[This article has been edited due to a request for privacy—Ed.]
At-grade supporters in the great Casey Overpass replacement debate squeaked out a small victory at MassDOT’s public hearing on the project last month, outnumbering bridge supporters 15 to 11 in a packed house according to the JP Patch, and the letters supporting at-grade have been pouring in. (Sent yours yet?)
But this street fight is not over. At least one bridge supporter is switching tactics and attacking the nine-month, 18-meeting public process so far, which is due to come to an end at 6pm on Dec. 14 at English High School, when MassDOT announces its decision: bridge, or at-grade. All in all, the public process so far has been one of the most involved and likely one of the most expensive in recent MassDOT history.
The union’s first ever video production, aimed at illustrating what an at-grade solution might look like at the Casey Overpass project site:
No less than 35 people hold seats on the Working Advisory Group for the Casey replacement project, which has held 12 working meetings and a further 6 public meetings. All of the presentations and meeting minutes from these meetings are open to the public at the project’s website. Each of those people represents local organizations to which they’ve communicated numerous emails and phone calls about the proceedings of the WAG. The consultant team working with the WAG has answered hundreds if not thousands of questions during over 60 hours of actual meetings, and who knows how many emails and phone calls. The JP Gazette and the JP Patch have also faithfully covered the meetings, with the Gazette reporting the goings on of several WAG meetings to the general public.
Despite this impressive effort, from several sources the Boston Cyclists Union has confirmed that a person closely following the activity of the Working Advisory Group has sent a letter requesting MassDOT’s decision be delayed by two months to give time for residents to further “analyze” the traffic studies that were first released at a Nov. 9 Working Advisory Group (WAG) meeting, also heavily criticizing the agency’s ability to “run a meeting.”
That the writer is an absolutely unshakeable bridge supporter speaks less to a sincere desire to analyze with an open mind, and more to an edict from the 2,200-year-old “Art of War” by Sun Tzu: “If you can’t win, stall.”
Unless their constituents let them know that they have followed the process and have more than enough information to make a decision – legislators may listen to this call for delay, which would not only extend an already long and laborious public process which has yielded an enormous trove of information, it would also shorten the design period for the upcoming public processes for the 25 and 100 percent design processes that will follow. (The entire project’s funding ends in 2016, and around three years are needed for construction.)
The 25 and 100 percent design processes are what allow residents to have input on hundreds of details, such as the finer points of the road geometry, what plants will be installed, if and where the bike boxes would fit in, and what will be installed in the at-grade solution’s two-acre park at the end of the SW Corridor (Playground? Amphitheater? Food carts?) or the same-sized plaza next the MBTA station in the bridge option, or under the bridge (a giant troll?).
This next design period would also be the prime time for fixing anything people do not like about whichever option is chosen. Fear speeding cars in the at-grade version? Campaign for raised crosswalks and narrow, traffic calming travel lanes. Fear speeding cars in the bridge version? Campaign to add a sidewalk and cycletrack to the bridge.
Both would be challenging, potentially un-winnable campaigns. In either scenario, bicycle advocates would benefit from more time spent digging into new information and research.
Here’s how you can get engaged:
Getting to 100 percent design on a project of this size takes a great deal of time, not for the public review meetings themselves, but for the endless drawings and specifications, permitting processes, and the re-do’s sparked when the neighborhood sends the team back to the drawing board once or twice. But being funded only by the Accelerated Bridge Program, which expires in 2016, time is something this project has very little of. Demolition and Construction alone would take nearly three years, according to MassDOT.
If all goes well, the final meeting will be on Dec. 14, 6pm at English High School (144 McBride St.). Be there to join in the excitement, and jump for joy or shed a tear in reaction to the state’s decision.