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.