The Casey Arborway project has been delayed an additional 366 days due to trouble securing equipment for the project, state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) told attendees at a community meeting on June 29 at English High School.
Meanwhile, residents expressed concern about the existing safety conditions while the site remains under construction.
About 40 people sat in an auditorium to hear MassDOT representatives tell them that they will have to wait for over a year to have the project completed. The project was originally supposed to be completed this September. It was delayed several months last year because of the historic snow during winter. MassDOT now plans to have the project be “full beneficial use” in fall 2017 and fully completed in spring 2018.
The structurally deficient Casey Overpass was the elevated section of Route 203 which carried the Arborway over Washington and South Streets and was removed over six months from May to October in 2015. The area surrounds Forest Hills Orange Line T station and acts as a gateway for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists to Franklin Park, Forest Hills Cemetery, Shattuck Hospital, and Arnold Arboretum.
The overpass will be replaced with a reconstructed roadway network. A new Orange Line access will replace the existing exit-only head house, and the Route 39 bus will be relocated to the reconstructed Upper Busway at Forest Hills Station.
The project is behind schedule due to delays in the procurement of the jet fan ventilation components for the MBTA tunnels. According to MassDOT, various construction activities have been resequenced in efforts to minimize the delay and keep the worksite active.
“We’re working to provide as many benefits and features as we can as we go along,” said Jim Kersten of legislative affairs at MassDOT.
According to a presentation by Nathaniel Cabral-Curtis, a public involvement specialist at MassDOT, the traffic in the construction area is being monitored by the Boston Transportation Department. When a resident asked if they had found that the traffic and pollution had increased, nobody on the panel at the meeting could answer that question, but said they would look into it.
MassDOT projects that the western crosswalk on New Washington Street will be completed in November 2016, Shea Circle to Shea Square in Fall 2016, the new Orange Line head house in summer 2017, and landscaping in spring of 2018.
Local state Rep. Liz Malia was in attendance at the meeting, and issued a press statement regarding the delay: “I am frustrated by the project’s delay and deeply disappointed with the Department’s prolonged delivery and lack of information to the public. The people of the 11th Suffolk District and surrounding communities deserve real-time access to accurate and up-to-date information. I call upon the Department of Transportation to be more transparent and to timely communicate those crucial decisions that impact the community.”
Residents at the meeting were concerned overall with the safety of the construction area for pedestrians and bicyclists, asking for improved pedestrian wait time, realigned crosswalk to provide better visibility, and improved signage.
“Let’s get some real safety improvements out there before someone gets killed,” said Jeffrey Ferris, a critic of the plan to replace the overpass with surface roads.
Clay Harper said that there isn’t currently enough queue space for pedestrians waiting to cross the street, to which MassDOT responded that they were aware of the problem and working on it.
Motorists expressed confusion and concern about certain traffic light rotations and about whether or not they could take a left in certain places, to which MassDOT said it was aware of the problem and working on it.
Residents questioned whether the delay would affect the project’s budget at all. MassDOT claimed that it would not affect the budget, since it had already set aside a certain amount of resources for contingencies.
Some residents also felt that the MassDOT communication was insufficient. Residents were concerned about a lack of community outreach notifying them about the meeting. MassDOT recognized that it could have given more notice about the meeting, which is why it scheduled another identical meeting in July.
“They played fast and loose with terminology,” said Kathryn Deputat of Bridging Forest Hills in an email to the Gazette. Bridging Forest Hills is a group that is critical of the Casey Arborway project. She said that the wording of 366 day delay is misleading, since the original completion date would have been Sept. 30 of this year, and that a more accurate number would be 411 days.
Another resident at the meeting expressed a similar frustration about communication. “You’re not communicating with us, and when you do, it’s false, and I think that is reprehensible. It’s very frustrating to try to spend hours to figure out what’s going on here,” the resident said to the panel of MassDOT employees.
Monthly office hours are held at Curtis Hall for the duration of the construction period. The project hotline is 617-571-7878. You can visit their website at www.massdot.state.ma.us/caseyarborway or sign up for emails related to the project by emailing [email protected].
The next public meeting, with an identical presentation as the one shown on June 29, will be on Wednesday, July 20, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the English High School Auditorium at 144 McBride St.