City Council moved a step closer to holding hearings on the Casey Arborway, amid warnings from Jamaica Plain’s district councilor that the board has zero ability to change the massive state project.
Councilor Charles Yancey of Dorchester called for the hearings, on grounds that neighborhoods outside JP haven’t been heard from and amid concerns for medical patients who use the Casey to reach hospitals at Longwood and downtown.
Yancey said the hearings would give the state, and possibly city agencies, a chance to tell people their plans for the demolition and construction. The 1950s-era flyover is being razed in favor of a network of surface streets.
“This is not an order to cease and desist the demolition of the Casey Overpass,” Yancey said during Wednesday’s City Council meeting. “The public has a right to know how they’re going to function during this period of time.”
City Councilor Matt O’Malley, who represents JP and lives on the Arborway, said residents should have clear expectations if there are any further hearings after the three dozen meetings already held during the past four-and-a-half years. O’Malley said residents should have realistic expectations about what City Council can and cannot do at this point.
“I want to be crystal clear,” O’Malley said. “We cannot suggest that we can delay, that we can push back, that we can get a bridge built there.”
O’Malley said the public process around the Casey Overpass was second only to that surrounding the Big Dig.
“If you are happy with the result, chances are you are happy with the process,” he said, referring to residents who want a bridge rebuilt. “If you are unhappy with the result, chances are you think it was unfair.”
City Councilor Steve Murphy, who serves at-large, said he wasn’t sure everyone got heard during the state’s hearing process. Even so, he questioned how much city hearings could accomplish.
“What’s the wisdom other than the opportunity to vent?” Murphy said. “The horse is out of the barn, the genie is out of the bottle.”
For his part, Councilor Timothy McCarthy of Hyde Park/Mattapan said he felt his role at this point is to hold the state’s Department of Transportation to their promises on finishing the job.
Yancey stood his ground on calling for hearings, and the request was moved into committee.
“Not to raise any unreasonable expectations, but the public needs to know what the plan is,” Yancey said.
MassDOT has been sponsoring a series of informational sessions for residents aimed at providing practical information about the demolition and construction. It also holds monthly office hours for individual questions. The next office hours are Thursday, April 21, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Curtis Hall Community Center.
The massive project, which went through a years-long public process that bridge proponents remain critical of, is well underway. Once temporary roads along the bridge are finished, the bridge, already down to one lane in each direction, is expected to be closed to traffic in May.
[Editor’s note: We’ve updated the headline and text to reflect that O’Malley was not trying to stop these hearings from taking place.]