Transportation officials want to make the traffic circle going from Forest Hills into Franklin Park into a square intersection with stoplights.
It’s part of the Casey Overpass project, in which the crumbling bridge is to be torn down and replaced with a network of streets.
But there’s a hold-up. The Massachusetts Historical Commission asked to review those plans in light of the fact that, believe it or not, the Shea Circle rotary is part of the Morton Street Historic District. The commission wants proof that destruction of the 1939 traffic circle is worth it in terms of increasing safety for pedestrians, bike riders and car drivers.
On Wednesday, the Department of Transportation released a letter and 17 pages of supporting documents for why they should be allowed to remove Shea Circle and turn it in to Shea Square.
“MassDOT believes that a signalized intersection is the most prudent design at this location,” reads the letter, “and will substantially improve connectivity and safety for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists while maintaining efficient travel flow on this heavily-traveled highway.”
The letter gives point-by-point responses to questions and criticisms offered by Tom Jacobson and Jeffrey Ferris.
Below or at this link you can dive in to the whole 20-page packet of materials.
One interesting tidbit is that very few pedestrians and bicyclists use the current configuration. On weekday mornings, only 54 pedestrians cross the area and a scant seven bike riders. For the afternoon rush hour, those figures are 24 walkers and nine cyclists. A consulting engineer said the “reluctance” of pedestrians and bicyclists to use Shea Circle is likely because the current design is unsafe.
If the Historical Commission were to give its blessing to a signalized intersection where Shea Circle now stands, it is widely expected the project will be put out to bid. That would be a major milestone in a project that will change the face of Forest Hills for generations to come.