Historic review continues Casey delay

The Casey Arborway project remains delayed, with a review by the Massachusetts Historic Commission (MHC) holding up the project. No explanation beyond the fact that the MHC is still “consulting” with the state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has been offered by either agency, despite Gazette requests.

MassDOT needs approval from MHC for a redesign of Shea Circle at the Arborway and Morton Street into an intersection called Shea Square. The MHC has repeatedly requested design alternatives and more proof for the necessity of altering the historic state parkway.

According to MassDOT spokesperson Michael Verseckes, the project team is still consulting with MHC and has not yet advertised the project for contractor bids.

MHC spokesperson Brian McNiff told the Gazette that MHC “has been talking with the DOT about ways to mitigate the adverse effects on the historic area.”

When the Gazette asked for further details on specific reasons for the delay, McNiff replied, “That’s all I can say at this point.”

“Other than knowing this is a thorough, deliberative process, it would be beyond our purview to characterize it any other way,” Verseckes added, on the consulting process with MHC.

In an MHC letter sent to MassDOT on Feb. 19, the “MHC requests that MassDOT complete a feasibility analysis” of other possible designs for the intersection in writing.

According to the same letter, MassDOT has covered the information verbally in a previous meeting. MHC requested that the written study be submitted by March 5.

“This is part of the consultation process,” Verseckes told the Gazette. “We have received the letter and we are intending to respond to the Historical Commission’s request in a timely manner.”

Project manager Stephen McLaughlin told a group of Forest Hills-area neighbors on Feb. 4 that he expected the project to be put out to bid “in a few weeks.”

McNiff confirmed that the two entities are still consulting. He also said that “there could well be” more meetings between them before the MHC approves the project, though there are none currently scheduled.

The option to create Shea Square was originally created to reduce the high rate of vehicle crashes on the rotary. MassDOT has said the Shea Circle redesign is not a necessary part of the overall project, which is replacing the Casey Overpass with surface streets. But the circle redesign review has delayed the entire project for months.

In November, MassDOT said at a community advisory board meeting that the project was expected to be put out to bid by the end of January.

The Casey plan has been controversial, with many organized local supporters and detractors. Information on the project, including past presentations to the community, can be found at massdot.state.ma.us/caseyarborway.

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