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Big Dig

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Big Dig and Turnpike


Official Sites:



Governor Mitt Romney Big Dig and Turnpike Quotes


  • “Billions of taxpayer dollars were invested into the Central Artery project, yet no direct oversight of this project by state government exists. Political accountability and fiscal responsibility are the twin principles behind these sorely needed reforms. With this merger, we will once and for all put an end to the blame shifting that occurred during the financial mismanagement of the Big Dig, and achieve sustainable savings by managing our roadways more efficiently."
  • “Secretary Grabauskas has already demonstrated that he knows how to bring reform and efficiency to state government. He will be a voice of change at the Turnpike Authority and help us begin the process of creating a more efficient transportation system for the people of Massachusetts.”
  • “I also want to applaud the service of Christy Mihos. Over the last five years, Christy has been the toll-payer’s best friend and pushed for reform at the Turnpike every step of the way.”
  • “The establishment of this commission would constitute a critical step in minimizing the state’s exposure. It will also begin the process of restoring the trust of the citizens of Massachusetts, our federal government partners and the nation’s taxpayers.”
  • "Dealing with the Turnpike Authority over the past two years has been an incredibly frustrating experience. I believe the Big Dig has been mismanaged to the detriment of the public."
  • "I have asked for the Big Dig to be put under my authority and control, and I have called for a change of leadership at the Turnpike Authority. Unfortunately, I have been the lone voice on Beacon Hill calling for this change."
  • "It is absolutely startling to me that the Turnpike Authority’s own engineering consultant cannot vouch for the safety of the Central Artery tunnel because he has been denied access to critical records and documents that would allow him to form an opinion."
  • "With the Big Dig, there has been a pattern of cover-up and stonewalling that has left the public with little confidence that the project is being managed well or that the road and tunnel system are safe for travel."
  • "Jack Lemley says he wasn’t given access to critical information to assess the tunnel’s safety. Judge Ginsburg says he was denied access to information so that he could pursue cost recovery. Christy Mihos as a member of the Board of the Turnpike Authority had to go to court to get information from the own authority of which he served as a board member."
  • "This is intolerable. The culture of obstruction and cover-up starts at the very top."
  • "Today, I am taking the first step to remove Matt Amorello as Chairman of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority."
  • "Today, I will ask the Supreme Judicial Court for an advisory opinion to confirm my power to remove the Chairman. As soon as the court responds in the affirmative, I will install new leadership."
  • "I need this validation from the Supreme Judicial Court in order to avoid a protracted legal battle that would only deepen public cynicism and mistrust and delay action."
  • "The second action I am taking today is this. I am directing my state Highway Department to oversee an independent evaluation of the tunnel’s safety and to make sure that’s carried out as soon as possible."
  • "In order for that to happen, there will need to be full access to all relevant documents, the same documents the Turnpike Authority has been reluctant to give to its own consultant. Therefore, I am asking Attorney General Reilly to seize those documents today so they are available for independent inspection and evaluation."
  • "It is imperative that the Attorney General move quickly given the matter is of such significance to our public safety."
  • "As Governor, I have a responsibility to all the people when it comes to public safety."
  • "My job now is to assure that the tunnels are safe, and to take whatever steps are necessary to put in place responsible management at the Turnpike Authority."
  • "Mary brings experience and business skills to the Turnpike Authority. She has faced financial challenges before and her background will be a tremendous asset to the Board. I will look to her to help keep the state’s transportation system on the road to being truly first class."
  • “I am pleased that both Tom Trimarco and Beth Lindstrom have accepted my invitation to serve on the Turnpike Authority board. Their objective is the same as mine, and that is to bring a greater degree of efficiency and effectiveness to the operations of the Turnpike, as well as more transparency and disclosure.”
  • “Judy is an experienced professional with a strong financial management background and a degree in engineering. I appreciate her willingness to serve as we continue the process of bringing new leadership to the Turnpike Authority."
  • “We have many challenges ahead, but I’m confident we have the right team in place to conduct a thorough safety review,” said Romney. “Both the firm and the advisory panel are nationally recognized for their experience and background in construction, engineering and transportation, and I look forward to receiving the report and recommendations.”




