Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Final Casey Arborway Corridor Overview

MassDOT has made available a final overview rendering of the Casey Arborway corridor.

Click the image for a larger version

External link to larger image

In addition to vastly expanded off-street and on-street amenities for pedestrians and cyclists throughout and newly revitalized connections between the Arboretum and Franklin Park, some of the highlights include (left to right, west to east):

  • A bow-tie u-turn lane at the Forest Hills Gate of the Arboretum. There will be no westbound left turns at South St/Washington and those seeking that route will need to reverse direction here. There will also be a pedestrian- activated crosswalk there, and a new northerly sidewalk from South Street to it.
  • The smaller, upper Arborway frontage road is going to be relocated approximately two car-lengths northward at South Street to create more queueing space at South/Arborway.
  • The 39 bus which currently terminates under the Overpass is being relocated to a newly expanded Upper Busway south of the T station. Residential neighbors here are shielded from noise & visuals by a bermed and landscaped hump between the busway and southerly Washington St. Bus exits are steered around a small island so that their headlights don't shine on residential homes.
  •  The current T station plaza south of the new Arborway is being revamped, and off-street east-west bike paths and sidewalks created. The taxi stand currently alongside the upper busway will be relocated to both sides of the Arborway, along with pick-up/drop-off space for cars.
  • At the end of Southwest Corridor Park a new plaza is being created that features a new head house for direct access to the T platform from the north side of the Arborway. Dedicated bike and pedestrian paths - including a bike rotary - as well as benches and new 'programmable space' for things like farmer's markets and fairs will be here too. The current mid-block crosswalk is being eliminated, and there will be substantial planting boxes and smaller flowering trees in the median above the tracks.
  • An eastbound bow-tie u-turn will be created in front of the Court House (there will be no left turns onto northerly Washington from eastbound Arborway). A crosswalk here leads to a Court House parking lot on the Arborway Yard site.
  • The north side between Washington Street and Franklin Park will have dedicated off-street pedestrian and cycling paths.
  • The Shea Circle rotary on the eastern end is being replaced by a signalized intersection dubbed Shea Square. On the north side, Franklin Park expands a little. South of the intersection will be a small park in front of Franklin Park Villa. Sidewalks are being added to and through the island at Forest Hills Cemetery.
There are more details not easy to spot in this rendering such as grade and surface differentials between pedestrians and bikes, corner "mixing zones" where they come together, refuges in the medians, a thoughtful mix of plants etc. Hollow trees shown are existing ones, solid trees are all new.

Some construction will begin in late 2014 and the project is still expected to be completed in late 2016.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

"No feasible and prudent alternative" - M.H.C.

The third consultation meeting between the Massachusetts Historical Commission and MassDOT concerning the future of Shea Circle rotary in Forest Hills and Jamaica Plain, a part of the Casey Arborway Project, was held on Friday April 4, 2014. The Commission's consultation role had been triggered by the site's inclusion in the state Registry of Historic Places as part of the Morton Street Historic District. MHC had previously found "adverse effect" in MassDOT's plan to create a signalized intersection known as Shea Square where the Shea Circle rotary now stands. The MHC consultation does not concern any other aspect of the Casey Arborway Project.

75% stage Shea Plan

75% stage Shea Square aerial rendering

The working meeting began with an acknowledgement by MHC that MassDOT has "demonstrated that there is no feasible and prudent alternative" to MassDOT's plan. The meeting then proceeded to a discussion of mitigation measures that might reduce the impact of the decision. All other comments concerning the overall Casey Arborway Project were steered by MHC toward the purpose of the meeting: seeking mitigation suggestions.

MassDOT proposed a) a thorough documentation of the site as it exists and b) context-sensitive landscaping and design to mitigate the adverse effect. George Batchelor, Supervisor of Landscape Design at MassDOT made a visual presentation of the Final Design of the site beginning with an Overlay that showed the existing rotary superimposed upon the future Square. [Apologies for the quality of these hasty photos]

Rotary overlay on Square design

The design features dedicated pedestrian and bicycle paths and crossings, an allee of boulevard red oaks, the retention of the existing stone walls on the Franklin Park side and the creation of a feature-rich park to the south.

Final design showing expansion of Franklin Park

The new park in front of Franklin Park Villa will feature flowering trees, shrubs and bulbs, benches and an interpretive kiosk describing the history of the site.

New park detail with preliminary kiosk

Proposed flowering trees, shrubs and bulbs are all varieties that have survived well in Boston parks according to Batchelor, selected with an eye towards the history of the area, seasonal variety, flowering longevity and hardiness.

Proposed shrubs and bulbs

Proposed flowering trees
Next steps include MassDOT's drafting of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between DOT and MHC concerning mitigation measures, and advertising the Casey Arborway Project for bids in the coming weeks. No revised timetable for the overall project was discussed.

Plans for the project call for the replacement of the crumbling Casey Overpass with an At-Grade boulevard, bike paths, pedestrian ways, as well as an expanded Upper busway, a new northern plaza at the terminus of SW Corridor Park and a new MBTA head house providing direct access to the T platform from the plaza. Earlier announced schedules had called for some traffic rerouting onto existing overpass ramps and then the demolition of a substantial portion of the Overpass to take place in 2014, with the project continuing through September 2016.