The state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is continuing to push for replacing Shea Circle with a signalized intersection as part of its Casey Arborway project, according to a letter obtained by the Gazette.
MassDOT is negotiating with the Massachusetts Historic Commission (MHC) about the final design for the historic traffic rotary at the Arborway and Morton Street. An intersection or a highly modified version of the rotary are the options left on the table.
A third public “consultation” hearing about the plan has been scheduled for April 4 at 2:30 pm at the MHC, 220 Morrissey Blvd.
The months-long negotiations have delayed the overall project to replace the Casey Overpass, which connects to Shea Circle.
A March 12 letter from MassDOT to MHC, provided to the Gazette by JP resident Sarah Freeman, addresses several design suggestions, outlining why a signalized intersection continues to be the safest and most accessible design for the project.
Freeman received a courtesy copy of the letter from MassDOT. MassDOT promised in January to submit the info contained in the letter by March 5.
MHC spokesperson Brian McNiff and MassDOT spokesperson Michael Verseckes were not immediately available.
The fate of Shea Circle has delayed the Casey Arborway for months as the MHC and MassDOT continue negotiating on a design. For months, both agencies have repeatedly not responded to Gazette questions about what exact designs are under discussion, or even when public “consultation” meetings are held. MHC did notify the Gazette about the upcoming meeting.
While MHC cannot approve or deny the project, construction cannot begin unless and until MHC is satisfied with MassDOT’s efforts. The project calls for a redesign of Shea Circle 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.
Following its January consultation hearing, MHC decided that preserving Shea Circle was not feasible. It has since been consulting with MassDOT on ways to minimize or mitigate “adverse effects” to the structure.
The “Shea Square” plan to replace the circle with an intersection was 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.
MHC repeatedly requested more details and alternatives from MassDOT.
According to the MHC’s online FAQ, “The best way to have your review expedited is to make sure the information you submit is complete, so that MHC does not need to request additional information.”
The FAQ also state that,” There is no reason that MHC review should delay a project as long as the project planners contact MHC early in the project planning process. Delays are most frequently caused when project planners wait until the eleventh hour to submit project information to the MHC, or submit incomplete information.”
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.