MEPA on Casey: No further study needed

February 1, 2013
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The Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office (MEPA) determined Jan. 18 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 MassDOT public hearing will update the community on the current 25-percent-complete state of the design. It was scheduled for Feb. 6 before being postponed. A new date was not set by the Gazette’s deadline.

Supporters of the new at-grade street network that will replace the Casey Overpass 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.

“We’re pleased with the decision and believe it’s the correct one, given that the [paperwork] submitted by MassDOT showed environmental impacts are minimal,” Arborway Coalition representative, project design advisory group (DAG) member and at-grade supporter Sarah Freeman told the Gazette. “We look forward to the continuing design process.”

“We were confident that the decision would come out in the plan’s favor,” said Pete Stidman, executive director of the Boston Cyclists Union, a supporter of MassDOT’s surface-street plan. “We’re pretty happy about it.”

“[The decision] indicates that there’s a ‘no bridge’ agenda that’s coursing throughout the state agencies. We’d prefer that the space on the ground would be less pavement and more room for us [pedestrians],” DAG member Elizabeth Wylie said. “It’s appalling.”

Wylie was a contributing author of a 50-page packet addressed to state Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard Sullivan, asking for a bridge alternative to be considered instead.

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 also been requesting air quality studies for months, clamoring that an at-grade network would increase vehicle hours traveled, polluting the air more. 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  bit.ly/caseymepa.

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

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