Governor Mitt Romney Big Dig and Turnpike Press Releases













Quotes on the Big Dig and Turnpike


  • “We presently have two highway departments – one that maintains one road and another that maintains the rest of them. The savings that can be generated by improved efficiencies are simply too big to ignore. Even if we did not face a fiscal crisis, we still owe it to the taxpayers eliminate redundancies and waste.”
    • Transportation Secretary Daniel A. Grabauskas, 04-08-2003 Press Release
  • "The Beacon Hill Institute has determined that the state could save up to $57 million per year in operating costs by merging the Turnpike with the Highway Department. The state could furthermore enjoy the savings without any loss of quality of services that are currently provided by the Turnpike Authority."
    • David Tuerck, 02-02-2004 Press Release
      • Beacon Hill Institute's Executive Director
  • "It’s time to do what should have been done years ago. It’s time to spend our dollars in a smarter, more responsible way."
  • “I look forward to working with the other members of the Turnpike Board as we address a host of issues of importance to taxpayers and toll-payers. Governor Romney has called for the streamlining of the Commonwealth’s fragmented transportation delivery system to realize improved efficiencies and cost savings. This effort will be foremost in my mind during my service on the Board.”
  • “I was honored to serve on the Turnpike Board. I was there to represent the toll-payer and the taxpayer, and every day fought to insure greater accountability at the Big Dig. By appointing Secretary Grabauskas to the Board, Governor Romney again has shown his commitment to true reform of government. Secretary Grabauskas is a proven and successful manager and will bring the power of his cabinet position to the table to the benefit of the citizens of the commonwealth.”
  • “I am encouraged by Governor Romney’s proposal. It is quite specific and would create an independent commission to expeditiously determine the parties responsible for these leaks and ensure that they, and not the taxpayers, bear the costs of repairs. It is also important to have a robust and effective cost recovery effort, not just for the leak repairs, but also for other costs involving errors and omissions.”
    • Inspector General Mead
  • "I am honored to have the opportunity to serve the motorists of the Commonwealth who pay taxes and tolls every day, and I look forward to carrying out Governor Romney’s efforts to reduce costs and promote efficiency at the Turnpike. I drive on the Mass Pike frequently, and I understand that the needs and concerns of the motorist must come first."
  • Mary Z. Connaughton, from a 09-13- 2005 Press Release
  • “We appreciate the opportunity to contribute our extensive experience and capabilities to a thorough review of the structural and life safety systems of the Central Artery/Tunnel project. While we recognize the challenges, we are fully committed to Governor Romney’s objective of ensuring the safety of motorists using the system”
    • William Nugent, WJE’s president, 08-16-2006 Press Release
  • “I am honored to be part of this important public safety initiative. Our goal will be to conduct a thorough, comprehensive and objective assessment of safety and to report those findings to the Governor in a timely manner."



Facts about the Big Dig and Turnpike


  • Mitt Romney filed legislation to merge the operations of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority with the Massachusetts Highway Department, eliminating duplication and taking personal responsibility for the completion of the Big Dig, on 04-08-2003.
  • Romney filed the Turnpike Highway department bill to "increase accountability over the project" (Governor Mitt Romney, 04-08-2003 Press Release).
  • In 2003, "the Turnpike Authority spends an estimated $211,000 per lane mile to maintain its roadway while the Highway Department spends $76,000 for the same services (04-08-2003 Press Release).
  • Government watchdog groups announced their support for Governor Mitt Romney’s proposal to merge the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority with the state Highway Department (02-02-2004 Press Release). These include:
    • Beacon Hill Institute
    • The Pioneer Institute,
    • Free the Pike
    • Citizens for Limited Taxation and Government


