Just over a month ago MassDOT’s team of consultants working on a replacement design for Jamaica Plain’s Casey Overpass flashed a PowerPoint slide on the screen. The assembled Working Advisory Group (WAG) for the project, including the Boston Cyclists Union’s representative Bob Dizon, groaned. It was a pie chart depicting WAG members’ answer to the question: bridge or at-grade. It showed that 47.1% said they’d like to see a simpler bridge replace the crumbling Casey and 47.1% said they’d like to see a solution that kept the streets at-grade. An exact tie.
Since then the team has plowed through more information and design charrettes and now has almost succeeded in whittling the final standoff down to three options that will be shown for the first time to the general public on September 13, the second to last large public meeting on the project. Two options will show bridges, and a third will show an at-grade option on roughly the same scale and traffic flow as Melnea Cass Boulevard, but with separate bike and foot paths and a great deal of new green space on either side of the street. The entire public design process is set to wind down in October in order to meet a set-in-stone construction completion deadline of 2016.
A lack of physically separate bike or sidewalk facilities on either bridge option, combined with the promise of reconnecting Franklin Park and the Arboretum and the overall improved aesthetic of the at-grade option seems to be swaying some opinions on the WAG. There is a feeling among some members that an at-grade option could help stitch the neighborhood back together and spur economic development. And when traffic engineers complete studies that show each option handles traffic in similar ways-as they are expected to in September-this process could potentially accelerate, making an at-grade option an attractive one for all.
For cyclists, it would greatly improve connections between the parks and also improve crossings for the North South routes along Washington Street, South Street and Hyde Park Avenue, not to mention creating a much larger green space at the trailhead of the Southwest Corridor big enough to hold community events.
But for the WAG to support an at-grade option, the rest of the neighborhood will also need to understand why. This is where someone with a strong background in shooting video could step in and help us make history. The union would like to create a short snappy little video on the project that could be used to educate people in the neighborhood on how an at-grade solution-if deemed possible-could make the neighborhood a better place.
To volunteer your skills, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. And for the rest of you, mark Sept. 13 in your calendars, the meeting will be from 6pm to 8:30pm with an half hour open house beforehand, at English High School, 144 McBride St. in Jamaica Plain.