The City Council today agreed to let Councilor Charles Yancey (Dorchester) hold a series of hearings at which state and city officials can explain how replacing the Casey Overpass with a series of surface roads won't give residents cancer or block ambulances from getting heart-attack and stroke victims to the medical area - but not demand the work be stopped altogether.
Or, at least, that's what Yancey professed today.
"This is not [a motion] to cease and desist the demolition of the Casey Overpass," Yancey told fellow councilors.
Yancey acknowledged that the state decided to replace the overpass with surface roads several years ago and that it's too late to change that decision, what with construction crews already tearing down trees and pouring asphalt for temporary replacement lanes along the crumbling overpass.
But Yancey said many people in his district are just now hearing of the work - although his local newspaper has covered the issue - and that they deserve answers to their questions about how they will get around once the span is shut this spring and then replaced - and their questions about the public-health ramifications of the work.
Having said that, however, Yancey then raised some of the same issues replacement opponents have taken to flinging, and he expressed his deep concern about the residents of Forest Hills having to stew in gridlock once the project is finished, because he knows that replacing a no-stop road from Mattapan to the Arborway with several intersections cannot possibly be done without problems.
Councilor Matt O'Malley (Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury) hopes the hearings are not advertised as giving people a chance to get the state to reconsider its decision. O'Malley, who has been through 4 1/2 years of "very spirited" meetings and who has been accused by people on both sides of the issue of favoring the other, said the decision has been made and it's not going to be changed or delayed: The overpass is coming down and it's going to be replaced by surface roads, period.
To suggest otherwise would be "dishonest with ourselves, dishonest with each other and most important, dishonest with the people we represent," he said.
Councilor Steve Murphy (at large), who lives in Hyde Park, acknowledged the enormity of the potential changes at what is a "commuter chokepoint" for a vast swath of the city, from Hyde Park to Dorchester, but said he is worried people would start blaming the council for the work when the whole thing is a state project the city had nothing to do with.