  • Under Romney’s proposal:
    • the Turnpike Board will expand from its current five members to nine. The new members will include the Secretaries of Transportation and Administration and Finance and the Secretary of the Office of Commonwealth Development as ex-officio members. One additional member will be appointed directly by the Governor.
    • the addition of ex-officio government members will enhance accountability and make it more accountable to state government and the taxpayers.
  • On August 18th, 2004 Governor Mitt Romney appointed Transportation Secretary Daniel A. Grabauskas to the five-member Massachusetts Turnpike Authority Board, jumpstarting the integration of the activities of the Turnpike Authority with the Massachusetts Highway Department.
  • July 2004 Romney signed into law reform legislation that will significantly improve the delivery of the state’s transportation services through consolidation and enhanced coordination. Among other changes, the new measure installs the Transportation Secretary as Chair of Massachusetts Turnpike Authority Board beginning on July 1, 2007. By giving Transportation Secretary Grabauskas a seat at the decision-making table nearly three years earlier than the legislation calls for, Romney will immediately begin the process of integrating the functions of the Turnpike Authority with the Highway Department.
  • Grabauskas, who was appointed Transportation Secretary by Romney, has more than 15 years of experience in managing and reforming Massachusetts state government. Throughout his career in the public sector, he has identified bureaucratic inefficiencies and areas of duplication and successfully developed solutions to streamline operations and make government more responsive to the people it serves. Grabauskas’ other government posts included Registrar of Motor Vehicles and Director of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation.
  • Governor Mitt Romney today filed legislation, modeled on the recommendations of U.S. Transportation Inspector General Kenneth Mead, creating an independent five-member team to lead the cost recovery efforts at the Central Artery/Tunnel project (from a 12-16-2004 press Release)
  • According to Romney's 12-16-2004 legislation;
    • A panel comprised of two gubernatorial appointees as well as the Attorney General, the Auditor and the Comptroller or their designees was created. The members, who will serve three-year terms without compensation, will have broad investigative powers, including the authority to subpoena, obtain all relevant documents and grant immunity to witnesses.
    • According to the legislation, no member serving on the commission – or his or her immediate family member – can have a direct or indirect financial interest in the project.
    • By June 30, 2005, the commission will file a report with the Governor and the Legislature to update them on their efforts. It will also be empowered to employ legal counsel, licensed engineers and necessary staff to be funded through the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.
  • On December 15th, 2004 Governor Mitt Romney met with Mead as well as U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and Federal Highway Administrator Mary Peters to preview his legislation with them.
  • The Turnpike Authority is a five-member board that is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the Massachusetts Turnpike and the Metropolitan Highway System, which includes the three harbor crossings and the Central Artery. The board also oversees the Big Dig project.


The Big Dig, From Romney's Page on Wikipedia:


The "Big Dig": During his campaign for governor, Romney proposed merging the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, the government agency that manages the Big Dig, with the Massachusetts Highway Department100. Under Massachusetts law the Turnpike Authority is an independent agency that does not report to the governor 101. After being elected Governor, Romney called for the merger in 2003 and 2004 102. The Massachusetts legislature rejected Romney's call for consolidation. Following the discovery of leaks in the I-93 tunnel the Governor called for the resignation of Matthew Amorello, the Chairman and CEO of the Turnpike Authority 103. Amorello refused to resign and in June of 2005, Romney asked the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to grant him the authority to fire Amorello. Romney was once again rebuffed as the court declined to hear his case104. In July of 2006 a woman was killed when a section of the I-90 roof collapsed on her car. Citing continued mismanagement of the project, Romney once again called for Amorello's dismissal and initiated legal proceedings to oust the embattled chairman. Despite calls from Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly, House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, Senate President Robert Travaglini, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, the chairman of both the house and senate transportation committees and the editorial boards of the Boston Globe and Herald, Amorello once again refused to step aside105106. The Governor responded by filing emergency legislation to wrestle control of the inspection of the Big Dig tunnel system from the Turnpike Authority 107. The Massachusetts State Legislature overwhelmingly approved the legislation, which Romney signed on July 14 108. Romney's Department of Transportation began immediate inspections of the I-90 tunnel and pleged a "stem to stern" review of the entire Big Dig Tunnel System. Meanwhile, Romney continued his effort to fire Amorello. He scheduled a termination hearing for the Chairman for July 27th, 2006. Facing increasing pressuse from associates and colleagues, Amorello resigned, effective August 16, 2006, 1 1/2 hours before the hearing was to take place. "A new era of reform and accountability at the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority has begun," said Romney after receiving the resignation. "Patronage will be replaced by professionalism, and secrecy will be replaced by openness." The Governor has plegeded a "nationwide" search for a replacement to lead the Turnpike Authority and the Big Dig.






