If there were an official Casey Arborway project historian Jamaica Plain's Clay Harper would probably fill the role. Instead he'll have to settle for spectacularly documenting the project from its start in 2014 to today with close to 500 photos and a blog.
After supporting the surface option for the Casey Arborway project (instead of putting up another bridge), Harper decided to document the project.
"I'm a close neighbor and walk through the full project area three or more times a week for exercise. As someone who participated in the planning and the public debate (eventually as an unaffiliated advocate) I had a deep immersion in the details -- everything from DOT planning presentations to the underlying traffic data to the 400+ pages of bid drawings," said Clay Harper to Jamaica Plain News. "During the construction phase, that keen interest and curiosity led me to look for the incremental progress along the way each time, how to spot the elements that were approaching 'finished' within this enormously complex project."
Harper thinks that once it's finished, the project's most valuable parts will be the northern head house that will eliminate the need for commuters to cross the Arborway on foot, the more than three miles of new bike paths, pedestrian paths, much-improved upper busway facilities and the landscaping that will beautify the neighborhood.
"The three miles of separated bike paths are one of the most dramatic improvements in the sense that access wasn't safely possible for bikes before. It was almost impossible to get from the Arboretum to Franklin Park before and Shea Rotary was impossible to cross for bikes and pedestrians safely," said Harper.
Harper emphasizes the good of the project and that there isn't a crumbling bridge blocking views anymore.
"We've got blue sky where an ugly and unnecessary overpass was, we can see how Forest Hills got it's name in the surrounding hills, and we're well on the way to having 578 new trees, 383 shrubs and 16,500 ground covers that are to replace the relatively few trees that were lost," said Harper.
Harper said his favorite individual thing about the project has to deal with the history of the area.
"There is a landscape feature under construction now from the eastern corner of Hyde Park Ave/Arborway diagonally north towards the bus yard that commemorates the Stony Brook culvert that has been just below the surface here for some 150 years," said Harper. "This feature is comprised of rough granite blocks and boulders, river birches and other plants that mark this important waterway and its taming long ago. There will be historical markers/plaques describing this before they're done."
As Harper learned more about the project he became more involved with it on a personal level. He learned about organizations like the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, the Boston Bicyclist's Union, WalkBoston and LiveableStreets.
"And as a result I now sit on the Emerald Necklace Conservancy's Advocacy Committee and have gotten involved in things like the Hunnewell crosswalk at the Arboretum, the possibility of reconfiguring the Murray and Kelley Circle rotaries to be more multi-modal and safe," said Harper.