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United States

Boston's Big Dig Finally Open 588

techiemac writes "I just saw a news story on yahoo about Boston's Big Dig finally opening. The Big Dig is considered by many to be the largest modern urban construction project ever!"
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Boston's Big Dig Finally Open

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  • So... did they have a lottery on who the first person through was?

    Was there a line of people/cars?

    14.6 billion for a tunnel. Someone from that project needs to talk to Sprint and let them know the ins and outs about them building their tunnel from India to Overland Park, KS.
  • WOW (Score:4, Funny)

    by TheDarkener ( 198348 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @09:11PM (#7776235) Homepage
    I was gonna make a joke about it, but it actually returned results!

    $ dig bostonbigdig.com

    ; <<>> DiG 9.2.3 <<>> bostonbigdig.com
    ;; global options: printcmd
    ;; Got answer:
    ;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 1417
    ;; flags: qr aa rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 6, AUTHORITY: 0, ADDITIONAL: 0

    ;; QUESTION SECTION:
    ;bostonbigdig.com. IN A

    ;; ANSWER SECTION:
    bostonbigdig.com. 3600 IN A 64.15.205.180
    bostonbigdig.com. 3600 IN A 64.15.205.202
    bostonbigdig.com. 3600 IN A 64.15.205.182
    bostonbigdig.com. 3600 IN A 64.15.205.183
    bostonbigdig.com. 3600 IN A 64.15.205.155
    bostonbigdig.com. 3600 IN A 64.15.205.132

    ;; Query time: 110 msec
    ;; SERVER: 192.168.1.10#53(192.168.1.10)
    ;; WHEN: Sat Dec 20 13:11:46 2003
    ;; MSG SIZE rcvd: 130

    Too bad it's about New Jersey...
    • Re:WOW (Score:3, Informative)

      by Fletch ( 6903 ) *
      Too bad it's about New Jersey...

      BigDig.com [bigdig.com] isn't. I can't believe no one's mentioned it yet. It's got loads of info; the maps [bigdig.com] and videos [bigdig.com] (including virtual fly-overs and fly-throughs) being the most instantly gratifying.
    • Re:WOW (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ergonal ( 609484 )
      I watched a documentary [discovery.com] on the Big Dig a couple of weeks ago on Discovery channel's "Extreme Engineering [discovery.com]" series.. it was quite interesting.
      • Re:WOW (Score:3, Interesting)

        by _xeno_ ( 155264 )
        I've seen that show before. I remember that on most of the episodes they show, the projects were interesting, but totally impractical to actually build. Things like building a bridge across the Bering Straight, to building a sky-scraper that was practically an arcology from SimCity. One of the most insane ones involved building a large boat that would basically be a floating city.

        None of these projects were actually built, and for most of them, there were no current plans to actually start construction

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 20, 2003 @09:12PM (#7776240)
    inside the lanes.
  • by sammyo ( 166904 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @09:13PM (#7776245) Journal
    15 Billion for a tunnel. Drive in. Stop the car, draw a chalk line arround the car. The cost of that space is more than you will make in your life. Probably more than all your close friends will make in there ENTIRE lives. Someone made a killing!
    • And, of course, there are plenty of tolls if you want to drive through.

      But it's just not a tunnel ... it's a series of tunnels and bridges, maybe 30 in all. It replaces the core highways in the downtown area. The project also includes upgrades to the subway system, surface streets, and much improved airport access. In addition, a lot of the old city's infrastructure (telephone, sewer, water, electric) were upgraded.

      But in any case, it's a waste of your money and mine - with that kind of money you could
      • by the argonaut ( 676260 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @10:15PM (#7776563) Homepage Journal
        While I would agree with most that the difference between projected cost and actual costs is pretty insane, people do seem to miss a couple of key points for at least some of the price tag discrepancy:

        1. 2.4 billion dollars was the projected cost in 1985. Almost 20 years between that initial proposal and completion of the whole thing. Since when has the government (or even big business, although examples from their world are pretty hard to find since the shortsightedness of corporations generally prevents them from even thinking of something this long term) been able to accurately predict costs over this length of time?

        2. Changes in the project over that period of time probably had a lot to do with the change in costs along with some amount of legitimate cost overruns for unforeseen engineering problems.

        3. $2.4b was a bullshit number. A friend in Boston who was living there at the time said nobody with any common sense believed they could do what they were promising for that price, and were pretty certain that it the number they came up with was just to get the project sold. Kinda like a lot of George' W's BS budget predictions to sell his Medicare "deform" plan (Not to single out Shrub though, since this is common practice of most politicians of both parties, and presidents in particular; he just happens to be the current idiot-in-chief and poster boy.)

        Of course, in the end it's all irrelevant; no matter what the price tag, it's a waste of money. Give it 5-10 years (if even that), and what will you have? A gridlocked freeway through downtown. Kinda like you had before. Except you won't have to look at it.

        But in any case, it's a waste of your money and mine - with that kind of money you could get a new nuclear sub, a B2 bomber, AND an aircraft carrier (sans aircraft)

        But I thought you were implying wasting money was a bad thing? Why would we want all that useless crap?
        • A friend in Boston who was living there at the time said nobody with any common sense believed they could do what they were promising for that price, and were pretty certain that it the number they came up with was just to get the project sold.

