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As contractors prepare to tear down Forest Hills overpass, city councilor decides he wants more hearings

City Councilor Charles Yancey (Dorchester) wonders if the project to replace the Casey Overpass with surface roads will cause problems for people heading to lifesaving medical treatment in the Longwood Medical Area or to soul-saving worship services at area churches, so he's seeking "a series of hearings" on the demolition plans - three years after state officials announced the plans.

The City Council on Wednesday considers Yancey's request for a hearing to consider the "decreased access for emergency vehicles and any environmental health hazards associated with massive idling of vehicles and exposure to air bourn [sic] and settled demolition material" by residents living along what is still officially Rte. 203 from JP into Dorchester.

Along with prepping the crumbling overpass for demolition, contractors have been building a temporary surface road to handle overpass traffic until the new permanent roads are in place.

State officials have said that even if they went with retaining an overpass, the current one is in such bad shape they'd have to tear it down completely and build a new one. Opponents, who have taken to singing civil-rights songs at construction-update meetings, say the overpass just needs some relatively minor work to stay up.

Separately, Jamaica Plain residents who want to keep the overpass up plan to lobby city councilors today, Jamaica Plain News reports.

Neighborhoods: 

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Comments

After a series of resounding defeats in the Bridge-Versus-At-Grade Wars of 2014, the BFH crowd has changed tactics from "indignantly stamp our feet and insist that we were railroaded despite being a small but loud minority" to "dredge up every possible bad thing that could happen as a result of demolition of the bridge." I'm in a NextDoor group that covers part of southern JP, and for the last week, I've had the privilege of reading a bunch of made-up crap about silicosis caused by demolishing concrete structures. Now they apparently have Yancey's ear, too.

I look forward to next week, when maybe we can hear about how animals at Angell will be affected. Or maybe something about the Arboretum and silicates. Whatever ploy they can come up with to delay the project long enough for it to run over budget, at which point they can triumphantly crow "I told you so!"

Dear BFH,
IMAGE(http://www.reactiongifs.com/r/2013/08/its-over-go-home.gif)
Love and kisses,
--Erik

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You've nailed it, Erik. The rhetoric from the pro-bridgers has gotten more and more cringe-worthy, both at meetings and online--this last round of "AAAHHHH--cement dust!! We're all gonna get cancer!!" has been a real head-scratcher.

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You two plus me, too. I stupidly jumped in on that 'conversation'.

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is putting in an overpass then clearly JP should too, because the two sites are pretty much identical? Yeah...that seemed like a perfect argument NOT to get involved in...

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I know.

Hindsight and all that.

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The overpass has to be demolished, regardless of what replaces it?

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You want more hearings and studies and the like. Fine. Then YOU pay for them out of your pocket. And YOU also pay for the cost increases that will result from the inevitable delays to construction your proposed sideshow will create.

Otherwise, STFU and let the construction commence.

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Two mayors in a row have basically said they don't like the idea of surface roads, but their hands are tied because it's a MassDOT project (Rte. 203 being a state road and all).

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Have refused to pay for the replacement of the overpass out of city funds, too.

The state has a responsibility to taxpayers statewide, not just a bunch of edifice-worshiping cranks.

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So the city paying for replacing it would be like the city paying to repave the turnpike.

That having been said, the state says the surface alignment will be cheaper.

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Look, my opinion is that replacing the bridge with an at-grade solution is a bad deal. I also think that the state is being disingenuous when they claim that this is the most environmental friendly choice- just admit it's the cheapest and we will believe you.

That said, the time to stop this was last fall at the latest. The trees have been all chopped down. Temporary roads have been laid. The bridge will come down eventually due to the poor materials used in its construction. Just let the bridge come down.

Now, advocating for a new bridge, that's another thing, but the bridge is coming down. In the winter, like they said in the fall.

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A lot of the prep work (like finishing the temporary road) was delayed because, you know, eight feet of snow.

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They said "winter." They gave good reason why they wanted to do it in winter (less debris flying around.) December 1 (meteorological start of winter) passed with no work. December 21 (astronomical start of winter) passed with no work. Heck, I didn't see anything come January 1. But yeah, come January 23rd, I could see how things were put on hold.

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If the Mass Historical Commission had not spent that long considering whether the historical value of a forlorn island of 1930s rotary trumped access to Frederick Law Olmsted's Franklin Park and the restoration of Emerald Necklace continuity.

