Thursday, January 29, 2015

Joint Statement of Support for Casey Arborway Project

For more than three years Boston’s most experienced advocacy groups have worked with a broad spectrum of private citizens lending their expertise to crafting a more efficient Forest Hills transit hub that also improves recreational opportunity and local quality of life. The Emerald Necklace Conservancy, the Boston Cyclists Union, LivableStreet Alliance, WalkBoston, Arboretum Park Conservancy, Arborway Coalition, and many neighborhood groups have been engaged in the Casey Arborway planning process from the very beginning. Focused on parks, greenspace, transit, pedestrian and cycling interests, their leaders and representatives served on MassDOT’s preliminary Working Advisory Group evaluating data and ideas that lead to the selection of what’s been called the “At-grade Solution” for Forest Hills. Their service on the Design Advisory Group lead to project plans which enhance all modes of transportation throughout the area. 

As the Construction Phase of the project begins, they have issued the following Joint Statement:

January 30, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Joint Statement of Support for Casey Arborway Project

On behalf of our membership we hereby reiterate our support for MassDOT’s Casey
Arborway Project in Jamaica Plain.

Planned over many years by scores of professional engineers and architects in
cooperation with dozens of organizations and thousands of engaged citizens, the Casey
Arborway Project represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to enhance commuting
infrastructure for cars, buses, trains, cyclists and pedestrians in a transit hub vital to the economic life of Boston and the region. The project will also improve recreational and commuting connections within the Emerald Necklace, an historic park system that
benefits the entire region.

Julie Crockford
President, Emerald Necklace Conservancy

Pete Stidman
Executive Director, Boston Cyclists Union

Mark Tedrow
LivableStreets Alliance

Wendy Landman

Nina Brown
Arboretum Park Conservancy

Michael Epp
Sumner Hill Association

Sarah Freeman
Arborway Coalition

Mark Navin
Arborway Gardens Condominium Association

Jody Barr
Lower South Street Neighborhood Association

Clayton Harper

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Casey Arborway - a closer look at the southern section

The Casey Arborway project area extends south along South and Washington Streets on the west side to Ukraine Way. A major expansion of the Upper Busway will accommodate the new terminus of the #39 bus, with improved infrastructure, amenities and greenspace throughout. Please click on the image for a larger, more detailed version:

Along the western side of South/Washington: Toole Square - the formal name of the park area between the State Lab and South Street at the top of the image - will be revamped with winding paths and new trees sheltering the park from South Street traffic. A two-way off-street bike path and separated sidewalk continues south from the Arboretum's  Forest Hills gate past Asticou Rd, with new trees as far as the Blackwell Gate of the Arboretum's Bussey Brook Meadow. There will be new shrubs and landscaping between South Street and Asticou. At Asticou a "raised table" crosswalk hump will discourage cut-through vehicle traffic. Continuing south, the bike path transitions to an on-street path with protective striping to separate it from vehicle traffic.

Along the eastern side of South/Washington: The west side of the MBTA station will be revamped with permeable pavers, new bike paths, shrubs and trees to the exit of the Upper Busway. "Don't Block the Box" striping at the South Street intersection by the VFW hall may help reduce congestion at this often difficult location. The #39 bus which currently ends under the Overpass will be relocated to a newly expanded Upper Busway south of the T station. The busway will be extended southward and eastward with more and longer bays, cantilevered over the lower parking lot. The new roof line for the busway is indicated by dotted lines. Buses will enter from the south and exit to the north. The Asticou neighborhood will be sheltered from the bus traffic by high, bermed landscaping with trees and shrubs along the busway. Low walls and plantings in the bus exit island, as well as the direction of the northbound and southbound lanes will direct headlights away from residential neighbors. Off-street bike and pedestrian paths continue south to Ukraine Way

Along the Hyde Park Ave side: Pickup and drop off for school buses will be consolidated in the lower parking lot - an idea championed by both Boston Public Schools and the MBTA. The revamped T-station plaza will flow towards Hyde Park Ave via a handicapped accessible ramp and substantial plantings where the lengthy set of stairs on that corner are now. On the east side, new trees and landscaping will improve and unify the area.

