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Why I support an At-Grade Solution for the Casey Overpass replacement project.

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

 

I took Pete Stidman’s suggestion to “Write a letter and make a bridge disappear” by using his template as a base to send a personalized letter to MassDOT (see my version below). You can do the same by visiting this page at Boston Cyclists Union. http://bostoncyclistsunion.org/write-a-letter-and-make-a-bridge-disappear/ A personal appeal for an at-grade solution can carry more weight if we do it in numbers, expressing the daily reality cyclists face getting around town and our desire for long-term solutions that we have lived without due to the poor planing of the Casey Overpass.  Please take a few minutes and send a letter today!

You can also see this post on J.P. Bikes which has live links embedded in this post: http://jpbikes.ning.com/profiles/blogs/why-i-support-an-at-grade-solution-for-the-casey-overpass

Then attend the Casey Overpass Public information meeting tomorrow night at the State Lab, and please speak up!  Invite all your cycling friends (power in numbers).    Boston Biker ( http://bostonbiker.org/2011/11/16/casey-overpass-meeting-location-change/ ) advises:  “Monday Nov 21 from 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. Mass DOT and the Casey Overpass Working Group will present plans and asks for comment on the Casey Overpass reconstruction project at William A. Hinton State Laboratory 305 South Street, Jamaica Plain.”   Click here for more specific information from MassDOT. http://app1.massdot.state.ma.us/CaseyOverpass/downloads/MtgNotice_JP_112111.pdf

c/o: john.romano@state.ma.us

November 20, 2011

Thomas F. Broderick, P.E., Acting Chief Engineer,
MassDOT,
10 Park Plaza,
Boston, MA 02116,
ATTN: (Paul King, Project File No. 605511).

Dear Mr. Broderick,

I am resident of Jamaica Plain living on “the other side” of the Casey Overpass in the very last house on South Street, across from the very last Lab building before the sharp left curve in the road towards Roslindale. I also own a small business on Centre Street. I do not own a car, so having to travel under the overpass on most days of the week, on foot and by bike, as my main form of transportation is a harrowing experience. I am an unconventional woman who is not afraid of much in life, but I dread trying to get through this confusing and dangerous intersection. There is no room for bikes to safely ride in the road with rushing cars, so I cut through the small footpath in the park across from Forest Hills station to ride on the sidewalks, full of pebbles and debris, only to find myself trapped on the wrong side of the road without even a walk light to get across to the bike lane on South street heading towards the Monument. It is very dangerous to navigate, with speeding cars coming from every direction. When I return home, I also get on the sidewalk because the cars backed up at the light do not share the lane or leave enough room for a bike to pass by. I strongly encourage MassDOT to save millions of taxpayer dollars and create a livelier more livable neighborhood in Forest Hills by building an at-grade option in place of the crumbling and overbuilt Casey Overpass. I believe it will encourage economic development in the immediate neighborhood and create a new place to enjoy the outdoors and host community events at the end of the SW Corridor bike path.

I also lived in San Francisco during and after the Loma Prieta earthquake. After raised freeway connectors that divided neighborhoods and blocked the waterfront were removed rather than retro-fitted or replaced, the at-grade solutions brought new life to once-dark and dangerous districts, as neighborhoods thrived and a sense of community emerged. The waterfront was also transformed because an unpleasant cut-off wharf district where even cab drivers feared to go became a world-class waterfront destination for all with tourists, hikers, joggers, par-course users, roller-bladers and bikers sharing the wide multi-use waterfront path.  New restaurants and businesses had a resurgence of interest. The city became safer and more beautiful, businesses thrived and Real Estate values increased. Jamaica Plain is a friendly community that can only improve in a similar fashion with an at-grade solution.

I am aware that traffic engineers in your department have determined that both a bridge and the at-grade option will handle the predicted traffic flow of 2035 in roughly the same way. In light of this I see no reason to build a bridge. In future projects, I believe that the recently consolidated MassDOT would serve Massachusetts better to find ways to hold traffic flow around our fair city to the levels of 2011 or less instead of planning for traffic increases. This could be accomplished in many areas by developing public transportation, a safe connective bikeways network and pedestrian-friendly streets that encourage active transportation and healthier lifestyles.