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The destruction of streets for people and the theft of parkways to be converted into highways is very 'historical' nowadays. It's like, past century!

How are we ever going to demolish urban planning disasters like City Hall if we delay so long on deadly, blighted crap like Shea Circle?

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as it is archane preservation laws that presume that (insert almost anything there) MUST have some historic value if it's at least 50 years old.

And, at least in this state, historical review is mandated for nearly all projects. Even routine work as replacing signs on Interstate highways, although technically granted an exception to the law, is still subject to MHC review to "verify" it meets the exemption.

As one who supports legitimate historical preservation efforts, even to me this is gross overkill (and a waste of time and taxpayer money).

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as it is archane preservation laws that presume that (insert almost anything there) MUST have some historic value if it's at least 50 years old.

I've got no problem with that. I now live in a city where they tore down most of the pre-war buildings downtown and it's got as much personality as a bag of Cheetos. I'd rather err on the side of caution.

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Say you were getting furniture delivered, and yesterday the store said it would be delivered "tomorrow morning." If they showed up at 12:30, technically they were on the road in the morning, and it would still be morning in Denver, but they could not even make their vague timetable. That's kind of what happened here.

So, yeah, if not for the MHC, they would have announced in October 2013 that work would be done over the winter, and by Evacuation Day 2014 they would not have started yet.

And that's where my faith in this project lies.

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Read Councilor Yancey's remarks at each week's Public Meeting of Boston City Council... request the Stenograph Record at http://www.cityofboston.gov/contact/?id=16

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He hasn't said anything yet.

Probably a better move would be to attend the City Council meeting itself and hear him speak. The power of spoken oratory is stronger than anything in print.

See you there tomorrow, eh, Don?

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On Comcast and RCN public-access channels (82 on RCN and 8 on Comcast). Folks who don't have cable or who don't live in Boston should also be able to watch online, via this page and, possibly, the Council YouTube page (which also archives the meetings, although, personally, I prefer looking up past meetings on the Council meeting page because you can click on a date and then click on the specific item you're interested in and watch the discussion on it, rather than trying to fast forward through an entire meeting).

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Please note vision impaired folks using text to speech screenreaders use the PlainText Stenograph Record. Searching PlainText is more efficient for all following the Council Proceedings.

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So far one candidate has come out against him:
http://www.campbellforbostond4.com/
Hope she wins.

*Whoops. edited my subject line since it had wrong words

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Think about it. He is literally Menino's class (first elected district city council in 1983.) Think about all the other city councilors over the ensuing 30+ years that have either burnt out or have been voted out of office, yet Yancy keeps on chugging along. He even lost the mayor's race and won reelection on the same ballot, and his constituency didn't even vote for him for mayor.

No, this is a good move on his behalf. In my view, and apparently a view shared in Mattapan, the non replacement of the bridge is not good for Mattapan. By taking a stand, albeit too late in the game, he is showing his constituents that he cares about them.

My prediction is that McCarthy (represents Mattapan Square and whose office thinks traffic around Forest Hills is insane to begin with) will support him, maybe Pressley too. Matt O'Malley might come out against, since the West Roxbury side of the district is probably not too riled up, while the Jamaica Plain side thinks this is the best thing ever. That leaves the other 9 councilors, who could not care less about this, so they might just shrug and say "yeah, whatever."

EDIT note- I changed what 500 Monkeys noted. Actually, I was surprised that was the only typo.

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I am still hopeful he will be replaced and take Linehan along with him. The city council will be better if we get more councilors like Wu.

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Love that "...showing his constituents that he cares about HIM" typo.

I'm not convinced you win lots of local Mattapan props by siding with some JP/Rozzie folks up in arms about data which shows +/- one minute of vehicle travel time change in any direction through Forest Hills out to the year 2035. Not a lot of "massive idling of vehicles" to be found in data like that, Mr. Yancey.

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Nothing Freudian intended.

As for Yancey's side in this, look at a map and track the best route from Mattapan and the Longwood Medical Area. You will have to trust me that there is a lot of commuting between those two areas, and of course the 21 and 31 bus routes are very well used to boot. And as you are probably sick of me droning on about, that extra "one minute" is what is claimed, and as you know I am dubious about the claim. Honestly, Mattapan should be even more annoyed than the Roslindale/Hyde Park folk are, except of course our claim that our inbound delays will increase to keep the cross traffic from going insane.

