At a public update meeting on Dec. 6, contractors and the state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) representatives informed the community that the Casey Arborway project will be completed by the end of 2018.
About 60 people attended the year-end report meeting at English High School, which focused on the construction of the bus stop canopy at Forest Hills Station.
MassDOT representatives gave updates on what work has been completed in 2017. Jet fans for the MBTA have been installed and operational, and the old northern head house has been removed. Work east of Jamaica Plain’s West Roxbury District Courthouse, including Shea Square, has been completed with signals, final pavement and markings, bicycle and pedestrian pathways. Four hundred and fifty-two new trees were planed as of Nov. 17, 2017, but all plantings in that area are not yet complete.
The Route 39 bus has shifted to the upper busway, but will soon be brought closer to the Forest Hills Station where bus users can wait under the existing canopy. Toole Square has been landscaped, and the Arborway Carriage Road has shifted to its final alignment.
According to MassDOT, by the end of 2017 “assuming favorable weather,” all roadways will be on their final alignment, all sidewalks and bicycle connections will be available on temporary usable surfaces, all signals will be operating.
The upper busway canopy’s design has been finalized, and the first steel will arrive in Spring 2018. Forest Hills Station Plaza and the complete Southwest Corridor Park Plaza are anticipated to be complete by Summer 2018. By that time, the taxis and shuttle buses will be shifted to the northern end of the station plaza. School buses will pick up and drop off in the lower parking lot on Hyde Park Avenue.
By Fall 2018, the northern headhouse at Forest Hills will be open, and all remaining landscaping will be installed. Transit users can use the northern headhouse now as an exit, and it will be at full use in fall 2018.
The Forest Hills upper busway canopy was removed for expansion in fall 2015, meaning Forest Hills bus users have already endured two winters under temporary bus shelters. This should be the last winter with the temporary shelters, according to officials.
Some residents were frustrated about the upper busway’s exposure to the elements and distance from the Forest Hills Station.
“The customer has not been part of this design,” said Karen Paine, Roslindale resident. “To me it’s an oversight to make the customer walk all the way to Ukraine Street to get their bus.”
MassDOT representatives responded that the Route 39 bus will be moving up closer to the Forest Hills Station this week.
Another resident complained that the bus drivers are not waiting for the riders to get to the bus, which is especially frustrating to them since they have further to go to catch the buses.
Other bus riders complained about the traffic that the buses have been sitting in coming from Roslindale, and saying that some riders have been getting off at the Harvest grocery store stop, one stop before Forest Hills, because it’s faster to walk to the station than to sit on the bus in traffic. MassDOT representatives responded that there would soon be two lanes—one of which will be dedicated to buses—so the traffic is anticipated to get better. The final configuration on New Washington Street will have three lanes going towards South Street.
For traffic concerns, some residents requested that a police officer be mitigating traffic during peak hours to avoid gridlock during construction. MassDOT representatives responded that they are not against getting police details, just need to work with Boston Police Department to staff it. A transportation engineer said that they are aware of traffic frustrations, and mentioned that one driver even drove through the park to avoid sitting in traffic.
While the meeting was intended to be a construction update meeting, several residents expressed frustration about the delay in the project and the funding. Resident Kathryn Debutant asked how much the estimated cost would have been to repair the bridge, to which the answer was not given.
Other residents, such as Maggie Cohn, were concerned that local businesses have been negatively impacted due to the ongoing construction. There are currently no programs of the City or state that would offer businesses compensation for construction impacts.
Some residents expressed frustration with a lack of communication about construction, citing the temporary closure of South Street intersection and the signs that tell when the next buses and trains are coming.
The new canopy will span the expanded busway area to provide weather protection. The canopy was not initially a part of this construction contract, but was added to it as an extra work order to reduce the hiring of additional contractors and to get the canopy completed approximately one year earlier. The original cost of the Casey Arborway project was $74,138,250, but now with the additional scope of the jet fans, Forest Hills canopy and signage, and busway modifications, the current estimated cost is $86 million. The 250-ton canopy is made in the United States; steel will be from Pennsylvania, and it will be fabricated by Cianbro in Maine. Cranes will be set up from below to construct the canopy.
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 has been replaced with a reconstructed roadway network.
The project has been behind the original schedule of a Fall 2016 completion due to delays in the procurement of the jet fan ventilation components for the MBTA tunnels and heavy snowfall the previous winter.
For the immediate term:
Work will not occur on Dec. 25. During the week of Dec. 25, operations will concentrate on the following:
- In the space formerly occupied by the Route 39 bus
- Installation of traffic signal foundations, conduit, and wire
- Connecting section of the Arborway together over the rail lines
- Along the Arborway west (towards the Arboretum) of South Street:
- Installation of stone veneer along the new retaining wall
The next office hours for the project will be Jan. 25, 2018 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Curtis Hall. Residents can check the (http://www.massdot.state.ma.us/caseyarborway/Home.aspx) for updates on upcoming work. For more information residents can email [email protected] or call the project hotline at 617-571-7878.