is truck traffic through the area. With left-hand turns to Washington Street and South Street expected to be limited on the new Casey Arborway, the question of large vehicle traffic has been raised at various DAG meetings.
The new Casey Arborway has “been designed to accommodate the vast majority of trucks that would be traveling on Route 203 and headed for South Street, Washington Street, or Hyde Park Avenue,” Verseckes said.
Other, larger vehicles could use Ukraine Way as an alternate, design team members said at previous DAG meetings. It is unclear what the size restriction could be on larger vehicles, considering the Arborway is a parkway.
The question of whether MassDOT will provide a snowplow to DCR to keep off-road bike paths clear in the winter is unresolved. Bike advocates are concerned because while it is safer to bike away from cars, if paths are not plowed, cyclists will use streets alongside traffic.
“We’re working with MassDOT,” DCR spokesperson S.J. Port told the Gazette. “But we’re still a little far out. We’re sure when project is finished, our sister agency will make sure any necessary equipment will be part of the deal.”
One hundred parking spaces currently located under the overpass will be lost in the new design. The lot, used primarily by the West Roxbury Municipal Court at 445 Arborway, will not exist in the new design, as its current footprint will be occupied by the new surface road.
“We’ve been in contact with the folks at the courthouse. We’re working on a solution that best addresses their parking needs,” Verseckes said.
Opening Year Design
As for the possibility of a slimmer “opening year” design variation, aimed at accommodating 2016 levels of traffic but easily expandable to 2035 projected levels, MassDOT has yet to make a final decision.
“This idea has a lot of merit, however, we are still soliciting feedback on it. We’ll continue to talk about the idea with the city and we’re also open to feedback from the public as well,” Verseckes said.
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.