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It's not a "claim", it's the peer-reviewed data, available here (see page 20-24)
http://www.massdot.state.ma.us/Portals/24/docs/Casey_Traffic2_092211.pdf

I suppose they could have consulted the entrails of a goat or perhaps a ouija board instead before making the decision three years ago... but using data sure seems like a better idea to me.

You'll get no argument from me about whether traveling from Mattapan to Longwood likely takes you through Forest Hills. But I'll clearly argue 'till the cows come home about claims we're in for life-threatening gridlock and economic calamity without a shiny new bridge.

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instead of replacing an existing perfectly functioning, albiet worn out, bridge with a shiny new bridge. Two words: Bike Lobby

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The bike lobby wishes it was so powerful. The neighborhood, however, should have a say in whether it is a overpass or at grade, the way Charlestown did. The neighborhood overwhelmingly (though not unanimously) said they did not want the overpass. Just because people who pass through want nonstop highways from their doorstep to their desitnation without meaningfully increasing the driving fees like the gas tax does not mean it will happen. Though you could move to Oklahoma or Houston and be quite happy.

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The state (after allowing the overpass to deteriorate beyond the point of repair, to save money) never intended to implement anything but the lowest cost "solution" (to save money) -- they got some bike folks stirred up to provide "public" support for what they always intended to do.

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They're perfectly capable of defending themselves (I don't even ride) but it wasn't the "bike lobby". As with most things, it is more complicated than two words, but it was mostly Data showing that an at-grade grid of intersections could carry the vehicle loads with either improved or very marginally degraded (<1minute delay) levels of service, and with a significant savings to the citizens of the Commonwealth ($20 million).

That said, the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, LiveableStreets Alliance, WalkBoston, the Arboretum Park Conservancy and the Boston Cyclists Union all participated in the process along with many neighborhood associations and thousands of local citizens. Those organizations continue to support the project as designed:
http://arborwaymatters.blogspot.com/2015/01/arborway-supports-weigh-in-w...

It's just not a "bikes vs. cars" or a "locals vs. commuters" issue at all. It's about how to responsibly design 21st century urban hubs in a way that accomodates all modes - cars, buses, trains, pedestrains, cyclists. And here they must also accomodate the needs of recreational users in a nationally cherished Parkway corridor while balancing the desires of neighbors.

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Yes--the all-powerful, multi-million-dollar fat cat bike lobby.

I'm hoping that my sarcasm-detector is malfunctioning because honest to God--you don't really believe that, right? If do then wow...we are SO much more powerful than I thought. You might also want to note that the screaming head of the pro-bridge crowd is the owner of a bike shop in JP.

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We got all the roads paved ...

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Ha-Ha... Just from reading the headline, I knew right away who that Councillor was: the great Charles "We need another nonsense hearing" Yancey.

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All of the sudden the construction impacts are a big deal to some people, possibly even some well meaning people.

Well, we've had years now to talk about those impacts, but BFH has kept yelling to force a redo of the design process to somehow produce consensus for a new overpass plan (because even the overpass design that MassDOT proposed wasn't good or "landmark" enough for BFH, so no "new bridge" plan exists).

So all the people and organizations who were willing to work constructively with MassDOT had to do it alone. As a result, the bike paths are better, there's a new crossing over to the Arboretum that wasn't in the original plans, and other improvements did happen.

But the energy that could have gone into even better neighborhood mitigation, even better dissemination of information and answers to even more questions went into ever-more vitriolic and extreme rants. Well, time passes, plans move on, bridges decay. Time's up. The cranes and the bulldozers are here.

More hearings? More studies? Why would the outspoken in the community believe new studies any more than they do the existing ones? BFH has called into question every part of every study that wasn't aligned with their world view, while selectively cobbling together anything else that could possibly throw a wrench in the works.

The bad feelings from this process will divide JP for years, and the huge bulk of the blame is on BFH. It's like the trolley war goblins took up roost in the Casey Overpass once the tracks were finally paved over, and now their screams have poisoned civic discourse anew.

So I say fine. You want to talk about a dedicated bus/emergency vehicle lane through the construction site, I'm there. You want to talk about removing rush hour parking along Washington Street to Roslindale for bus lanes, I will commend you for your courage. If you care so much about traffic pollution that you'll support dropping one lane from the at-grade Casey plan, let's talk.

Each of those crazy things would at least be consistent and have some element of merit, at least in the abstract. But they don't get you an overpass.

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The bad feelings from this process will divide JP for years, and the huge bulk of the blame is on BFH.

