Thursday, September 19, 2013

New and enhanced plazas provide public space


The preliminary design of the Casey Arborway project proposes to create and enhance two public plazas where the shadow of the Overpass now falls. The southern plaza adjacent to the MBTA's Forest Hills Station will be re-vamped to create a more inviting place with new plantings and seating for pedestrians and useful space suitable for retail kiosks or carts. A dedicated bike path transits the northern boundary east to west.

Across the new Arborway, at the terminus of Southwest Corridor Park and the Pierre Lallement Bike Path, a mixed-use plaza surrounds the T's new headhouse which provides direct access to the train platform below. Proposed features here include permeable surfaces that take advantage of rainwater to irrigate plantings, a clear separation between pedestrian and bicycle paths, and a large plaza suitable for programmed activities such as farmer's markets and art fairs. An open, sloped lawn area that overlooks the plaza could serve as a potentially wonderful spot for music events accommodating hundreds of concert-goers.

In the draft design shown above (click to enlarge), orange rectangles represent vans or trucks servicing temporary art fair-style booths, shown in pink - to give an idea of the scale and scope of one such possible activity. The darker gray paths along the boundaries of both plazas are for bicycles, including a proposed "bicycle rotary" that may signal entry to the plaza from Southwest Corridor Park, which extends nearly five miles to the Back Bay and South End northward (or: up in this image). 

Other proposed features of the Casey Arborway project visible in this drawing include (clockwise from the upper left): 
  • "Don't block the box" roadway striping on South Street at Arborway Road (a notorious bottle neck for local traffic)
  • At the intersection corners there will be mixed-use pedestrian and cycle queing spaces, with clearly demarcated bike and pedestrian roadway crossings throughout. 
  • Flowering shrubs are shown as pink circles in this drawing. Because of the train tunnels below, the central portion of the Arborway median will feature a raised planter for shallower-rooted shrubs rather than the canopy trees used along the rest of the parkway AllĂ©e.  
  • Temporary parking for Pickup & Drop-off as well as Cab Stand space will be accomodated along the Arborway. 
  • At each major Arborway crossing, "safety islands" in the median shelter pedestrians and cyclists at mid-passage
  • New trees on both sides of southern Washington Street, and a redesigned Toole Square on the western side of Washington extend the greenspace southward towards the Arboretum's Bussey Woods
Astute local observers may wonder about the current #39 bus turnaround. As the bridge comes down, the #39 will be relocated to an expanded upper busway along southern Washington Street.

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