My approval and support of the at-grade option is contingent on the timely completion of bike paths that will travel up both sides of Washington St. toward Roslindale from the project area, and ending at Ukraine Way where they will be designed to connect to and complement the bike lanes on that street. The construction of these bike paths should be considered as part of the replacement project and completed within the same time frame as that project. There are a huge number of cyclists who live and work in Jamaica Plain and the surrounding districts, and need safe travel routes to replace the dangerous mess one currently must navigate.

It is also contingent on there being no “slip lanes” at either Washington Street, Hyde Park Avenue or South Street. Slip lanes create dangerous situations for both pedestrians and cyclists due their wider radius turn that allows cars to travel through them at an increased speed. There is no need for speed in this area and in this community we value the safety of our residents over convenience for motor vehicles. With the construction of the new large Co-Op store and other small businesses to join them in the near future, the Forest Hills area is fast becoming a thriving business district, not merely an MBTA transit center located amidst several neighborhoods. It is imperative that traffic is slowed down and adequate long-term access solutions are created to accommodate the increasing numbers of pedestrians and bicyclists.

I also support converting Shea Circle into “Shea Square” by creating a normal intersection there. Traffic circles, particularly those handling more than one lane of traffic, have been proven to be particularly dangerous to bicyclists and pedestrians. I now avoid traveling to that area as I have had several close calls on my bike due to speeding cars and bumpy pavement.

I look forward to the rest of the design process, where I would hope the engineers would find a way to offer ways for bicycles to safely make left turns onto both Washington Streets (northbound and southbound) by using an innovation such as a 45-degree angle-cut median refuge, or a Two-Stage Turn Queue Box (http://nacto.org/cities-for-cycling/design-guide/intersection-treatments/). Bicyclists will likely make left turns at this location whatever is built, and thus offering one or both of these options will help keep them safe and legal. Both are described in NACTO (National Association of City Transportation Engineers) Urban Bikeway Design Guide and would likely be supported by the City of Boston’s Transportation Department and the Boston Bikes program.

A complementary project to the Casey Overpass that MassDOT could introduce in the near future would be to install physically protected bike lanes (cycletracks) along Morton Street, in order to connect the benefits of this project and the SW Corridor to Mattapan and Dorchester and vice versa. The current sharrows do nothing to protect the safety of cyclists because speeding cars disregard them. It is just a matter of time before a cyclist ends up under a car or bus here, as the unfortunate Eric Hunt did in another part of town. http://bostonbiker.org/2010/04/08/cyclist-killed-by-mbta-bus/

Another aspect of the further design will be what to install in the open space created at the end of the SW Corridor. The bike path on the corridor has been named the Pierre Lallement Bike Path after the inventor of the pedal who spent the last years of his life on Fort Hill. It would be appropriate to include a small monument to his memory, and perhaps a bike maintenance station and area for cyclists to congregate. The SW Corridor is undoubtedly Boston’s busiest bike path and as a cyclist I am very enthusiastic about this project’s potential to expand and enhance it while removing a wall that separates two parts of our neighborhood. I would also like to see clear markings and advisory signage along the entire path so that walkers use the walking paths and allow bikes to travel safely on the bike paths, without fear of children or dogs jumping out in front of them.

Thank you for your work to improve our community, and for this opportunity to comment on MassDOT’s design process.  I have carefully considered the options presented in recent months, and have come to the conclusion that a bridge solution that does not accommodate the growing population of cyclists and pedestrians will only diminish the quality of life for residents of Jamaica Plain and the surrounding districts. Although I recently purchased my bike (that I love!) from Ferris Wheels, who offer great customer service,  I respectfully disagree with Jeffrey Ferris’ contention that a bridge solution is the best option to avoid traffic congestion in the area. Studies prove otherwise. http://bostoncyclistsunion.org/uncategorized/misinformation-abounds-on-casey-overpass-project/

Ultimately it is the residents of Jamaica Plain that will have to live with the resulting choice.  I feel that the desires of our community should take precedence over the convenience of outsiders passing through, and I strongly urge you to pass an At-Grade Solution that ultimately will be for the good of all.

Sincerely,

Phoenix Boulay
380 South Street
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
firebird22@gmail.com
617-259-6440

cc: vineet.gupta@cityofboston.gov, David.McNulty@cityofboston.gov, Jullieanne.Doherty@cityofboston.gov, ayanna.pressley@cityofboston.gov, felix.arroyo@cityofboston.gov, matthew.omalley@cityofboston.gov, Stephen.Murphy@cityofboston.gov, john.r.connolly@cityofboston.gov,