For a closer look at the northwestern section of the Casey Arborway:

A detailed view of the revamped central Plazas of the Casey Arborway:

The eastern section of the Casey Arborway is detailed here:

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Casey Arborway - eastern section up close

The eastern section of the new Casey Arborway creates a long allée - a tree-lined boulevard that enhances civic and community spaces from Hyde Park Avenue to Forest Hills Cemetery and Franklin Park in keeping with the historical intent of the Emerald Necklace parkways. Hundreds of new trees and shrubs (solid green circles) will be planted. Click the image for hi-res detail:

The north side of the Arborway features off-street bike paths (blue) and grade-separated sidewalks (tan) for the entire run to Franklin Park, enhancing recreational access to Franklin Park and improving the Emerald Necklace. An echo of the historically important Stony Brook (which runs in an underground culvert  to the Fens) is built into the landscaping here on a diagonal from Hyde Park Avenue to the northeast (barely discernable here under the trees). On the south side beginning at the Courthouse where access and sight lines to significant civic spaces is improved, the off-street bike path becomes on-street bike lanes on the frontage road, separated from the Arborway by a tree-lined median.

Eastbound Arborway vehicles will be prohibited from turning north at Washington, and must U-turn at the "eastern bow-tie" in front of the Courthouse to do so - a scheme similar to the western end of the project, and much like the turn options utilized on Beacon Street in Brookline. Courthouse parking will be accommodated by a new lot carved out of the Arborway Yard to the north, with entrance crosswalks for pedestrians and cyclists.

The Shea Circle Rotary at Circuit Drive and the southern entrance to Franklin Park is being reconfigured as a signalized intersection (called "Shea Square" during the planning process) which will provide significant traffic calming on the Arborway as well as safe crosswalks for pedestrians (white ladder striping) and cyclists (green crosswalks). The stone wall features of Franklin Park here will be preserved. Eastbound Arborway vehicles wishing to reach Forest Hills Street will do so via Cemetery Road under Circuit Drive. The southeast corner of Shea Square, in front of Franklin Park Villa elderly housing, will feature a new park with a history kiosk, benches and perennial plantings.

For a look at the central portion of the Casey Arborway, see here:

For a detailed look at the northwestern end of the Casey Arborway, see here:

The southern portion of the Casey Arborway project area is detailed here:

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Casey Arborway - central section up close

Here is a detailed view of the central Casey Arborway. Please click the image for much higher resolution:

The new Southwest Corridor Park Plaza along the northern side of the Arborway between South Street and Washington will see substantial changes of benefit to the surrounding community. The bike paths (blue) will enter the Plaza through an innovative Bicycle Rotary designed to slow cyclists as they arrive. The sidewalk (tan) from the corridor will have it's own raised crosswalk across the bike path. The plaza itself will be filled with new trees (solid green circles) and perennial plantings with ample seating (red). It is to be surfaced where possible with permeable pavers that allow rain water to be recycled and nourish the plants. This is not possible directly above the train tracks. Central to the plaza is an all new glass and steel Head House: an entrance/exit on the north side of the Arborway directly to the MBTA platform for Charlie Card T-pass users. It will have an elevator for handicapped access and strollers. There are bike racks on the eastern and southern sides of the Head House. The grassy portion towards the tracks to the north is sloped upwards, creating a seating area that might serve potential concerts, farmers markets, food trucks or other programming on the plaza. The easterly bike path here continues off-street all the way to Franklin Park, separated from the sidewalk by grade, trees and grass.

There will be a pick-up and drop-off lane along the north side, while the current taxi stand is being relocated along the south side of the Arborway by the station. The median here will have trees where possible and raised planters above the tracks for smaller, flowering shrubs. There will be no mid-block crossing of the Arborway allowed - pedestrians and cyclists will need to cross at the major intersections. But the new Head House means that many commuters from the north will not need to cross the Arborway at all to reach their trains. Pedestrian crosswalks are white ladder-style, while bicycle ones are green on roadways. At all intersections these will be count-down pedestrian signals with audible chirping.

