MBTA busway redesigned for Casey project

Following months of complaints and threats to sue from nearby residents, the state Casey Arborway design team has redesigned the exit for a new upper busway at the MBTA Forest Hills station. A new bicycle rotary has been added to the design of a new pedestrian plaza on the Southwest Corridor Park and a meeting with the Massachusetts Historic Commission (MHC) has been set for later this month about Shea Circle changes.

Upper busway

As first proposed, buses exiting the upper busway at Forest Hill Station would directly face Asticou Road, shining their headlights onto homes. Following a community meeting with Asticou neighbors in May, the design team agreed to revisit the design to mitigate the light pollution to the neighborhood.

The redesigned upper busway would have two separate exit tracks, directing bus headlights away from homes. A series of low walls on MBTA property would block any light that would still impact homes on Asticou Road. It would also reduce the capacity of the expanded busway by one loading bay and seven idle bays, according to team member Paul Godfrey.

“The curvature associated with the split points the headlights away from Asticou Road and a set of low, 4- to 5-foot walls helps to trap the light from bus headlights before it even gets to the adjacent neighborhood,” state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) spokesperson Michael Verseckes told the Gazette this week.

The design has yet to be tested by the MBTA. If the MBTA approves it, it will be incorporated into the final design for the project.

“The new upper busway provides us with the space to add more service if needed. The space reduced through the redesign is not critical to anticipated future needs,” MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo told the Gazette this week.

Asticou/Martinwood neighborhood resident Bernard Doherty said at an Aug. 8 Design Advisory Group (DAG) meeting he still has concerns about the potential noise and particulate pollution to his neighborhood.

Other members of the Asticou/Martinwood neighborhood approved of the change at that meeting, but Doherty later told the Gazette that he would still be open to suing MassDOT if the redesign didn’t meet with wide neighborhood approval. He did not elaborate on what would constitute neighborhood approval.

The Asticou neighborhood, a small enclave of only three 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 busway.

Bicycle rotary

A new cyclist rotary has been proposed for the pedestrian plaza that will be added to the Southwest Corridor Park. Three bicycle paths—from the north, east and west—will meet north of a new Orange Line access point on the northern side of the new Casey Arborway. The design team proposed a small rotary as the safest way to direct bicycle traffic around the pedestrian plaza.

The three bicycle paths would be visually distinctive from pedestrian areas, though not physically separated by curbs or hedges.

Current proposals for the center of the rotary include a bicycle service station and a fountain.

MHC process

As part of “ongoing consultations” with the MHC, team member Michael Trepanier said at that DAG meeting that MassDOT has set a meeting with MHC to discuss alternatives and potential adverse effects of turning Shea Circle into Shea Square, as currently proposed. The meeting has been set for 11 a.m. on Aug. 23 at MHC’s offices at 220 Morrissey Blvd. and is it is open to the public.

MHC’s Executive Director Brona Simon said to MassDOT in a recent letter that MassDOT has not responded to MHC’s satisfaction after MHC called the plan to change Shea Circle to a standard signalized intersection an “adverse effect.”

MHC has requested that MassDOT reconsider the plan and explore alternatives to maintain Shea Circle, which is listed in State and National Registers of Historic Places. MHC has said that it wants MassDOT to “explore alternatives to avoid or minimize the adverse effect to Shea Circle…not for MassDOT to simply justify and reiterate your preferred alternative to eliminate Shea Circle.”

The Casey Overpass and its eastern terminus, Shea Circle, will start being shut down for traffic next summer, with total closure by next fall. Demolition and traffic re-routing in the area is expected by the spring. Construction is expected to be complete by fall 2016.

Community comments about the project can be sent to [email protected]. Information on the project, including past presentations to the community, can be found at massdot.state.ma.us/caseyarborway.

Correction: Due to a reporting error, the MHC meeting was originally listed as starting at 10am.

The redesigned upper busway at the MBTA Forest Hills Station would divert bright bus headlights away from residents. (Courtesy Illustration)

The redesigned upper busway at the MBTA Forest Hills Station would divert bright bus headlights away from residents. (Courtesy Illustration)

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