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David Watson MassBike 2011

Posted by David Watson, MassBike Executive Director

The Casey Overpass is a four-lane, raised section of Route 203, connecting the Arborway to Forest Hills Cemetery and Franklin Park in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood. It passes over the Southwest Corridor and Forest Hills Station. The structure was built in 1954, but 57 years later it is structurally unsound and splits the community in two between what amounts to the width of eight lanes of roadway. As part of the Accelerated Bridge Program, MassDOT will be replacing the overpass, but “What will it be replaced with?” is the question. The project has regional as well as neighborhood significance, as the current overpass carries a significant amount of traffic to and from Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, Mattapan, Milton, Dorchester, West Roxbury, and beyond.

Earlier this year, MassBike, along with community groups and advocates, was invited to join the project’s Working Advisory Group (WAG). The group’s purpose is to help develop an alternative vision for the area. Because the area is used by commuters of all types (motorists, bicyclists, public transportation riders, and pedestrians), this is an opportunity to create a safe and improved area for all the roadway’s constituents and for the neighborhood itself. MassBike is lending its bicycling expertise to the WAG, while local community advocates lead the way to a solution that works for their neighborhood.

So far, the Working Group has been meeting to discuss the current problems of the Casey Overpass, establish priorities for addressing these issues, and begin to look at various design alternatives. Most recently, the design alternatives have been narrowed down to four basic concepts: a split bridge, a single bridge, surface roads with a wide median, and surface roads with a narrow median. The WAG met this week to discuss the pros and cons of each approach. You can see all the information presented at WAG meetings here. As the group continues to meet throughout the summer and into the fall, we’ll have more of an idea of what a possible solution may look like. One thing is clear – everyone is committed to finding the best solution for the community and all those who use the area.

MassBike is involved because we see this as a great way for MassDOT, the community, and advocates to work together at the earliest stages of a project. MassDOT and its consultants have created a process that is admirably community-driven and responsive to community input. While no project design process can satisfy everyone, this is a pretty good one so far, and we hope MassDOT will use this approach regularly.

 

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