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

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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