Letter to the Editor: Forest Hills Construction Project ‘Utter Debacle’

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Forest Hills construction project is a complete and utter debacle. A pedestrian approaching the MBTA station from central JP is greeted by foot-tall grass, months-old litter strewn everywhere, hedges that have not been trimmed since at least last year and a complete appearance of property neglect.

The pedestrian corridors are poorly delineated, lack signage, and have no protection from impatient cars and buses. The time allowed on the traffic light to cross from South Street to the MBTA station is not nearly enough for a healthy, young adult much less for the elderly, the disabled or someone with children. Crossing to the Forest Hills subway stop from almost all directions is truly dangerous. There is little to no design in traffic calming in what appears to be a motorists’ Wild West. Outside facilities and spaces for people waiting for buses or taxis has been either torn down or moved absurdly far away with little construction activity then happening for weeks in those areas.

This project is more than two years behind schedule with a new third, or is it a fourth, completion date set for the spring of 2018? Months go by with no apparent construction progress.

The T apparently sees the highway work as an excuse not to do basic landscaping maintenance on its property. Twelve hours of work by a private landscaping crew would transform the area. The Boston Police Department requires paid details for the most inconsequential utility work on quiet side streets, yet a city, state or T police officer is rarely seen directing traffic or protecting the thousands of pedestrians trying to figure out to get to one of the T’s busiest stations safely.

How the state can allow a contractor to fall so egregiously behind schedule is beyond the comprehension of the public. The contractor should be prohibited from bidding on future public works projects for a year or two. The state transportation officials responsible for the Arborway replacement plan need to answer to the public for such a poorly executed effort.

This project has become truly embarrassing for Boston. What is crystal clear is that there is no one person who is responsible for the maintenance and movement of the entire project forward. I can already hear the jurisdictional excuses of that is T, state or city property. The public needs a manager with real power across all agencies to restore safety, functionality and timely construction progress around the Forest Hills T station.

The mayor’s and governor’s offices, in concert with state reps and city councilors from the adjacent neighborhoods, need to step up and apply the political pressure to make immediate fixes and move this interminable construction project to an efficient and functional close.

Tony LaCasse

Roslindale

  • Rondank

    Amen – total nightmare!

  • ccbard

    Well put, thanks!

  • Marty

    Totally agree. And where are the loud voices that pushed for the project? Where are our elected officials on this?

  • Irene_B

    Sadly, not nearly as bad as it was at the start. I navigate that stretch as a pedestrian almost daily and almost died a few times crossing the street in the early days. One night, I escorted a woman with a sight and mobility disability across Washington St. (near the access road to Morton St.) to the lower busway. It is sheer luck that no tragedies (that we know of) have occurred.

  • LisaC

    I wish you’d get comments from the local business and the impact this horribly managed project has had on our local partners. As a resident of Woodbourne who must go through this nightmare daily, where is the Boston PD to try and help make traffic flow – and stop people from double parking along Washington? It just exacerbates the issue and makes walking near the T even more dangerous.

  • katherine griffin

    I completely agree with Mr. LaCasse. I live in Forest Hills and experience this post-apocalyptic nightmare on a daily basis. Forest Hills used to be seedy but passable. Now it is just a horror show.

  • mattlaurence

    It’s not much better for drivers, with new and incomprehensible restrictions on lanes, turning, and things that seem to make everything only WORSE, and with no clear plan or end in sight. There also seems to be no movement on things that would actually improve the flow, such as fixing the horrible turn situations where the Arborway crosses Washington/South St., or widening the bottom of South Street across from the station to keep long lines of cars from being stuck behind a single left-turning vehicle. They’ve also restricted right-on-red turns from Ukraine onto Washington on the Arboretum side; there IS a green arrow light installed, but it has been under plastic for weeks. Not being able to take that right off of Ukraine causes endless headaches and tie-ups at the other end where it meets Hyde Park Ave… all a big nightmare. I can only imagine it’s a least more navigable – if much more dangerous – for bikers.

    • LucyLandsdown

      You all sound like a bunch of crybabies. “Wha wha wha, I want it different, and I want it nowww.”
      “Wha wha wha, you changed something, I want it back the way it used to be, nowwwwww.”
      They’ll fix it. Grow the heck up.

