Walsh backs off call for Casey review

Mayor Martin Walsh backed off a campaign statement calling for the state to reconsider the Casey Arborway project when pressed by activists at a Jamaica Plain community coffee hour on May 13.

During his mayoral campaign last year, Walsh issued a statement saying, “I am calling on MassDOT to fairly evaluate the option of replacing the Casey Overpass with a beautiful modern bridge that reflects the Olmsted tradition that protected this area for so long, a bridge that will unite and connect communities.”

But when Walsh was approached at the May 13 event by members of Bridging Forest Hills (BFH), a community group created to advocate against the surface-street road plan and in favor of a new bridge, he told them that the city “doesn’t have control over it.”

“A lot of it is state-owned land. We can’t tell the state what to do with their land,” he told them.

“The problem is, MassDOT has gone down the road a long way on this and it’s hard to pull back,” Walsh told the Gazette immediately following the event. “If I had a little more clout [at the state level], I would do something about it.”

“It’s a big concern. It’s a big change for a lot of people and any time people are concerned, I am concerned,” he said. “I heard a lot from both sides today, split about 50-50” in support and against, he said.

BFH spokesperson Lynn McSweeney told the Gazette that BFH is looking at the Casey in the same light as the community push to block I-95 being built through Jamaica Plain in the 1960s and 1970s.

“The people’s voice will prevail. I don’t really care what the bureaucracy votes to do,” she told the Gazette. “[But] I’m really cynical about the way the government does things. The state is more concerned about money and cheap maintenance.”

Walsh also mentioned at the event, held at the South Street Mall park on South Street, that local state Rep. Liz Malia “has been all over me” on this issue. Malia was among the key supporters of Walsh’s mayoral campaign.

“My real questions are who’s going to be managing and dealing with repercussions” from the project, Malia told the Gazette last week. “What kind of follow up are we going to have? It’s going to be the city. And BTD [Boston Transportation Department] was not terribly visible or involved, from what I know.”

BTD was present, though not usually actively participating, at most of the community advisory group meetings during the Casey development process.

Malia explained that her primary concern is over the large number of projects that will lead to “monumental changes” in the area.

“If everything happens at same time, if there’s no order or strategy, it could be a potential disaster. I’m getting increasingly concerned that the BRA [Boston Redevelopment Authority] and BTD don’t have a plan together for this,” she said. “We need a moratorium until we have a strategy.”

Meanwhile, BFH continues to protest the Casey project. Aside from the dozen people who showed up with either signs or hats during the mayor’s coffee hour, the group is planning a demonstration atop the Casey today, May 23, advocating for a new bridge.

BFH’s website is rebuildcasey.com.

Mayor Martin Walsh (right) speaks to Bridging Forest Hills members (from left.) Kevin Moloney, Jeffrey Ferris and Lynn McSweeney. (Gazette Photo by Rebeca Oliveira)

Mayor Martin Walsh (right) speaks to Bridging Forest Hills members (from left.) Kevin Moloney, Jeffrey Ferris and Lynn McSweeney. (Gazette Photo by Rebeca Oliveira)

3 comments for “Walsh backs off call for Casey review

  1. MarkinArl
    May 23, 2014 at 11:26 am

    The simple, democratic solution is also easiest to implement: put a non-binding referendum question on the ballot. Its gets a far more accurate indication of public desire than a much smaller number of people writing letters, signing petitions etc, which is also non-binding input.

  2. Othemts
    May 23, 2014 at 9:57 am

    The at-grade plan is the legacy of the highway revolt of the 60’s and 70’s. Unlike today’s BFH group who want the state to invest vast quantities of money to make it easier for a large volumes of motor vehicles to zip through the neighborhood, people back then realized that urban areas are destroyed by infrastructure that prioritizes automobiles and creates induced demand that results in more people choosing cars as their sole means of transportation and escalating traffic congestion. Built in the 1950s, the Casey Overpass was an early iteration of a cars-first elevated freeway model that was roundly rejected by the highway revolt. Now that this mistake of the past is finally being removed Forest Hills will no longer be centered around a highway interchange and will have the opportunity for economic growth, vast improvements to walking, biking, and public transit, and reducing the health risks of automobile-prioritization (such as crashes and pollution). I’m glad that BFH didn’t exist in 1970, otherwise Jamaica Plain today might be home to the “beautiful, iconic Southwest Expressway” instead of the parks, railways, bike paths, and vibrant neighborhoods we have today.

  3. May 23, 2014 at 9:22 am

    As the Gazette itself reported six months ago (and prior to his election as Mayor), Mr. Walsh sensibly reversed an earlier position calling for throwing out a thorough three-year community process and for halting the Casey Arborway project. Your reporting here fails to acknowledge that fact, which perhaps won him more votes than his earlier position:

    As the Mayor himself states, the comments he heard at this event ran “about 50-50.” Your coverage most certainly does not.

    When will the Gazette turn it’s attention away from stoking these “controversies” and report thoroughly on the many features of this project that will provide new and lasting benefit to our community? A new MBTA head house providing direct access to the T platform and a new plaza north of the Arborway, an enhanced plaza at the station itself where the #39 now idles, improved pedestrian crosswalks and on- and off-street bicycle pathways throughout the area, hundreds of trees, restored access on the Emerald Necklace between the Arboretum and Franklin Park, and many more – these are the important opportunities being realized by the project, and they are of far more significance to your audience.

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