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.