Councilmember Godden left office on January 1, 2016.
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Boston Bulletin: Notes on the Big Dig



I’m sure that most of us have heard plenty about the Big Dig, a topic that has been used to scare people who want to replace Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct with a waterfront for all. The Big Dig replaced Boston’s Big Green Monster, the ugly bisecting roadway dominating Boston Harbor for 50 years.

The two projects, however, could hardly be more dissimilar. One might as well try to compare San Simeon with Camp Long. There are so many differences. In the first place, Boston’s Big Dig was much more ambitious: eight miles long, 160 total lane miles. It included cut-and-cover, immersed tubes, jacked tunnel and other tunneling methods.

The reasons why the Big Dig had cost overruns were many, among them the project was estimated in 1990s dollars rather than figuring inflation. The other was that it didn’t account for project changes, mitigation and environmental requirements. Furthermore, the project had inconsistent leadership. It was a project that seemed to have no one in charge.

All that said, I suspect that few Bostonians would give it back today. It’s given the harbor back to the city. It’s given them acres and acres of green parkland, a place where Bostonians flock on weekends and holidays. It created jobs. It has dramatically increased the assessed value of adjacent properties. It has been one of the biggest economic developments in the city’s history.

We were lucky enough to hear assessments of its value from Fred Salvucci, the man behind the Big Dig and from Nancy Brennan who heads the Conservancy, a private nonprofit that manages the Greenway. They outlined the history of the Big Dig, a cautionary tale. But more about that on a later bulletin from Boston.