The MBTA held a virtual public meeting regarding the Forest Hills Station accessibility upgrades on June 9, where the team presented some changes to the proposal and addressed comments and questions from residents.
MBTA project manager Arthur Gillis said that there have been some small changes made to the 30 percent design update that was presented at the last meeting in March. In 2020, AECOM was awarded a $6.84 million project contract to complete the proposed work.
The existing Forest Hills station was built in 1987 as part of the Southwest Corridor Project, and the Casey Arborway project in 2018 “triggered the need for full station accessibility upgrades,” according to a slide presented. Right now, there are four elevators and four escalators, and no direct connection between the upper busway and the lower busway, forcing people to go through the station to travel between the two.
Currently, the train platform needs ADA upgrades, the existing elevators need to be replaced, the lighting and escalator on the Orange Line platform need to be upgraded, the steps are uneven and not ADA-compliant, and the exterior of the building is worn down.
Gillis explained that the project proposal includes the following: a new stairway and elevator connecting the upper and lower busways, the replacement of three existing elevators (except for the elevator at the North head house), the replacement of entrance doors and the repairing of non-compliant walking surfaces, regrading the lower busway, the creation of a new accessible exit from the commuter rail platform to the Southwest Corridor Park, repairing the station’s roof and exterior, improvements to lighting and wayfinding, and improvements in code compliance and the life safety system.
The new proposed direct connection between the upper and lower busway will result in about 130 feet of travel between the two busways, as opposed to the existing 450 feet of travel. It will feature a new staircase and elevator for people to use.
A new design feature that was presented at this meeting was an exit-only platform ramp from the commuter rail platform that will connect it to the Southwest Corridor Park. The “ramp will meet accessibility and safety standards,” according to a slide presented, and also “provides a secondary exit from the commuter rail platform.”
The 30 percent design was complete earlier this year, and the 75 percent design is expected to be complete by this summer, after which another public meeting will be held. The final design is expected to be ready by early next year, with construction to begin after that.
JP resident Patty Yehle, who said she lives close to the station, said, “I’m really excited that you’re doing this project,” but wondered if any traffic or crosswalk mitigation is part of this project. She said she uses the commuter rail, the subway, and the bus on a regular basis, but “I find it rather challenging to get across the Arborway,” she said. “The way the lights are timed, it’s a little confusing.”
Gillis said that this is something that’s usually done by the City of Boston, and “there’s no plans to do anything outside of the station. It’s strictly an accessibility project within the station.”
Lou Free of AECOM said that “we are focusing on the MBTA property itself and the station proper…” except for the commuter rail exit-only ramp.
JP resident David Moir had a question about the existing glass roof panels and whether or not they were going to be upgraded. He also asked about the rest of the proposed roof work, and the existing clock.
“That’s a fantastic question,” Gillis said. “It’s a, in my opinion, very attractive station. We do plan to maintain the aesthetic of it. We’re doing a little further investigation into the existing glass.”
He said that although the glass is around 40 years old, “it’s holding up pretty well.” He said that they want to address existing leaks, but are still “deciding whether to remove, clean, and reseal all of the existing glass; possibly upgrade the existing glass,” or “maybe take it a step further and upgrade the entire system.” He said the team will have more information at the 75 percent design meeting. E also said that the existing metal paneling has “held up extremely well.”
Gillis also said that “I think the clock has really become a landmark. It will remain.”
A question was also asked about interruption to service once construction on this project begins.
“We definitely anticipate service interruption,” Gillis said. “To what extent, I don’t think we’ve quite developed that far yet.” He said much of the work will happen in the evening to avoid disruption during work commutes.
Free said that there is no anticipated interruption to the upper busway, but lower busway buses may be relocated temporarily while the lower busway work is being completed. He said that they are looking at how constructing the ramp on the commuter rail platform will affect service, but there are no “major disruptions” expected on the Orange Line, he said.
Next steps for this project include keeping local organizations and community groups, as well as other stakeholders, updated on the project as it progresses. Additionally, another public meeting will be held later on this year once the design has been further refined.
Any questions or comments can be directed to [email protected], and more information about the project can be found at mbta.com/foresthillsimprovements.