MBTA holds design update meeting for Forest Hills station improvements

With 30 percent of the design complete, the MBTA held a public meeting for the Forest Hills Station improvements project on March 9, at which questions and comments from residents were addressed following the presentation. The project goal is to increase accessibility at the station, which was built in 1987.

MBTA Project Manager Arthur Gillis began by speaking about the existing conditions at Forest Hills Station. There are three entrances: one on South St., one on New Washington St., and one on Washington St./Hyde Park Ave.

In 2019, upgrades were completed on the upper busway, and the northwest headhouse was finished as well, he said.

The Casey Arborway project has caused a “need for full station accessibility upgrades,” Gillis said.

The station also currently features non-ADA compliant, uneven steps, elevators that need to be replaced, drainage structures in need of replacement, and the exterior of the building is also worn down.

The scope of work for the project includes constructing a new staircase and elevator between the upper and lower busways, the replacement of elevators, station entrances, and walking surfaces outdoors, the regrading of the lower busway, fire alarm and protection upgrades, repairing the station’s roof and exterior, and improvements to lighting and wayfinding. 

In 2020, a project design contract was awarded to AECOM for $6.84 million.

Gillis said that feedback was heard from riders that it currently takes too long to get between the upper and lower busways and people were missing their buses. The new staircase and elevator will be “located in the southeast corner of the station between the upper and lower busway,” he said, and will also decrease the distance between the two from about 450 feet to about 130 feet.

He then spoke about the project timeline, saying that the contract was awarded in late 2020, the 30% design has now been completed, the 75 percent design is expected later this year— after which another public meeting will be held—the 100 percent design is anticipated in early 2023, and construction is expected to begin soon after that, likely in the spring.

The MBTA has conducted public outreach for this project in the form of six in-person surveys and engagement sessions last fall, as well as a multilingual survey about existing conditions that garnered more than 50 responses. Additionally. Informational flyers in multiple languages were distributed in the station and the “neighboring area,” according to a slide presented.

The MBTA said they will continue in-person outreach and surveys as the project moves forward.

During the Q&A portion of the meeting, a resident asked about improvements to be made to the commuter rail platform at the station.

Gillis said that the MBTA is hoping to add a tactile ledge strip on the platform as well as “looking at an area of rescue assistance down at the end of the platform.” Lighting will likely also be replaced as well as wayfinding signage. The elevator down to the commuter rail station will also be replaced.

Another resident asked if the project could start any earlier than it is projected to, and Gillis said that “we’ve looked at compressing the schedule,” but the rest of the funding for construction still needs to be found. He said that the “project should be ready for the design to be released in very early 2023,” which means construction will likely start in the spring of next year.

There was also a question about how these renovations will affect service during construction. 

“All the construction will be phased to minimize any impact to customers and ridership,” Gillis said. “We’re looking at quite an extensive amount of work inside the station, including elevators and elevator updates, so work would be sequenced to maintain some level of elevator to each location.” He said the project will require work at night and off hours.

“The goal would be to minimize impact to the customers,” he said, adding that “really, that would take place through a phased construction.”

Bernie Doherty, who is currently the vice chair of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council as well as chair of the Asticou-Martinwood-South Street Neighborhood Association, said that “I think it’s great what you’re going to be doing.” However, he and others had concerns about notification from the MBTA about this meeting. He said that a flier had been taped to his handrail the day before. He said that this “is not the way we really want to be getting something.”

Doherty also said that “this is the first I’ve heard about the surveys…I would hope that you would beef these up, especially for the communities that surround” the station. He said that moving forward, he would like to be kept up to date on the schedule of the project and how construction might affect neighbors.

Anyone with questions, comments, or concerns about this accessibility improvements project can reach out to the project team at [email protected], and for more information about the project, visit mbta.com/foresthillsimprovements. 

The full video recording of this meeting can also be found on the MBTA’s YouTube channel.

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