          It's like this: Government Contracts Are Always Awarded To the Lowest Bidder.

          Ergo, if the government wants to do project A, and they are soliciting engineering bids from firms X, Y, and Z, those three firms have two numbers they need to come up with. The first nu

      • by Quobobo ( 709437 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @10:42PM (#7776660)
        But in any case, it's a waste of your money and mine - with that kind of money you could get a new nuclear sub, a B2 bomber, AND an aircraft carrier (sans aircraft)!

        And this gets modded up? I don't know about you, but I'd rather pay for a massive improvement to transportation in my area than a few massive vehicles designed for killing.
        • I think it was a point that the costs were just insane. I get as much benefit from the $16 billion my home state just spent as I would if they had purchased a sub, bomber, and aircraft carrier: none. Actually, I get more benefit from the latter group - they can at least help defend the nation, where as the Big Dig helps people who work in Boston.

          I think that was the point - to put the costs in scale.

        • by Kunta Kinte ( 323399 ) on Sunday December 21, 2003 @01:36AM (#7777343) Journal
          But in any case, it's a waste of your money and mine - with that kind of money you could get a new nuclear sub, a B2 bomber, AND an aircraft carrier (sans aircraft)!
          And this gets modded up? I don't know about you, but I'd rather pay for a massive improvement to transportation in my area than a few massive vehicles designed for killing.

          Maybe grandparent of this post should have included a "sarcasm ahead" warning.

      • by njchick ( 611256 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @11:33PM (#7776875) Journal
        But in any case, it's a waste of your money and mine - with that kind of money you could get a new nuclear sub, a B2 bomber, AND an aircraft carrier
        As stange as it sounds, my friends who live in Boston prefer to commute by car, not by a nuclear sub, a B2 bomber and not even by an aircraft carrier.
      • But in any case, it's a waste of your money and mine...

        The project is expected to improve property values across the entire Boston metro area, not to mention add (reclaim, really) 30 acres of prime real estate in downtown. Property tax revenue is going to soar, and the secondary effects of improved real estate (people going out more, spending more at restaurants, etc.) are going to be even bigger.

        The Big Dig might actually end up paying for itself, and sooner than you think.

        yours
      • by jonbrewer ( 11894 ) * on Sunday December 21, 2003 @06:12AM (#7778178) Homepage
        But it's just not a tunnel ... it's a series of tunnels and bridges, maybe 30 in all. It replaces the core highways in the downtown area. The project also includes upgrades to the subway system, surface streets, and much improved airport access. In addition, a lot of the old city's infrastructure (telephone, sewer, water, electric) were upgraded.

        Having lived (owned property, resided, paid taxes, the whole sheebang) in Boston in the recent past, I can say with confidence that the project didn't do anything for the subway (The T), for airport access (unless you drive), and certainly didn't improve any infrastructure.

        After all those years and billions one still cannot easily get from South Station (or Back Bay, or North Station) to the Airport. Or how about any of said stations to Harvard Square? Or how about Harvard Square to Back Bay or Copley Place? Never mind getting from Harvard to Boston College.

        The whole idea of building a bunch of gigantic roads, bridges, and tunnels to bring individual SUVs and bimbo-boxes into (and under) the middle of a large urban area is just about as wrong-headed as you can get. The dig made a lot of politicians, union leaders, and construction companies very rich, and set Boston about 20 years back in terms of being a livable city.

        Sure, I learned to be a kamakazi biker and got some great rally-car miles under my belt getting from home (Brighton) to Mass General (via BU Bridge + Mem drive is actually faster than Storrow), but that did nothing more than ding my car, scratch my wheels, ruin my suspension, and drain my wallet paying for parking (and parking tickets), insurance, and repairs to the tune of $5k/year. (on top of car payments!)

        I see no reason to celebrate its completion (or whatever milestone we're talking about). When I lived there I was hoping the dig would finish just so I could try it out, but man, a quick subway ride from home or work to the airport would have been much more appreciated.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 20, 2003 @09:43PM (#7776395)
      What's even more sad about this is that a large (perhaps the largest) part of the $15 billion that went into this project came from the pockets of citizens who are never going to use the tunnel. The part of the state that doesn't live in Boston has been financing this whole thing for I can't even tell you how many years, and we're never going to see any payoff for it. This was a largely tax-payer funded project, and the majourity of us taxpayers don't live in Boston. While the money was flowing in to make Boston-area commuters' lives a little easier, Western Mass public schools have fallen apart (class sizes at my former high school have doubled in 3 years to an average of over 40 students per class), city and state services are being cut back further and further (public works projects have all but ceased, near as I can tell), and OUR roads are falling apart because there isn't any money left to fix them with.

      I'm all in favour of Big Projects and Big Engineering, but at some point you have to question why you're doing it. There's just no reason why the Big Dig had to be so expensive, or so big. I keep asking myself, "where's the beef?" ("where are the WMD's?"). Why did the State drag us into a project that benefits the few at the expense of the many? And (worse), how did we (the many) let them get away with it for so long?

      -Another Disgruntled Mass-hole
      • by amabbi ( 570009 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @10:36PM (#7776641)
        as a former mass. resident myself (cambridge), i think that's crap. the majority of funds for the big dig were taken from federal highway funds... i can't find a definitive link online, but i think the feds were supposed to pay for the entire shebang, but cost overruns (to the tune of $6b!) were the responsibility of the commonwealth. furthermore, education funds are primarily taken from local property taxes, so the decline of your local schools is likely due to the declining value of real estate in your area, not some urban renewal project 250 miles away. the need for the big dig is obvious; the lack of quantity and quality of highways to boston are well documented. i'm not trying to defend the big dig administration ($6b over budget and 5 years late is obviously, obviously unacceptable) but to blame your neighborhood problems on it is quite short sighted.
      • by umofomia ( 639418 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @11:56PM (#7776944) Journal
        This is a big misconception about the funds. Federal highway funds are used for funding interstate highways. However, during the 50s, 60s, and 70s, Massachusetts didn't see any of that while most other states were able to receive the funds. All of the interstate highways built during that period were funded using Massachusetts money.

        When the Big Dig was conceived in the 80s, the only reason why Congress voted for it (and overrode Reagan's veto) was because of the fact that Massachusetts never received any federal highway funding in the first place.

        Also, the cost overruns were mostly due to two factors:

        1. The decision of former Governor Weld to reopen the environmental impact study even though it was already completed. When Weld came to power, he gutted the entire transportation administration that oversaw the project under Dukakis. This ended up delaying the project for several years (making up the majority of the cost overruns) and in the end, the conclusion was exactly the same as the original impact study.
        2. The installation of several high-speed optical communications lines. This I feel was a justified cost overrun. During the late 90s, there was intense demand for high-speed communications lines to downtown and they had the opportunity to install them while constructing the Big Dig. If they had not done this, most likely the entire thing would have needed to be torn up again a couple years later to install the lines at an even greater cost.
      • I just have one thing to say. Fuck you! Massachusetts is one of the small handfull of states that pays more taxes to the Federal Gov then is recieved in pork back. This includes the cost of the Big Dig.
    • 15 billion dollars is about what americans burn through in gasoline in 42 days [howstuffworks.com]. At least you have a highway system to show for it.

      Now you want to talk about wastes of money. Philadelphia just built 2 new stadiums for about 1.2 billion dollars. I wouldn't mind, save they the schools are chronically short funded, the new stadiums have half the seats of the old stadium, and nosebleeds cost $60. No one around here can afford that on a regular basis.

      Bitch all you want about Boston wasting your money. You got

    • 15 Billion for a tunnel. Drive in. Stop the car, draw a chalk line arround the car. The cost of that space is more than you will make in your life. Probably more than all your close friends will make in there ENTIRE lives. Someone made a killing!

      What does that tell you? YOU'RE POOR! The economy doesn't operate on thousands of dollars.

      Anyway, to play numbers...

      7.8 miles of highway in all.
      Lets underestimate (favor for you) at 4 lanes (2 each way) with each lane being 12 feet wide (average).
      5280 feet in a
    • by 2short ( 466733 ) on Sunday December 21, 2003 @02:02AM (#7777450)
      "15 Billion for a tunnel."

      False. Almost 15 Billion for the entire project, of which the Ted Williams Tunnel (which I presume you're talking about since it's the most obvious tunnel involved) is only one part. Actually, that tunnel is possibly the most straight forward (i.e. cheapest per distance) part of the project.

      It is another part of the project, the Fort Point Channel crossing that has a good claim to being the most expensive peice of roadway (per distance) in the world. It's one of the quick little tunnels on the way to the long one where you didn't know for sure if you were in a real tunnel. It was really expensive because, while going under a little water it had to simultaneously dodge a subway tunnel, and about half the major water/gas/electric/sewer/whatever lines coming into the city, without interupting any of them in the process.

      Anyhow, the project is a lot more than a tunnel. It's a whole bunch of tunnels, a bridge, a bunch of highway, a gaggle of overpasses and interchanges, and what I'd consider the "main" part: the new depressed roadway for the central artery itself. See, you've got a fantastically congested elevated highway passing over a bunch of highly congested surface streets right through the midst of downtown in one of the oldest cities in the country (i.e. new things have been built and rebuilt on and under this ground about 5 bajillion times). And you want build a replacement highway underneath all this, without interupting traffic on either of the two levels above you, or messing up any of the other stuff already underground there. Good luck doing it cheap.

  • Safety... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cyclopedian ( 163375 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @09:16PM (#7776257) Journal
    From the article: ...Big Dig managers opted for a brief ceremony Friday. They observed a moment of silence for four workers killed during construction.

    For such a large and complicated project with many engineering challenges, only 4 workers died during construction. That's a testament to everyone involved with the project, especially the workers themselves. Kudo to them.

    -Cyc

  • i live about an hour from boston, and i know the northbound lanes have been open for a while now. this means that the entire thing is open now.
  • by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @09:19PM (#7776271) Homepage Journal
    ... largest modern urban construction project ever!
    Maybe the largest modern project in modern times? But before that, who knows?
  • Original projected cost: $2.5 billion
    Final cost: $16 billion

    Do the math. Once this thing got started, no one in power was going to say, "STOP! It's costing too much!", both because it seemed irreversible and because the Dems in power in Boston (Massachusetts is a one-party state) were happy getting union favors in elections in return for more jobs artificially generated by the Big Dig's continuation.

    Most of this $16 billion came from out of state, i.e., from your pocket. Do you think Boston residents wh
    • the Dems in power in Boston (Massachusetts is a one-party state) were happy getting union favors

      The Governor is a Republican so how come you right away blame the Dem's. Don't let the facts get in the way of your rant though.
      • Your comment indicates you know nothing about Massachusetts local politics. The governor for some strange reason has been Republican for the last decade, but that is merely an aberration: both houses of the legislature, both senators, and (all or most of) the representatives are Democrats. Seems pretty one-party to me.
        • Don't forget that the Dems have VETO-PROOF majorities in both houses. This makes the governor only symbolic when it comes to legislative issues, because the leaders of the house and senate get together on a porch, smoke a cigar, and decide on funding issues. The only reason that the commonwealth hasn't collapsed has been the fiscally conservative democrats have been holding the leadership positions...

          Your other point doesn't really emphasize the problem. Not only is the entire Mass congressional delegat
    • by Enry ( 630 ) <enry@@@wayga...net> on Saturday December 20, 2003 @09:35PM (#7776352) Journal
      For a one party state, we've had Republican governors for about the past 10 years. Libertarians have a pretty good foothold in a lot of areas as well. Complaining about people like Sen. Kennedy ignores the fact that Republicans don't run anyone against him. When someone does (Jack E. Robinson?), they get no support from Republican party officials. When Weld ran against Kerry, I voted Kerry because I thought Weld would do a better job as governor than senator.

      You want Taxachusetts? Check out NY. Over 8% sales tax, high property tax rates, high income tax rates. It costs more to drive on the NYS Thruway than it does for the MS Turnpike. About the only thing going for NY is the fact that they have EZ-Pass run by the state instead of the pseudo-commercial Fastlane.

      The Big Dig is a long time coming, and should be worthwhile in the end. There was a lot of innovation involved in construction and hopefully that investment will pay off in lower expenses for similar projects in the future. Don't forget that most of Boston's square footage didn't exist when certain tea boxes were thrown into the harbor.
    • by jdreed1024 ( 443938 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @09:38PM (#7776373)
      These are the same rants that people have been on for years. I am also a taxpayer and resident in Massachusetts, and I think the Big Dig is one of the greatest projects we've ever undertaken.

      There's no way the Central Artery could have been "renovated". The structures is made up of concrete and lead paint. Any renovation would require a huge costs in abatement and environmental cleanup, and you can't widen the elevated structure without demolishing more buildings, which would be a bad idea.

      Have you ever even driven on the old artery? It was a fucking mess. It was also one of the most unsafe stretches in the Interstate Highway System. 10 exits in just over a mile - weave lanes of 600 feet, narrow clearance, no breakdown lanes - it was a mess.

      The tunnel also gives Boston the ability to mend the scar caused by the elevated artery. The city was divided - a city needs linearity in order to function. Having hundreds of streets cut off by the elevated artery diminishes the city as a whole.

      Sure, there were cost overruns and embezzlements, like there are with any large government project ($50 hammers for the Navy, anyone?), but the benefits for the city as a whole (and it's not just to raise rents by improving the view - much of boston's residential land does not abut the artery corridor) will be great.

    • by Reverberant ( 303566 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @09:47PM (#7776423) Homepage
      Original projected cost: $2.5 billion Final cost: $16 billion

      One point that is often missed when people trot out these figures: the original "Big Dig" was essentially just the 3rd Harbor (Ted Williams) Tunnel and a few local improvements. Certainly a lot of the cost increases can probably be attributed to inefficiencies (such as the infamous fireboat), but much of the cost increase is due to an increased scope (eg. the I-93 tunnel), inflation, and unforeseen difficulties (for example the tunnel jacking and soil freezing operations ran into major problems).

      Once this thing got started, no one in power was going to say, "STOP! It's costing too much!"

      While no one really wanted to spend $16B, no one in Boston was going to say "stop" simply because we are sick of sitting in traffic 16 hours per day

      Really, the elevated artery could have been renovated to provide the same benefits---minus the prettiness---that the Big Dig provides, and at a much reduced cost.

      It would have been significantly cheaper (in absolute dollars) to renovate the elevated artery, but the long-term cost to the region would have been devastating since you would have to shut down the major north/south artery through Boston to do it (and no, moving traffic to an already overcrowded I-95 wouldn't have helped).

    • by nathanh ( 1214 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @09:55PM (#7776461) Homepage
      Most of this $16 billion came from out of state, i.e., from your pocket. Do you think Boston residents who already command huge rents and appraisals should now be able to look out the window at a grassy knoll instead of elevated steel girders and command even higher rents and appraisals, and at your cost?

      Yeah. Damn this whole "federation" thing to hell. What has it done for me, lately! My taxes should only benefit me. Mine Mine Mine. Gimme Gimme Gimme. Selfish Bostonian bastards, taking my tax dollars. I fought and died in the war for this country! All I want is a little respect... plus all my tax dollars paying for ME ME ME. I'll be damned to hell if my tax dollars are going to fund some evil democrats in Boston!

      Sorry, for a second there you sounded like a 90-year old ingrate. At what point in your life did selfish greed overwhelm your sense of civic and national pride?

      Hint: you could have simply said that the tunnel was overpriced without making a reference to the funding coming out of "your pocket".

      Once this thing got started, no one in power was going to say, "STOP! It's costing too much!", both because it seemed irreversible and because the Dems in power in Boston

      It's those damn democrats in power! Lousy democrats. Stealing my tax dollars and probably killing babies too. That's what democrats do.

      Giggle. You sound just like a crank. I bet you ring up talkback radio and complain about those "damn young kids with their Rock And/Or Roll music".

    • I don't think it's that much of a boondoggle as most think. I've seen several shows and been involved in many construction projects over $300M each and it's easy to go over budget especially on such a project as this. If anyone said it would cost over $10B when they started, they never would have started and people would be screaming about the traffic. I live outside of Houston and hear people constantly complain about the traffic, then turn around and complain when construction starts.

      1. The original project and the final one were indeed two separate beasts. Had all the required work been done separately it would have taken 30 years and left western Massachustts in far worse shape the entire time. Combining it all into one megaproject was only practical.
      2. The old Central Artery structure could not have been "renovated". Categorically impossible. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is completely ignorant or lying wildly. The existing structure was literally collapsing and no replacement
  • by shaunyb ( 646779 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @09:23PM (#7776290) Homepage
    i guess this means they're gonna tear down the elevated expressway (the road we used to use before the big dig). it's too bad too. as ugly as the road was, it was a pretty scenic route. you could see large parts of boston. i remember being scared shitless the first time i went on the upper deck, when i was a little kid; it's fairly high up.

    i'll miss the old gal.
  • 18 months to go (Score:5, Informative)

    by saabmp3 ( 593423 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @09:29PM (#7776327)
    The Big Dig still has another 18 months and projected 1 billion dollars to go. Today was just the opening on the southbound tunnel.

    The tunnels did NOT cost 17 billion. There is a world reconized bridge next to the fleet center, many new buildings, subway lines and bus lines running because of this project. I know the budget seems to be absurd, but when looking at all they did you can see where some of the money went.

    BEN
  • Route 3 (Score:3, Funny)

    by PDG ( 100516 ) <pdg@webcrush.com> on Saturday December 20, 2003 @09:29PM (#7776328) Homepage
    Now if they could just finish the Widen3.com project.

    Its runs under the same budget as the BigDig and is a simple project to widen Route 3, a 15-20 mile 4 lane (2 each direction) to 5 lanes (3 each direction).

    Well, its been over 3 years now and not a single inch of extra lane has been opened (yet they have almost the entire thing paved and still blocked off).

    In closing, Massachussetts sucks. If I could get a job elsewhere which could pay my bills, I'd leave in a heartbeat

    • Re:Route 3 (Score:3, Funny)

      by Kymermosst ( 33885 )
      Its runs under the same budget as the BigDig and is a simple project to widen Route 3, a 15-20 mile 4 lane (2 each direction) to 5 lanes (3 each direction).

      3 lanes one way + 3 lanes the other way = 5 lanes?

      Interesting math you have in Massachussetts. Perhaps that's why the Big Dig ran over budget.

      Your Route 3 will end up the same way. "We budgeted for five lanes, but there's really six! The cost of that sixth lane was huge!"

      On a side note... I spent a lot of time in Boston when I was in the militar
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 20, 2003 @09:32PM (#7776341)
    While building this tunnel makes life convenient for the suburb-dwellers all around Boston, the actual residents would have benefitted a great deal more if the money were spent on improving the subways and light rail systems in the city. Cars are expensive for private citizens to own and operate; we'd move a great deal closer to an equitable society by making them optional instead of essentially a requirement of citizenship.

    This means that massive funds should not be spent on these highways which are essentially a subsidy for the megacorporations that build the cars. (It makes their products more useful, and ties up the money that could be spent on other transport options, forcing people to purchase cars if they want any mobility at all.) GM, Ford, Toyota, etc. should be the ones building the roads, out of their own pockets, to create incentives for people to buy their automobile products. Those who don't own cars should not have their tax dollars spent on such projects. Those who use cars, and thus cost everyone a great deal in externalities like pollution, pedestrian deaths, loss of usable urban real estate, should pay the entire cost of their choices, rather than foisting it on society.

    The Green Line subway in Boston should have been upgraded to an underground heavy rail line at least out past Boston University. The "Silver Line" circumferential route should have been built as a high capacity light rail route. The North-South rail link should have been implemented. Etc, etc.
    • Parts of the MBTA light rail, heavy rail, and commuter rail systems were upgraded or expanded as part of the mitigate package to offset increased pollution from autos on the central artery.

      Of course everyone in the Boston area knows how well the Old Colony Restoration (especially the Greenbush line [gis.net]) was received...

    • by JimBobJoe ( 2758 ) <swiftheart&gmail,com> on Sunday December 21, 2003 @04:45AM (#7778005)
      the actual residents would have benefitted a great deal more if the money were spent on improving the subways and light rail systems in the city.

      The case for public transportation is fairly ugly. The cities that have the most people using public transporation are so crowded that driving a car and parking it is impossible or at the very least, very impractical. People love the privacy and freedom afforded by cars. Indeed, the best way of getting people to use public transport is to simply make it impossible for them to drive.

      This means that massive funds should not be spent on these highways which are essentially a subsidy for the megacorporations that build the cars....Those who don't own cars should not have their tax dollars spent on such projects.

      The Big Dig was financed by federal highway funds which was obtained through...federal gasoline taxes. Every state in the country funds its roads through:

      a.) tolls
      b.) state gasoline taxes
      c.) driver and motor vehicle licensing fees

      Roads are not financed through sales, property or income taxes. If you don't own a car, you're not paying for the roads...drivers are actually paying for the roads. Furthermore, the beauty of the gasoline tax is...if you use the road more, you pay more tax. The heavier your car is, the more it chews up the road, the more gas tax you pay. If you're a farmer buying gas for your tractor, you don't pay gas tax since it's not being used on a road.

      In many instances, drivers subsidize public transportation. The $7 toll on the Verrazano Narrows bridge into Brooklyn is not because it costs that much to maintain the bridge...the majority of that toll (as well as tolls on other MTA tunnels and bridges) is used to subsidize the public transport system.

      Roads are actually more efficient; every mile of road can carry 30,000 cars per day, however every mile of light rail line can carry only 10,000 people per day.

      Interestingly, at the turn of the century my hometown of Cleveland had more trolley lines than you can shake a stick at...all of them affordable and furthermore, all owned by a bunch of different companies in competition with each other. The construction of the lines was often funded by industries who needed to get labor from home to work. I actually am going to bring your anti-car maker rant into this and hypothesize that having the government take over public transporation was done so that it would be marginalized to allow the growth of the automobile culture.

      Today the Cleveland regional transportation authority is violently expensive, and is spending large sums of money on lines and projects that benefit few. Rail lines costing hundreds of millions of dollars have been built with the best justification being that they will be heavily used during home games of the Browns (6 times a year.) Often public transportation systems refuse to collect the data showing that the lines/bus routes are financially absurd, in order to hide these issues. Here in Columbus, there was a group fighting a public transport tax that showed that several bus routes had so few people that it was cheaper to buy each rider a new Ford Explorer than to continue running the route.

      That may not apply to Boston, since it's still very densely populated and has some complex geography.

      • by phoxix ( 161744 ) on Sunday December 21, 2003 @10:24AM (#7778764)
        Roads are actually more efficient; every mile of road can carry 30,000 cars per day, however every mile of light rail line can carry only 10,000 people per day.

        Clearly you haven't spent enough time in places like New York City, or London. The amount of traffic on the Metro Infrastructure is far greater than what the roads and highways carry.

        Think about it, your average 11 car train (NYC) carrys about 1000 people. Keeping that in mind, and how there is a new train every 5 to 7 minutes means that there is anywhere from 12,000 to 5,400 thousand people, per hour, per train line, and per direction

        Add in all the other major train lines, Long Island RailRoad, and Metro North, you can easily see how the entire system carries millions of people per day easily.

        Sunny Dubey
  • by downix ( 84795 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @09:33PM (#7776348) Homepage
    as I can remember. And I'm nearing my 30's now.

    Some folk dismiss it as being a waste, but unlike them I've driven in Boston Traffic. The Big Dig is turning a city that was having its traffic issue choking its very lifeblood out of it into a revitalized effort.

    That $15 billion did more than just provide some tunnels and bridges, it provided for countless kids education as their mommys and daddys had steady work. It gave thousands of hard workers the money needed to save it away rather than rely social security and medicare. It was more than a public work, it revitalized whole sections of the economy while simultaneously improving the traffic flow in and around one of the oldest cities in the US.
  • by goon america ( 536413 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @09:38PM (#7776370) Homepage Journal
    It used to be that people found giant public works projects to be a source of national pride. Nowadays, people feel impugned by large public works projects to their personal sense of power. That's my money they're spending!

    Either way, it's the same emotion. I don't know which, if either, is "right", but you should at least keep that in mind when evaluating arguments about this sort of problem. (You can get the same feeling from reading a lot of books as you can from having a lot of guns; it's all just power.)

    • Amen to that. I for one think there should be more projects like the "Big Dig." The money goes to creating well paying jobs. The cities where the work is done is improved.

      Check out the website, they even had archaelogists on the project. It sure beats the 87 billion we just dropped in the middle east with no hope of seeing again.

  • by SexyKellyOsbourne ( 606860 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @09:41PM (#7776386) Journal
    The Chunnel, or the 32 mile undersea tunnel across the English channel connecting Calais, France and Brighton, UK, is the largest and greatest urban construction project ever. It cost the same -- roughly $15 billion -- but actually came in on schedule and cost, does wonders for the economies of both countries, and relies on clean mass transit systems that travel 200mph, run by open source software.

    All of this was done with 13,000 engineers who spoke different languages. It was also voted the best project of the 20th century:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/302345.stm [bbc.co.uk]
    • by hattig ( 47930 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @10:00PM (#7776488) Journal
      Hahahahahahahahaha

      "on schedule" ... lol, it came in very late, and the high speed rail link on the English side (linking Folkestone to London) is still not complete!

      "on cost" ... nope, it massively overrun the initial project costs, although not at the same scale as this Big Dig thing. I'm convinced that massive public construction projects are simply a money drain.

      Also, Brighton is around 30 miles to the West of where the tunnel emerges, so where you got that from I do not know!

      Also it cost 7 or 8 lives, twice that of this Big Dig project.
      • I'm convinced that massive public construction projects are simply a money drain.

        Interestingly the Japanese government was notorious for building shimmery 4 lane highways from nowhere to nowhere, simply to keep construction levels stable and to show stuff happening in the economy. The Economist had much uglyness to say about this peculiar habit.
  • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @09:43PM (#7776399)
    Boston's Big Dig finally opening.

    No, finally -closing-. It opened over a decade ago, and has been rolled out in several stages over the last several years. I hope I have the order right here:

    • Ted Williams Tunnel(South Boston->Logan)
    • Mass pike->Ted Williams connector(BIG deal, you can go straight to Logan without going through Boston proper)
    • Zaikim Bridge(largest bridge of its type, very unique design). First was 93 northbound.
    • This weekend, 93 Southbound underground and Zaikim southbound. This is a HUGE deal because the entire elevated section of 93 goes BUBYE. It was a MASSIVE eyesore. When it's gone, a huge amount of land will be available, and it will no longer be a big divider, separating downtown Boston from the waterway. There is of course a big fight as to what to do with all this prime real estate- one of the parties being the people(or, well, in most cases, their relatives) whose land was taken by imminent domain in the first place to build the thing(a HUGE number of people had their homes bulldozed for what turned out to be a massive failure- 93 was at one time the nation's most congested road).

    It's grossly over budget(4x at least?), is the largest construction project in the world- and had some amazing tolerances. One of the tunnels passes within inches of the existing red line subway lines(South Station, the largest terminal in Boston, is right smack where 93 had to go). This accounts for the VERY(maximum permissable grade under fed law) steep decline southbound; they had to go over one thing, under another. The red line now 'rests' on a giant concrete wall that was set in-place.

    Oh, and in order to do the connector for the mass pike, they had to FREEZE the ground. Yep. Freeze it- because it was so unstable. And they installed new sections in one tunnel by hydraulically jacking them through the ground. Wild stuff.

    The Boston Pops were going to do a concert inside the 93 southbound lanes before the opening- partially sponsored by corporate donors. Except that the corporate donors didn't know their money would be used for it. Even when they agreed to -fully- sponsor it, the concert was still cancelled after massive criticism. When you go $8B+ over budget, you don't exactly pat yourself on the back too enthusiastically.

    Everyone in Boston is mostly just happy that it's over. For the last decade, we've had all sorts of odd route closures, exits shut down/reopened, conditions placed on tunnel/bridge use...it's finally all over, and everyone can just get back to driving like psychos :-)

  • An underground highway can only lead to underground McDonalds's, and underground apartments for the McD workers... is this the start of the Morlocks? Also, since when does every bridge have to be some kinda new-fangled contraption that looks like the next contender for a Maxell Audio commercial (bridge falls down)? They put up one of those at OSU, and it's cool, "i guess", but i think more thoroughly tested designs would be better solutions.
  • by jab ( 9153 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @10:03PM (#7776510) Homepage
    A few years and a several billion dollars into the Big Dig, transportation planners discovered a cheaper and easier alternative that would do an even better job easing traffic congestion in Boston and improving the scenic quality of the city. Instead of the "big dig" approach of burying a 8 miles of highway, the state would instead construct a large brick or concrete barrier right across I-93, strong enough to withstand the steady stream of cars crashing into it as they try to get into the city. The section of highway beyond this barrier is then demolished. This approach avoids the "if you build it they will come" increase of cars that quickly negates the effectiveness of most road and highway improvements. Unfortunately, by the time this was realized, enough money had been spent that it was too difficult to change course.
  • Not over yet. (Score:4, Informative)

    by jk379 ( 734476 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @10:04PM (#7776515)
    You have to find the fine print. Only two of the 4 lanes are open. The old road was 3 lanes, 93 south is currently down to 2 lanes. We should see the last two lanes in 2006.
  • by pherris ( 314792 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @10:41PM (#7776655) Homepage Journal
    For the DNC convention, right? It seems that the SS/DOJ/whatever has a problem with it being a couple hundred feet away from the convention site (Fleet Center). Terrorism yada, yada, yada. On the bright side 128 should be able to handle the extra traffic in usual style (good time to start that new Harry Potter book).
  • by michaelmalak ( 91262 ) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Saturday December 20, 2003 @10:53PM (#7776713) Homepage
    $15 billion / 161 lane-miles [tfhrc.gov] / 5280 (feet/mile) * 15 feet (average car length) = $264,680
  • by Wag ( 102501 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @10:59PM (#7776738)
    You'ld think they could afford better roadsigns.

    But that's Boston driving for ya- where only the intersecting streets are labeled, Speed Lane is called "EZ Pass" (WTF?) and rotaries are common.