Historical background

Main article: History of the Big Dig

Boston's historically tangled streets were laid out long before the advent of the automobile. By mid-20th century, car traffic in the inner city was extremely congested, with north-south trips especially so. Commissioner of Public Works William Callahan advanced plans for an elevated expressway which eventually was constructed between the downtown area and the waterfront. This "Central Artery" (known officially as the John F. Fitzgerald Expressway) displaced thousands of residents and businesses and physically divided the historical connection between the downtown and market areas and the waterfront. Governor John Volpe interceded in the 1950s to send the last section of the Central Artery underground, through the Dewey Square (or "South Station") Tunnel, but while traffic moved somewhat better the other problems remained.


Built before strict federal Interstate Highway standards were developed during the Eisenhower administration, the expressway was plagued by tight turns, an excessive number of entrances and exits, entrance ramps without merge lanes, and continually escalating vehicular loads. Local businesses again wanted relief, historians sought a reuniting of the waterfront with the city, and nearby residents desired removal of this "Green Monster". (Its matte green paint prompted Thomas Menino to call it Boston’s 'other Green Monster'. The original Green Monster is Fenway Park's left field wall.)5 M.I.T. engineers Bill Reynolds and (eventual state Secretary of Transportation) Frederick P. Salvucci envisioned moving the whole expressway underground.



Early planning

The project was conceived in the 1970s by the Boston Transportation Planning Review to replace the rusting elevated six-lane Central Artery. The expressway separated downtown from the waterfront, and was increasingly choked with bumper-to-bumper traffic. Business leaders were more concerned about access to Logan Airport, and pushed instead for a third harbor tunnel. In their second terms as governor and secretary of transportation, respectively, Michael Dukakis and Fred Salvucci, came up with the strategy of tying the two projects together—thereby combining the project that the business community supported with the project that they and the City of Boston supported.


Planning for the Big Dig as a project officially began in 1982, with environmental impact studies starting in 1983. After years of extensive lobbying for federal dollars, a 1987 public works bill appropriating funding for the Big Dig was passed by U.S. Congress, but it was subsequently vetoed by President Ronald Reagan as being too expensive. When Congress overrode his veto, the project had its green light and ground was first broken in 1991.6




In addition to these political and financial difficulties, the project faced several environmental and engineering obstacles.


The downtown area through which the tunnels were to be dug was largely landfill, and included existing subway lines as well as innumerable pipes and utility lines that would have to be replaced or moved. Tunnel workers encountered many unexpected archaeological barriers, ranging from glacial debris to foundations of buried houses and a number of sunken ships lying within the reclaimed land.


The project received approval from state environmental agencies in 1991, after satisfying concerns including release of toxins by the excavation and the possibility of disrupting the homes of millions of rats, and causing them to roam the streets of Boston in search of new housing. By the time the federal environmental clearances were delivered in 1994, the process had taken some seven years, during which time inflation greatly increased the project's original cost estimates.


Reworking such a busy corridor without seriously restricting traffic flow required a number of state-of-the-art construction techniques. Because the old elevated highway (which remained in operation throughout the construction process) rested on pylons located throughout the designated dig area, engineers first utilized slurry wall techniques to create 120 ft.-deep concrete walls upon which the highway could rest. These concrete walls also stabilized the sides of the site, preventing cave-ins during the excavation process.


Other challenges included an existing subway tunnel crossing the path of the underground highway. In order to build slurry walls past this tunnel, it was necessary to dig beneath the tunnel and build an underground concrete bridge to support the tunnel's weight.



Construction phase

The Central Artery/Tunnel Project was managed by the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority with design and construction supervised by a joint venture of Bechtel Corporation and Parsons Brinckerhoff. Due to the enormous size of the project—too large for any company to undertake alone—the design and construction of the Big Dig were broken up into dozens of smaller subprojects with well-defined interfaces between contractors. Major heavy-construction contractors on the project included Jay Cashman, Modern Continental, Obayashi Corporation, Perini Corporation, Peter Kiewit Sons' Incorporated, J.F. White, and the Slattery division of Skanska USA. (Of those, Modern Continental was awarded the greatest gross value of contracts, joint ventures included.)


The nature of the Charles River crossing had been a source of major controversy throughout the design phase of the project. Many environmental advocates preferred a river crossing entirely in tunnels, but this, along with 27 other plans, was rejected as too costly. Finally, with a deadline looming to begin construction on a separate project that would connect the Tobin Bridge to the Charles River crossing, Salvucci overrode the objections and chose a variant of the plan known as "Scheme Z". This plan was considered to be reasonably cost-effective, but had the drawback of requiring highway ramps stacked up as high as 100 feet (30 m) immediately adjacent to the Charles River. The city of Cambridge, objecting to the visual impact of the chosen Charles River crossing design, sued to revoke the project's environmental certificate, and forced the project to redesign the river crossing yet again. Meanwhile, construction continued on the Tobin Bridge approach. By the time the I-93 design was finally settled to the satisfaction of all parties, the construction of the Tobin connector (today known as the "City Square Tunnel" after the intersection in Charlestown which it bypasses) was already so far along that significant additional expense would be incurred to stage construction of the U.S. Route 1 interchange and eventually retrofit the tunnel; in the new design, not all of the traffic movements originally envisioned would be possible.


Boston blue clay and other soils extracted from the path of the tunnel were used to cap many local landfills, fill in the Granite Rail Quarry in Quincy, and restore the surface of Spectacle Island in the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area.



Leonard P. Zakim BridgeThe Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge, designed by Swiss designer Christian Menn, represents the terminus of the project, connecting the underground highway with I-93 and US 1. A distinctive cable-stayed bridge, the crossing is supported by two forked towers, which are connected to the span by cables and girders.


The Storrow Drive Connector, a companion bridge to the Zakim that carries traffic from Interstate 93 to Storrow Drive along the Charles River, opened in 1999. The project had been under consideration for many years, opposed largely by the residents of Boston's wealthy Beacon Hill neighborhood, and finally came to fruition as a way to funnel the traffic bound for Storrow Drive and the northern part of downtown Boston away from the mainline roadway.7 Ultimately the Connector wound up using a pair of ramps originally constructed for Interstate 695, ironically making it possible for the mainline I-93 to carry more of the through traffic that was supposed to use I-695 in the original Master Plan.


At the time construction began, the whole project (including the Charles River crossing) was projected to cost $5.8 billion. Eventual cost overruns were so high that the chairman of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, James Kerasiotes, was fired in 2000 and his replacement had to commit to a cap in federal contributions of $8.549 billion. Total expenses to date have surpassed $15 billion.



Current status


Interstate 93 TunnelOn January 17, 2003, the opening ceremony was held for the I-90 Connector Tunnel, extending the Massachusetts Turnpike (Interstate 90) east into the Ted Williams Tunnel, and onwards to Logan Airport. (The Williams tunnel had been completed and in limited use for commercial traffic and high-occupancy vehicles since late 1995.) The westbound lanes opened on the afternoon of January 18 and the eastbound lanes on January 19.


The next phase, moving the elevated Interstate 93 underground, was completed in two stages: northbound lanes opened in March 2003 and southbound lanes (in a temporary configuration) on December 20, 2003. A tunnel underneath Leverett Circle connecting eastbound Storrow Drive to I-93 North and the Tobin Bridge opened December 19, 2004, easing congestion at the circle. All southbound lanes of I-93 opened to traffic on March 5, 2005, including the left lane of the Zakim Bridge, and all of the refurbished Dewey Square Tunnel.


By the end of December 2004, 95% of the Big Dig was completed. Major construction remained on the surface, including construction of final ramp configurations in the North End and in the South Bay interchange, and reconstruction of the surface streets. Many impact-mitigation projects (transit, pedestrian, bicycle, and parks) also remain, but some are in danger of cancellation due to cost overruns on the rest of the project.


The final ramp downtown—exit 20B from I-93 south to Albany Street—opened January 13, 2006.8


In 2006, the two Interstate 93 tunnels were dedicated as the Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. Tunnel, after the former Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives from Massachusetts who pushed to have the Big Dig funded by the federal government.


On July 11, 2006, the I-90 connector tunnel was closed indefinitely due to an accident. Twelve tons of ceiling concrete in the tunnel collapsed; three tons crushed a car in which a Boston woman was riding as a passenger. She was killed instantly; her husband, who was driving at the time, escaped with only minor injuries. Engineers are in the process of assessing the situation, which may be related to faulty anchor bolts, and making repairs to the materials. The collapse has sparked much debate in the engineering community.9



Substandard work, criminal misconduct, and collapses


"Thousands of leaks"

As far back as 2001, Turnpike Authority officials and private contractors knew of thousands of leaks in the ceiling and wall fissures, extensive water damage to steel supports and fireproofing systems, and overloaded drainage systemscitation needed. A $10 million contract, signed off as a cost overrun, was used to repair these leaks. Many of the leaks were a result of Modern Continental and other subcontractors failing to remove gravel and other debris before pouring concrete. This was not made publicly known to the media, but the MIT engineers (volunteering students and professors) did several precise experiments and figured out the problem of the tunnel. 10


On September 15, 2004, a major leak in the Interstate 93 north tunnel forced the closure of the tunnel while repairs were conducted. This also forced the Turnpike Authority to release information regarding its non-disclosure of prior leaks. A follow-up reported on "extensive" leaks that were more severe than state authorities had previously acknowledged. The report went on to state that the $14.6 billion tunnel system was riddled with more than 400 leaks. A Boston Globe report, however, countered that by stating there were nearly 700 leaks in a single 1000-foot section of tunnel beneath South Station. Turnpike officials also stated that the number of leaks being investigated was down from 1000 to 500. 10



Substandard materials

This article or section needs a complete rewrite for the reasons listed on the talk page.

On August 11, 2005, it was announced that the Massachusetts State Police searched the offices of the Big Dig's largest concrete supplier in June and found evidence of faked records that hid the poor quality of concrete delivered for the highway project. However, it is not believed that the low-quality concrete is connected to the hundreds of leaks discovered in the tunnels that take vehicles under Bostoncitation needed.


On March 19, 2006, the International Herald Tribune reported that Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly plans to sue Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff and other companies if the two sides do not reach an agreement over 200 complaints of poor work in the construction of a highway system under the center of Boston, the Boston Globe reported Saturday. Reilly was said to be seeking $67 million from Bechtel and $41 million from other companies."3



Criminal misconduct

On May 4, 2006, six current or former employees from the concrete supplier Aggregate Industries Inc. were arrested and charged for falsifying records regarding the poor quality concrete.


On May 5, 2006, due to the controversy, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney announced he would return $3,900 in political contributions from employees of Aggregate Industries.


Big Dig tunnel ceiling collapse

Main article: Big Dig ceiling collapse

At approximately 11:00 p.m. on Monday, July 10, 2006, four sections of ceiling tiles fell to the roadway on eastbound I-90, along a section of connector tunnel that leads to the Ted Williams Tunnel in South Boston. The cement panel tiles, each weighing around three tons, crushed a car passing underneath, killing the passenger, 38-year-old Milena Del Valle, and slightly injuring the driver, Angel Del Valle.



History of the Big Dig

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

See also: Big Dig

Boston's historically tangled streets were laid out long before the advent of the automobile. By mid-20th century, car traffic in the inner city was extremely congested, with north-south trips especially so. Commissioner of Public Works William Callahan pushed through plans for an elevated expressway which eventually was constructed between the downtown area and the waterfront. This "Central Artery" (known officially as the John F. Fitzgerald Expressway) displaced thousands of residents and businesses and physically divided the historical connection between the downtown and market areas and the waterfront. Governor John Volpe interceded in the 1950s to send the last section of the Central Artery underground, through the Dewey Square (or "South Station") Tunnel, but while traffic moved somewhat better the other problems remained.


Built before strict federal Interstate Highway standards were developed during the Eisenhower administration, the expressway was plagued by tight turns, an excessive number of entrances and exits, entrance ramps without merge lanes, and continually escalating vehicular loads. Local businesses again wanted relief, historians sought a reuniting of the waterfront with the city, and nearby residents desired removal of this "Green Monster". ("Its matte green paint prompted Thomas Menino to call it Boston’s 'other Green Monster'." The original Green Monster is Fenway Park's left field wall”.)1 M.I.T. engineers Bill Reynolds and (eventual state Secretary of Transportation) Frederick P. Salvucci envisioned moving the whole expressway underground.


Contents hide

1 Cancellation of the Inner Belt

2 Commingling of traffic

3 Mass transit

4 References





Cancellation of the Inner Belt


Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge over the Charles River under construction, looking north. The old elevated Central Artery crossing is to the right.Another important motivation for the Big Dig in its final form was the abandonment of the Massachusetts Highway Department's intended expressway system through and around Boston. The Central Artery, as part of MassHighway's Master Plan of 1948, was originally planned to be (and signed as) the downtown Boston stretch of Interstate 95, with a bypass road called the Inner Belt (officially Interstate 695) to pass around the downtown core to the west, through the neighborhood of Roxbury and the cities of Brookline, Cambridge and Somerville. However, earlier controversies over impact of the Massachusetts Turnpike Boston extension, particularly on the heavily populated neighborhood of Brighton, and the large number of additional homes that would have had to be destroyed led to massive community opposition to both the Inner Belt and the Boston section of I-95.


Clearances for I-95 through the neighborhoods of Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, and Roslindale led to secession threats by Hyde Park, Boston's southernmost neighborhood (and the one most recently added to the city, in 1912). By 1972, however, with only a minimum of work done on the I-95 right of way and none on the potentially massively disruptive Inner Belt, Governor Francis Sargent put a moratorium on highway construction within the MA-128 corridor, except for a short stretch of Interstate 93. In 1974 the remainder of the Master Plan was canceled, leaving Boston with a severely overstressed expressway system. With ever-increasing traffic volumes funneled onto I-93 alone, the Central Artery became chronically gridlocked. The Sargent moratorium led to the rerouting of I-95 away from Boston around the MA-128 beltway and the conversion of the cleared land in the southern part of the city into the Southwest Corridor linear park and a new right of way for the Orange Line subway and Amtrak. Parts of the planned I-695 right of way remain unused and under consideration for future mass transit projects.


The original 1948 Master Plan included a Third Harbor Tunnel plan that was hugely controversial in its own right because it would have disrupted the Maverick Square area of East Boston. It was never built.



Commingling of traffic

A major reason for the all-day congestion was that the Central Artery carried not only north-south traffic, but much east-west traffic as well. Boston's Logan Airport lies across Boston Harbor in East Boston, and before the Big Dig, the only access from downtown was through the paired Callahan and Sumner tunnels. Traffic on the major highways from west of Boston, the Massachusetts Turnpike and Storrow Drive, mostly traveled on portions of the Central Artery to reach these tunnels. Getting between the Central Artery and the tunnels involved short stretches on city streets, increasing local congestion.


The final Big Dig plan, then, combined several projects—the depression and improvement of the Central Artery, the construction of a third Harbor tunnel (now known as the Ted Williams Tunnel), and massive interchange improvements to the Massachusetts Turnpike and several other major routes in the area. While only one net lane in each direction was added to the north-south I-93, several new east-west lanes were added to untangle the traffic. East-west traffic on the Massachusetts Turnpike now proceeds directly through the Ted Williams Tunnel to Logan Airport and Route 1A beyond, with new exits in South Boston along the way. Traffic between Storrow Drive and the Callahan and Sumner Tunnels uses a short portion of I-93, but additional lanes and direct connections are provided for this traffic.



Mass transit

A number of public transportation projects were included as part of an environmental mitigation for the Big Dig. The most expensive was the building of the Phase II Silver Line tunnel under Fort Point Channel, done in coordination with Big Dig construction. Silver Line buses now use this tunnel and the Ted Williams Tunnel to link South Station and Logan Airport.


Promised projects to restore the Green Line streetcar service to the Arboway Line in Jamaica Plain, extend the Green Line beyond Lechmere Station, and connect the Red and Blue subway lines have not been completed as of 2006 and litigation has been threatened.


Yet another plan, the North-South Rail Link that would have connected North and South Stations, the major passenger train stations in Boston, was part of the original Big Dig but was ultimately dropped by the Dukakis administration as an impediment to acquiring Federal funding for the project.



Following the fatal ceiling collapse of the I-90 connector tunnels and the subsequent discoveries of systemic problems, Governor Mitt Romney ordered, via Executive Order 474, a "stem to stern" safety review of the entire Metropolitan Highway System (MHS). The goal of the safety review is to conduct an independent and comprehensive public safety review of the infrastructure and life safety systems within the MHS tunnels and facilities and to provide a complete assessment of the near and long-term safety of the system.


The "stem to stern" review is planned in two phases. The first phase of the review will involve items of the highest safety priority and is projected to be complete within 90 days. Phase I will focus on the Central Artery/Tunnel project and in addition will include the evaluation of the ceiling systems in the Sumner, Callahan and CANA (Charlestown) tunnels. The final Phase I report will not only include the results of the Phase I work plan but will also include a draft scope for Phase II, including the remainder of the Sumner, Callahan and CANA tunnels and the Boston Extension (I-90 from the I-93 interchange west to the intersection of Rte. 128.


The "stem to stern" safety audit will be carried out by a Safety Review Team managed by the Safety Review Director and comprised of an independent expert consulting firm. The Commonwealth has retained Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. (WJE) of Northbrook, Illinois to provide the expertise and experience to conduct an objective and thorough evaluation of any deficiencies in the design or construction of MHS tunnels and facilities. WJE was selected for their extensive knowledge and experience in technical investigations of construction-related problems, including the investigations of the walkway collapse in the Kansas City Hyatt Regency Hotel in 1981, the LA Metro tunnel collapse in 1995, and the September 11, 2001 destruction of the World Trade Center towers.


Stephen Pritchard, former Secretary of the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, has been appointed to manage the "stem to stern" review as the Safety Review Director. As Director and Special Assistant to the Governor, Mr. Pritchard reports directly to the Governor.


In addition, the Governor appointed a Special Safety Review Advisory Panel to advise and support the Governor and the Safety Review Team. The Panel is comprised of five experts in the fields of construction, engineering and transportation, and they will provide advice to the Governor through the Safety Review Director regarding any actions believed necessary to ensure that the safety review is thorough, objective, and effective.


The goal of the "stem to stern" safety review is to conduct an independent, comprehensive, and critical assessment of the Metropolitan Highway System to ensure the safety of the public. The Safety Review Team welcomes your comments or suggestions on the construction, design, or safety of the MHS tunnels and facilities and the work of the Safety Review Team. Please use the feedback button to provide any comments.


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