Unfortunately, I think BFH is more endemic of the myopic, insular (almost balkanized?) attitudes that make up "old boston." they're just finally outnumbered. Instead of embracing change and fighting for something better for everyone they're just digging their heals. We're seeing the same nonsense playing out in the olympics debates.

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Councilor Yancey and copy in your City Councilor and let them know you think this is a waste of time and money. I'm sure if they look hard enough, they will find more pressing issues concerning the City that they can discuss.

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cc the At-Large councillors, too

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Basically nowhere in Boston has bus lanes, so when roads are clogged, roads are clogged. If there were transit lanes incorporated in to this project (and others in the area) they would double as emergency vehicle lanes, helping emergency responders and others. But instead of having nice things that might save lives, we have to have moar lanes for cars.

And, sorry, I just haven't seen a lot of mile-long traffic jams on Sunday mornings. Double parking in bike lanes outside of churches? Sure. But not big traffic jams getting there.

Also, the people who are lobbying to keep the bridge are meeting at City Hall from noon to 3 today. Do any of these people have jobs?

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I would venture that there is a bus lane on Washington Street coming from Dudley down to Chinatown. It is supposed to only be used by left right turning cars at the lights, otherwise, that diamond on the asphalt indicates bus only.

And yes, I consider the silver line a bus.

corrected because I don't know my right from my left.

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Oh, I thought the diamonds on the ground and the paint meant "double parking lane." That's the way it seems to be interpreted.

Enforcement? What's that?

And where the Silver Line really needs bus lanes (Chinatown) it doesn't get them. Except on Essex Street, where a City of Boston sign has been telling drivers to drive in the bus lane for the past 3 years.

Defeats the point, I think.

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But it technically is a bus lane. Just because it isn't being use properly does not negate that fact.

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*The best kind of correct.

But it technically is a bus lane. Just because it isn't being use properly does not negate that fact.

In my opinion, the fact that a piece of street seemingly more often has parked cars than buses does negate the point of having it at all.

My solution isn't to do away with it, but rather, to find the problems and fix them. In the case of Washington Street, the problem is that the bus lanes are on the curb-side. Instead, there should be a central reservation as much as possible, with physical barriers to keep out private cars. Actually, the Silver Line should be a trolley, with a reservation, and a connection to the existing (!) Tremont Street tunnel and flying junction just sitting ... unused! ... beneath the streets of Boston.

Digression alert! Talk about a billion dollars going unused: to recreate that incredible piece of infrastructure, the grade-separated flying junction, would easily cost a billion dollars in today's money, and the MBTA just lets it rot. They actually proposed demolishing it for the foolish SL Phase III project.

Alright, now I'm getting overly excited. Coming back down to Earth, the solution for the Silver Line as it exists today is central bus lanes on Washington Street, and a careful network of dedicated bus lanes and signal priority through Chinatown.

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*The best kind of correct.

Yes! (kidding. I'm not competitive, not at all. ha ha ha)

In my opinion, the fact that a piece of street seemingly more often has parked cars than buses does negate the point of having it at all.

I agree, it's a parking bus lane, maybe? But yes - useless as a bus lane because of idiots.

My solution isn't to do away with it, but rather, to find the problems and fix them.

Your suggestions are intriguing ... and now I want to sneak in and explore said tunnel. Bringing my favorite structural engineers, of course.

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Let the overpass come down, traffic suck, and everybody learn not to take down more overpasses. Its then worthwhile.

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All hail the mighty Overpass! Be merciful to us, o great concrete Master!

https://youtu.be/o1JZCCeVzn0

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The Overpass is dead.

Long live the Overpass!

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I come to bury the Overpass

Not to praise it

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Killin' it! *props*

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a hearing if no one is listening?

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that no longer shops at Ferris Wheels because I'm fed up with Jeff Ferris and the Bridging Forest Hills crowd?

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it definitely gives me some qualms. I also don't find that anyone in there is handling the front-of-house stuff the way Mark did--that guy was a customer service genius.

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Do the locals also want to build a new bridge way way way off the ground in case the T rebuilds the elevated Orange Line someday?

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of locals do not want a bridge at all, and hailed the decision to not have one when it was made THREE YEARS AGO fer crissakes

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The vast majority of people don't really care what happens, or know that they don't know enough to comment authoritatively, or happen to have more important things to do in their lives. They just want to be inconvenienced as little as possible.

Many of them would also, I suspect, prefer to not have pieces of a bridge fall on them. Or anyone else.

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