Casey project moves ahead; Shea Sq. approved

April 11, 2014
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After months of delays, the Casey Arborway project is heading out to construction bids following state approval to turn the Shea Circle rotary into an intersection.

A Massachusetts Historic Commission (MHC) review of the “Shea Square” plan held up the Casey project. At an April 4 meeting, the MHC announced there is no “prudent and feasible” alternative to save Shea Circle, clearing the way for the state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Casey Arborway project to proceed.

There is no specific date for the bids to be released yet, leaving it unclear when Casey Overpass demolition will begin. MHC and MassDOT still need to create a formal approval agreement, which could take “several more weeks,” according to MassDOT spokesperson Michael Verseckes.

MHC solicited suggestions for mitigating the demolition of the historic rotary while quieting protests from opponents of the project as part of at an open meeting on April 4. MassDOT needs approval from MHC to alter Shea Circle, the eastern terminus of the Casey Overpass at the Arborway and Morton Street.

Ideas proposed during the meeting, held at MHC headquarters on the University of Massachusetts Boston campus, included landscape design to complement the historic nature of the district and nearby parks. One idea is placing images of the corridor’s history, including before the rotary was installed in the 1950s, in an informational kiosk proposed for a pocket park that will be created adjacent to the Franklin Park Villas.

Requests to preserve the puddingstone walls at the entrance to Franklin Park and the nearby azalea bushes were received with enthusiasm from the design team.

JP resident Sarah Freeman asked if the wood from the four mature trees currently in Shea Circle, which will be cut down to make way for the new intersection, could be recycled, possibly to the artistic community in JP. Members of the design promised to “explore” the possibility, though they noted that state regulations may not allow it.

Local opponent of the project Jeffrey Ferris contested the decision because of Shea Circle’s history, but MHC members repeatedly reminded him that decision was made.

This is expected to be the last meeting between MHC and the state project team. MHC head Brona Simon stated at the end of the meeting that all future details could be settled by correspondence.

The state project team will now create a Memorandum of Agreement with MHC outlining mitigation measures. The Casey Arborway Project will be out to bid in the weeks following, though no specific date was mentioned at the meeting.

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 over the Forest Hills T Station area with surface streets. But the circle redesign review has delayed the entire project for months.

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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