      • katherine griffin

        We’re not asking to have it back the way it was. We are asking for them to complete the project in a timely manner and provide some oversight for pedestrians and traffic flow. That is not a babyish response to the situation. But your response to Matt certainly falls into the category.

  • Margaret

    Terrifying to try to cross anywhere with kids, or even without kids. It’s a complete disaster. Couldn’t agree more.

  • Angelina

    Thank you for this. I cross over from the bike path twice a day for my M-F commute with my young child. I would gladly participate in a campaign to get us to a safer place but as you made clear there seems to be no clear leader or end in sight.

  • Casey

    There is some truth in what you write, but quite a bit of this letter is either falsehoods or gross exaggerations.

    First off two years behind schedule is a lie. Original date: Fall 2016. Current projection: Spring 2018, with full beneficial use by Fall 2017.

    I have seen multiple police officers in the last couple weeks helping with pedestrian crossings at South Street and Washington Street.

    Also, I’m not sure how you travel through there and don’t seen progress. It’s been pretty steady, and the results are obviously coming together.

    As for being cleaner, did you ever go through the area before the project began? And most of that “12 hours of landscaping”, would likely be undone by future construction.

    It seems like the major criticisms are pedestrian crossing (which I agree should be better). The area could be cleaner as well, but I think that’s reaching a bit (and the claims made are quite clearly exaggerated for effect, at the expense of substance). Other than that, a lot of bluster about nothing.

    I have to say, the ‘This project has become truly embarrassing for Boston’ line made me laugh out loud, so thanks for that.

    • Marty

      Casey – you put out a very strong defense of the project which is legitimate but I think your portrayal of people’s comments as “falsehoods” and “gross exaggerations” is a bit…well, exaggerated. Our concerns are also legitimate and I have yet to see one single cop directing traffic in that area. I have seen cops making time when active construction was going on, but that’s it. We should all be trying to make the actual situation better and I thought that’s what this forum was about. Perhaps you were part of the very active group of proponents of the project. Or maybe not. I, for one, I’m writing to Marty Walsh and Rep. Malia to express dismay at the current state of affairs. I think if everyone on this forum did that, it could definitely have an impact.

      • Casey

        Is it not possible to see both the room for improvements and that this project has been decently well executed? My point was that this letter is a one-sided argument for improvements, with little interest in nuance and accuracy.

        I have contributed my voice concerning the pedestrian walkways in the area. I’m not sure what a police officer would do when there is no construction, but perhaps you could be correct (although the article didn’t seem to make the distinction about whether there was one during construction or not…).

        I find it surprising that you would not care about painting an accurate and effective portrayal of the project, and a bit insulting that you don’t think I am in favor of community improvements. When false (the ‘two years late’ comment) or distorted (‘there is no progress’) arguments are used, you do a disservice to your own argument, the neighborhood, and the project. This forum should also show an accurate view of the situation, which I believe this letter (and the comments) failed to do. The point of my comment was to address the imbalance.

    • Monster

      “…bluster about nothing…”

      This is the internet, after all. What use is it if not for self-righteous griping?

  • StuartG

    I’m still recovering from being hit while in the crosswalk by a car taking a rolling right on red onto Washington southbound from the Jamaicaway eastbound back in September. It was insanity not to have a “No right on red” sign there and when I was well enough to attend a Curtis Hall meeting the Rep. all but acknowledged that decisions like that were often made with traffic flow as a priority over pedestrian safety concerns. There should be a cop assisting at that intersection from 6:00AM to 8:00PM every day. without exceptions, regardless of cost.

  • Monster

    I just walked through here today. It is (obviously) still an active construction zone, but from a pedestrian perspective it is worlds better than it was two months ago. Even more, it is becoming clear that the final design will be a great improvement over the Casey.

    It’s a big project. Things take time.

    • katherine griffin

      To this, I would only say, that you should walk through there every single day, 365 days a year, before you judge our patience levels. Those of us who really do walk through there every day, actually know what has and has not been happening. People who just drive through or occasionally walk through, have a different perspective than those who live in Forest Hills and MUST walk through and MUST put up with the terrible mess.