Asticou neighborhood gets Casey meeting, may sue

Following months of requests, the state Department of Transportation’s (MassDOT) Casey Arborway project team met with residents of the Asticou/Martinwood neighborhood, though the residents were not satisfied with the meeting or with the proposal of a light- and noise-dampening wall.

One of the residents present at the meeting brought back the idea of starting legal proceedings to halt the project.

“It’s time we stood up. I’d want to have a real conversation first, but I don’t see why [the neighborhood would not sue], if we’re out of options,” resident Bernard Doherty said. “That’s a community decision, and we’re getting towards that.”

The Asticou neighborhood, a small enclave of only two streets, will be strongly affected by the Casey Arborway project, as it is located only a block away from the overpass’s western side and across the street from the MBTA’s Forest Hills station’s upper busway.

A meeting between residents of that neighborhood and representatives from the City’s Transportation Department (BTD) and the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), MassDOT and the MBTA was held earlier this month to discuss neighborhood concerns and possible solutions.

According to Doherty, the residents’ major concern is the shift of the Forest Hills MBTA station’s upper busway. The shift would be relocate the buses directly opposite Asticou Road, allowing light and noise pollution to impact the residents who live on that street.

The move would also allow the expansion of the upper busway to add a third bay that would accommodate the 39 bus. It would further allow for bus traffic growth in the coming years, according to MassDOT’s Casey team.

Doherty, a member of the project’s Design Advisory Group (DAG), told the Gazette that the neighborhood’s main desire is for the upper busway to not move at all.

“People in the community need to be able to talk directly to those agencies [BTD, MBTA, DCR and MassDOT],” Doherty said. “But hearing our concerns and acting on our concerns is not the same thing. They used us to justify their process.”

“Working with the [community advisory groups], through scheduled public meetings and with additional stakeholder groups and neighborhood associations, MassDOT has been able to steer the design process with an unprecedented amount of involvement and feedback from the neighborhood. The end result is a better finished product and a final design that truly reflects the transportation demands of the Forest Hills area today and long into the future,” MassDOT spokesperson Michael Verseckes told the Gazette in an email this week.

“I think we’ve done our best to reach out to these folks and educate them on what our plans are,” Verseckes added during a follow-up phone call.

“We will be studying noise impacts to determine if construction of a noise barrier is necessary. We don’t have the same kind of policy or guidelines for light, but we will be researching the potential impacts,” Verseckes said. “For both light and noise, this was our first opportunity to have folks from the Asticou Road area specifically articulate their concerns. We’ll be reviewing the potential effects and if necessary, we will incorporate changes into the design.”

According to Doherty, the four agencies represented at the meeting were not forthcoming with any actions that would mollify the neighborhood, but he did say a member of the Casey team brought up the possibility of a wall to block light and sound pollution.

According to Doherty, a new resident of Asticou Road asked the Casey team if they had money in their budget for legal proceedings. Doherty did not rule out the possibility of seeking an injunction. An injunction is a court order stopping someone from doing a specific thing—in this case, stopping the state from starting work on the project.

“They’re willing to sacrifice this community” for the project, he added. “I’ve been around politics long enough to recognize a bag job when I see one.”

The Casey Overpass is the State Route 203 bridge over Washington Street and Hyde Park Avenue at the Forest Hills T Station. The aging bridge must be demolished. The process has been fraught with controversy since it was first announced in late 2010.

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