Boston: How's that Big Dig Going for you?

Just wondering.

I was in Boston on business November, 1999 and February, 2000, and enjoyed the city (One of my favorites to visit). I also enjoyed seeing the new Cable Stayed bridge start to take shape. I also, as a visitor, enjoyed seeing the large tunnels being dug. Pretty cool, if you don’t have to live there and deal with the traffic problems on a daily basis.

Today I was looking at The Big Dig Web Site and wondered: How are things for you folks in Boston? Do you feel that there’s any progress? Is the project worth the money? Is it satisfying to see that beautiful new bridge which will change the skyline for you?

How do you, personally, feel about the Big Dig?

I think it’s fascinating, but I live in the suburbs and work in the boondocks so it’s not something I have to deal with every day. And I’m enough of an engineering geek that the whole scope of the thing makes my jaw drop.

The great question about the Big Dig is whether it’s worth all the trouble and expense. No one knows. The Powers That Be are promising that we’ll whisk through the city as if on a cloud (albeit an underground cloud). I lived near Seattle when the Mercer Island/Lake Washington/Beacon Hill section was completed, it added lanes across the lake but it attracted more cars too. Crossing the lake at rush hour was still a hassle, just less of a hassle than it would have been with the old bridge, I guess (Awfully nice to have a bike path, though). And I swear, sometimes I think the five miles at either end of I-90 cost as much as the thousands of miles in between.

I’m waiting to see what they do with the long strip of ground that gets freed up once the old Central Artery comes down. I’d like to see some sort of pedestrian plaza stretching the whole length. I think it could make the curves of the downtown streets a bit less disorienting.

Aesthtically, though, I don’t care too much for the cable stayed bridge (and who on Earth brags about having the widest bridge in the world, anyway?). Classic suspension bridges have the curve of the main cables contrasting with the straight lines of the towers and support cables. I think a cable stayed bridge needs some curves to break up all the straight lines, maybe an arch in the towers instead of the inverted ‘V’ topped with an obelisk.

I don’t know if it’s still there, but down near the entrance to the Ted Williams tunnel is a bridge, from nowhere, to nowhere. It’s a twenty foot section of highway overpass in the middle of a vacant lot. And it can’t be the beginning of some real overpass because there’s nothing around that would be worth the effort to pass over. It must be some kind of practice bridge, like they built this one little piece to make sure all the concrete forms bolted together right or something. But it was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen. Even has a streetlight on it.

Sometime in the spring of last year I heard that the Big Dig took summer tour reservations on its website, and they were booked solid in just a couple days. I’m trying to watch the site in case they do it again this year. Anybody care to join me? And if any of you hear about tours before I do, drop me an e-mail, please.

The project is going to be the biggest boondoggle in US history. It was supposed to be done in 2004, but now we are told it will be late 2006. As for cost-this is the MOST COSTLY publics works project in US history! It is now projected to pass $14 billiuon-for 5 miles of road!
The corruption is staggering-local pols set up construction companies and rubble-hauling outfits tomtake advantage of “no-bid” contracts. A while back they prosecuted a local contarctor for stealing steel beams-he was stealing at least $100,000 worth of steel a week!
My prediction: after expending this massive amount of money, the Boston traffic will be as bad as ever. The reason is: 90% of the traffic going through Boston is on its way to somewhere else! Over 30 years ago, the state planned to run I-95 through Roxbury, the Soth End, etc., and connect with I-93 north of the city. This would have eliminated MOST of the traffic on the central artery. Thsi wasn’t done, because a bunch of Harvard urban planners convince then-Gov. peabody to change the plan. My prediction; there will be massive criminal hearings, and tens of politicians in jail, after this disaster gets finished!

You think that’s bad? Try a $30,000 parking lot for an Alaskan town that has only 300 citizens!


Really? More than Hoover Dam? More than the TVA? More than the Lincoln Tunnel? That sounds very hard to believe.

How about this – the Big Dig is costing more than the Chunnel (the English Channel Tunnel).

Mind you, it’s an impressive accomplishment. They are building it with systems already in place, missing subways stations by feet and underground conduits by less than that. Exciting and interesting new construction techniques are being used. There’s been an exhibition at the Museum of Science on it for a couple of years now. They’ve had specials on TV. They give TOURS of the Big DIG. (By the way, that down-the-middle cable-stayed bridge isn’t exactly new or unique. They’ve got them in a few places. Look at Jacksonville.)

On the other hand, there has been plenty of stupidity and corruption to go around, inflating the cost FAR above the initial estimates. And why they didn’t take advantage of this golden opportunity to link up the railroad tracks between North Station and South Station is beyond me.

I think the plan is to miss the Fleet Center by six inches.

I can’t even imagine how they’d run new train lines through all this. The new freeway will go under Fort Point Channel and over the Red Line, split into two tunnels by South Station and cross the Red Line again (under, I think). They’re already digging 120 feet down in the neighborhood. Underground Boston doesn’t have room for a naked mole rat on a diet, I think a full-size railroad tunnel was probably out of the question.

Like RobotArm, I don’t driver through the construction, but I do drive through the suburbs. The Big Dig is eating up a lot of money for pothole repairs though, and I have the flat tire in my trunk to prove it. :mad:

I live in the distant suburbs, actually closer to Rhode Island than Boston. I only drive into the city every few months, and whenever I do, it sucks. Construction everywhere, traffic, angry people…it’s just a big pain in the ass. And in the meantime, 26% of my paycheck is going towards taxes. I’m sure the Big Dig isn’t doing much to help that go down…