Casey plan opponents protest atop overpass

June 7, 2013
By
(Photo Courtesy Jim Kennedy) Bridging Forest Hills member Jeffrey Ferris holds up a sign urging drivers on the Casey Overpass to call Gov. Deval Patrick in support of a new bridge.

(Photo Courtesy Jim Kennedy) Bridging Forest Hills member Jeffrey Ferris holds up a sign urging drivers on the Casey Overpass to call Gov. Deval Patrick in support of a new bridge.

Protesters have been standing on the Casey Overpass holding signs and handing out flyers condemning its pending replacement with a surface street network.

Five Bridging Forest Hills (BFH)-organized “information dissemination” actions took place last month, with plans for more, BFH member Jeffrey Ferris told the Gazette. BFH is an organization that advocates for a new bridge to replace the aging overpass.

“By and large, the people using the bridge are fairly ignorant of what’s being planned for that area. We think it’s important that the people who use that area should know what the state has planned,” Ferris said.

Numerous state officials have said that the decision for a surface street network is final. City officials have said that the project is a state decision and that the City would not get involved.

Richard Davey, the secretary of the state Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), restated that position in a private meeting May 30 with BFH leaders Ferris and Kevin Moloney. Those BFH members said Davey maintained the Casey replacement process has been unbiased.

“The meeting was an opportunity to discuss their concerns. The secretary listened to their opinions on the project, as he has in the past, and explained why MassDOT is moving forward with the design the agency has decided on with members of the community,” MassDOT spokesperson Michael Verseckes told the Gazette this week.

BFH members and sympathizers were stationed on the overpass on May 15, 17, 20 and 31 with signs and flyers urging drivers to contact Gov. Deval Patrick in support of replacing the Casey Overpass with a new bridge instead of a surface street network. Ferris told the Gazette more such actions are planned, though not yet scheduled.

Four signs, each held sequentially, carried part of the message, “The Casey is coming down and will not be replaced. You’ll be on the ground with 4 new signals. Tell Deval ‘No!’ 617-725-4005.”

The flyers included a call to contact Patrick and local state representatives as well as a call to sign an online petition addressed to Mayor Thomas Menino. They also included information on the chosen plan’s alleged drawbacks, such as the lack of a local air quality study and the fact that a replacement bridge is not deemed necessary by MassDOT.

MassDOT has repeatedly said that its chosen at-grade plan will accommodate projected 2035 levels of traffic better than the current layout handles today’s traffic. A regional air quality study showed no significant increase in air pollution with that plan.

The latest Boston Cyclists Union newsletter, emailed June 4, called the flyers, “alarmingly worded.”

According to Ferris, on May 20, a State Police trooper ordered the half a dozen demonstrators off the bridge, claiming that the protesters were trespassing on Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) property.

Nicole Morrell, a State Police spokesperson, told the Gazette that there were no records of the protesters being ordered off the bridge. There were records of an officer telling the protesters to stay on the sidewalks to prevent interfering with traffic.

According to Ferris, the protesters were only approaching cars already stopped and idling, and not disturbing traffic.

The bridge is currently state Department of Transportation’s (MassDOT) property. MassDOT made the decision to replace the Casey with an at-grade street network in March 2011.

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.

The BFH website is rebuildcasey.com.