The southern MBTA Plaza is being totally revamped as well, with permeable pavers used where possible. Bike paths (blue) continue on this side from the Arboretum to Forest Hills Cemetery and on the southern side of the station to Ukraine Way. New plantings and seating makes for a more inviting space in front of the station - it is expected that pushcart style retail kiosks may use the plaza as well. Note that with the Overpass gone, the #39 bus terminus will be relocating to an expanded upper busway to the south, along the western portion of Washington Street. The current stairs leading from the eastern side of the Plaza to the lower busway and Hyde Park Ave will be replaced with a handicap-accessible ramp under many new trees and shrubs.

It may be difficult to spot in this image - it was for me, and I've been studying it for many months now - but hiding under the trees just east of Washington Street and running northeast diagonally from the south across the media and towards the Arborway Yard is an architectural reminder and an echo of the original Stony Brook in the form of a rocky landscaped feature and pavement change. This important waterway, which now runs through a culvert tunnel below ground to the Fens, once provided water to Jamaica Plain's many breweries and other industrial enterprises along what is now Amory Street. This design element is one of many sensitive and delightful features that will enhance the neighborhood and the experience of visitors for years to come. Here's a closer look at that feature:

For a look at the northwestern portion of the new Casey Arborway, click here:

The eastern portion of the new Casey Arborway is examined in detail here:

The southern portion of the Casey Arborway project area is detailed here:

Casey Arborway - northwestern end up close

The final plans for the Casey Arborway's northwest section:

(I urge all viewers to click for a larger version of this detailed image)

This western portion of the Casey Arborway runs from South Street to the Forest Hills Gate of the Arboretum. The Upper Arborway frontage road will be relocated approximately 30-40' to the north to create more queue space on southbound South Street at the Arborway traffic light. "Don't Block the Box" striping will help make entrance and exit to/from the Upper Arborway easier than now. A new retaining wall will be built between the Upper Arborway and the main Arborway at Hampstead Rd because the new main Arborway grade will be 3 or 4 feet lower than the Upper Arborway. A new sidewalk on the north side of the Arborway between South Street and the Forest Hills Gate (on the Arborway side of the new retaining wall) will lead to a new pedestrian-activated crosswalk with a safety island in the median, and a zig-zag path through the median to indicate caution. There will also be a new on-street bike lane and eight trees along the north side.

West/Northbound main Arborway vehicle traffic will not be allowed to turn left/south at South Street, and will instead need to make a U-turn at the so-called "western bow-tie" by the Arboretum's Forest Hills Gate. Westbound car traffic will only stop here for pedestrians, but eastbound traffic will stop to accommodate these U-turns. There will be a tree-lined median in the center. A new "turning apron" at the Gate will allow larger vehicles to make wide turns here, with stout posts protecting pedestrians and cyclists from U-turning vehicles.

The south side along the Arboretum wall will have a two-way off-street bike path separated from the sidewalk by a grass strip. Both are separated from Arborway vehicle traffic by new trees. Southbound turning traffic at South Street from the eastbound Arborway will have a dedicated turn lane, with pedestrian refuge in a new island. Bike crosswalks are green, pedestrian ones are white ladder-style striping. Sidewalk "mixing areas" where bikes and pedestrians come together will have special pavers indicating a surface change at intersections with colored stripes or pavers indicating the direction of continuation of the bike path for cyclists.

Solid green circles = new trees
hollow circles = existing trees
blue = off-street bike paths
tan = sidewalks
pink = "mixing zones" for bikes and pedestrians
small black circles = period-design street lights
thin black lines at intersection = traffic light masts

The central portion of the new Casey Arborway is examined in detail here:

For a look at the eastern end of the project, click here:

The southern portion of the Casey Arborway project area is detailed here: