Bridge Supporters Renew Call to Halt Casey Plan

In what has become a monthly event, residents who remain unconvinced of the wisdom of plans to replace Casey Overpass with a network of surface roads took their protest to state transportation leaders.

As many as 20 bridge supporters attended Wednesday’s Department of Transportation board meeting, according to Jeffrey Ferris, the owner of Ferris Wheels, who has become the most visible opponent of the current plan. Only five wore the “Bridging Forest Hills” caps that clearly identified their allegiance.

Jeffrey Ferris, owner of Ferris Wheels, pauses for a photo in his "Bridging Forest Hills" hat.

Chris Helms

Jeffrey Ferris, owner of Ferris Wheels, pauses for a photo in his “Bridging Forest Hills” hat.

“It seems to me what is needed is a moratorium,” resident Kevin Moloney told board members. “It’s simply not fair to inflict this project on our community as currently designed.”

While supporters of the current plans for an at-grade solution point to a long community process that resulted in the decision not to replace the crumbling overpass, bridge proponents hold out hope they can convince city and state leaders to take another look.

The project is currently in a holding pattern as the Massachusetts Historical Commission has asked to review the decision to change Shea Circle into a square.

On Wednesday, Forest Hills Cemetery’s director of operations spoke against the plan for sidewalks on the cemetery’s property at Shea Circle.

“We feel we’re fairly historical ourselves,” said Mitchell Zakrzewski, referencing how the 1950s-era Shea Circle may come under protection as a historic parkway.

He said there is very little pedestrian traffic on the cemetery side of the traffic circle.

One bridge proponent, resident Bernard Doherty, asked transportation officials to keep in mind that the Casey project is just one of many construction projects coming soon for Forest Hills.

“There’s a tsunami of development coming to this community,” said the longtime Asticou neighborhood resident.

In addition to the Casey project, other ones slated for 2014-18 include the Hughes Oil site, the old Flanagan-Seaton site, Parcel U near the station and possible long-delayed action on the Arborway bus yard.

No proponents of the at-grade plan spoke Wednesday, but in a recent interview, Sarah Freeman of the Arborway Coalition said the current plan is best for Jamaica Plain.

“Neighborhoods thrive when overpasses come down,” she said.

The Department of Transportation board took no action and made no response to the speakers, who spoke during the public comment period at the beginning of the monthly meeting at the State Transportation Building in the Theater District.

Residents and advocates wait to speak at the March 12, 2014 Department of Transportation board meeting.

Chris Helms

Residents and advocates wait to speak at the March 12, 2014 Department of Transportation board meeting.

  • Few in the community should be surprised by the latest claims and tactics of Mr. Ferris (“Fraud!”), Mr. Moloney (“Not fair!”) or Mr. Doherty (“Tsunami of Development!”). They have leveled not just these but an ever-shifting array of other charges against the Casey Arborway Project whenever and wherever a soapbox is provided in an effort to roll-back a decision made more than two years ago.

    The decision to replace the crumbling overpass with a tree-lined boulevard and rational surface roads where the ramps and abutments of the bridge now impede street-level traffic was hailed by the majority of the community. And hailed too by a wide range of neighborhood, parks, cycling, pedestrian and transportation advocates who particpated in the process as these three did, providing expertise and local knowledge to help improve the design of the project at every juncture. Those in support of the project as planned are certainly still here, eagerly awaiting the day when the overpass comes down.

    The Shea Circle rotary, by the way, was created in 1925 – long after the Olmsted-era Period of Significance that defines most of the Emerald Necklace parkways.

    • Kate Hutchinson

      Excellently put. I’m not sure why a small group of 20 people are allowed to hold up the process for a community of over 37,000 residents. Or why they think they are entitled to.

      • Dorian

        I live in Roslindale and this project affects people in my neighborhood too. I am someone who wholly supports the at-grade (as do many of my neighbors) – mostly because I see the bridge (even a new bridge) as a major barrier to neighborhood revitalization north of Rozzie Square and along hyde park ave – and not just around Forest Hills and Washington Street. Shea circle also prevents access to Forest Hills and Franklin park. The reason there aren’t many pedestrians there is because it’s unsafe. We have these tremendous urban amenities and the only way you can safely access them from the west is by car. And there’s a major transit hub right there. It’s mind boggling why anyone would want to keep this dangerous rotary.

  • JamaicaPlainNews

    Thanks for the comments, Clay and Kate! Welcome to Jamaica Plain News.

  • John Sullivan

    That traffic circle is a disaster if you are a pedestrian. It is impossible to cross without risking your safety.

  • Kevin Handly

    For some people, it’s “our way or no way.”

  • Christina Fritsch

    At this point, I really don’t care whether we have a bridge or flat platform. What I do care about is making that intersection pedestrian friendly and crossable! Crossing Morton St to the underpass of Forest Hills Street is a terrifying nightmare. I have done it many times with two children and a cello on my back and no one at rush hour will let you cross. I have been stuck precariously on the narrow two foot wide median with my kids.
    The rotary is a terrible design. I hear car accidents or screeching brakes there at least one a day. I live above the rotary on Yale Terrace.
    I think its funny that The Forest Hills Cemetery says there is little pedestrian traffic. I have seen many people taking a chance to cross and walk. It would be used all the time if there was a cross light to press. I know the residents of housing there and many on my street that would love to walk across and have acccess to the rest of Jamaica Plain.
    Please start construction soon and include the needed side walks while I can still walk my daughter to school!

    • JamaicaPlainNews

      Thanks, Christina. You paint a vivid picture of the problems with the current design.

  • GDF

    I am one of the people who have followed the process and cherished the input of all those who’ve contributed to the improvement of the final output. Thank you. GDF

  • Pingback: Casey Overpass Project Goes Out to Bid | Jamaica Plain News: JP, Boston, Massachusetts()