JP’s Malia Holds Out for Bridge Over Forest Hills

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Celebrating the reboot of First Thursday Art Walk at 668 Centre St. on Thursday, April 3, 2014.

Philip Keith

State Rep. Liz Malia, D-Jamaica Plain, speaks. Celebrating the reboot of First Thursday Art Walk at 668 Centre St. on Thursday, April 3, 2014.

Celebrating the reboot of First Thursday Art Walk at 668 Centre St. on Thursday, April 3, 2014.

Philip Keith

State Rep. Liz Malia, D-Jamaica Plain, speaks. Celebrating the reboot of First Thursday Art Walk at 668 Centre St. on Thursday, April 3, 2014.

As the neighborhood readies for the first public meeting about the construction details of the Casey Arborway project, one of JP's most powerful political voices still wants to see a bridge built instead of a network of surface roads.

"I have hope," State Rep. Liz Malia, D-Jamaica Plain, said last week after the State of the City Address. "I never give up."

The massive project will remake Forest Hills for generations to come. A public meeting is set for Wednesday at which the project team aims to introduce itself and dive into the details of the construction process.

While proponents of the settled-on alternative of razing the Casey Overpass and reconfiguring the surface roads point to the years-long public process, Malia said significant voices still haven't been heard.

For instance, she thinks of the people who take the packed buses leaving Forest Hills for Roslindale Square and beyond. Have the needs of those commuters been properly addressed?

Residents who take Malia's side plan a big showing at Wednesday's Casey Arborway meeting. An organized resistance is calling for hundreds of people to protest.

"Over 24,000 daily drivers on the bridge will be forced onto widened surface streets with five new traffic signals," reads a media alert sent by the people behind Bridging Forest Hills. "Local traffic will be forced to drive circuitous routes and stop at up to four new signals. The project was rammed through despite considerable protest."

Opponents hope Gov. Charlie Baker's new administration will put fresh eyes on the decision.

Malia drew a parallel with the fight against I-95. As most residents know, that project, which would have severed Jamaica Plain in two, was well underway by the time activists stopped it. The Southwest Corridor Park is the legacy of that resistance.

But while Malia has aligned herself with those pushing for a bridge, State Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz has remained neutral.

Speaking with Jamaica Plain News after last week's State of the City speech, Chang-Díaz said she sees her role as a "conductor and amplifier" of community sentiments around the issue.

See all our Casey Overpass/Casey Arborway coverage here.

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