    I was over there the other day and got lost, and I've been living here for 15 years!
  • A Six Mile Deadzone (Score:4, Informative)

    by treeslasher ( 548941 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @11:03PM (#7776755)
    No cellphone calls.

    Links:
    Big Dig Photos [bigdig.com]
    Big Dig Operations Center [popsci.com]
    The History Channel on the Big Dig [historychannel.com]
    Official Big Dig Site [bigdig.com]

    • by shackfu ( 564892 )
      Actually, that's not quite correct. All the major carriers will be putting in repeaters so cell phones should work just fine. http://www.nawgits.com/icdn/bigdig.html They also discuss how they rebroadcast all AM/FM radio broadcasts to within the tunnel...
  • by richg74 ( 650636 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @11:05PM (#7776765) Homepage
    I lived in Boston for a total of about ten years, and I will entirely concur with those people who have said that the old Central Artery (the elevated highway the Big Dig will replace) was truly a nightmare.

    Still, my favorite response to the project came from Rep. Barney Frank. After hearing about the projected cost of the Big Dig, he remarked that, instead of putting the highway underground, it might be cheaper to raise the city. :-)

  • by Ranger96 ( 452365 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @11:18PM (#7776809)
    The Dallas High-5 project (huge 5 level interchange between I-635 and US 75) is the largest interchange ever built in Texas. It's currently running several months ahead of schedule and under budget (http://www.dallashighfive.org/progress/ [dallashighfive.org]).

    Granted, it's not anywhere near the scale, but it is an example of how a public works project can be well managed. The contract calls for fixed bonus amounts to be paid to the contractor for every day early the project is completed. It also imposes cash penalties for closing lanes of traffic during rush hour and for each day late the project is completed.

    Ranger96
  • Here in Boston (Score:3, Interesting)

    by superpulpsicle ( 533373 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @11:30PM (#7776860)
    Ok, I drive in and out of Boston all the time. Honestly the construction is the biggest government tax scam. There is no difference now, and there won't be any difference 5 years from now.

    The congestion is not "getting to the city". Is people circling boston streets endless with no parking. The big dig should have spent their money building 5 or 6 gigantic parking lot. That would have made more sense.

    If this city would be willing to get rid of some cow paths, we would have enough room to build anything in no time. But no... we keep everything from the 1900s. No wonder the red sox can't win. The players are all tired by the time they get to fenway.
  • BigDig Software... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LordHunter317 ( 90225 ) <askutt@@@gmail...com> on Sunday December 21, 2003 @01:55AM (#7777427)
    While the BigDig itself is quite a feat in every regard (engineering, technological, political, etc.)
    I personally, worked on the software driving the BigDig's traffic managment system (TMS). The completed system is a quite a feat, allowing their operators to monitor every asepect of the roadway.

    The system features a complete CCTV network, espousing the entire system. It provides comprehensive monitoring and control of every device attached to the tunnel and supporting buildings, including traffic signs, message signs, fire alarms, smoke detectors, ventilation fans, electrical subsystems.

    You name it, its connected to the TMS -- everything can be monitored and controled from there. Obviously, its not the only manner to control; everything has a redundant control system, so everything could be controlled if the system shuts down.

    The system also features intelligent accident management and response: it can automatically balance responses to mulitiple accidents, and automatically recommend responses based on roadway conditions. For example, if a accidnet occurs shutting down the two center lanes, it will automatically PLace red X's on the lane signals, display accident warning messages on the signs, and even change the radio message as appropate. All the operator has to do is review the recommend actions, remove any he doesn't want, and activate. The software takes care of handling everything else.
    • FYI, from my experience Mass drivers will ignore the red lane signals and try to speed ahead on a closed lane in hope of getting a few cars ahead, they'll then stop all those abiding the rules to squeeze in, causing massive backup.

      I suggest ceiling-mounted machine guns for these cases, wire them into your system and advertise them heavily. I guarantee that the economic benefit of everyone getting to work on-time will far outweigh the costs of sweeping up the remains of the jerks who are constanly looking t
  • Boston is Unique (Score:5, Informative)

    by Newer Guy ( 520108 ) on Sunday December 21, 2003 @11:01AM (#7778941)
    Boston is unique compared to every other large American city. First off, Boston is right on the coast, so it simply can not be approached from the east (except by boat, of course). Unfortunately, their airport is in EAST Boston, across the harbor from downtown. This means that basically three highways bring all the major traffic into and through Boston. It also meant that primary access to Logan Airport (one of the world's top 10 busiest) was through 2 two lane tunnels under Boston harbor, one in each direction. Since it's not possible to complete the interstate highway 'ring' that encircles most large cities, effectively shunting a lot of traffic around them, all traffic must come through downtown Boston. The two main highways (Interstate 93, which runs N-S and Interstate 90, which runs West) literally meet right at downtown. Their connection was two lanes wide in each direction. Try to imagine what putting over 100,000 cars a day on two lanes looks like (for comparison, the four lane I-405 ringing Los Angeles carries about 80,000 cars a day and traffic jams on it can go for 15-20 miles). Some have been using the public transportation mantra. Fact is, back in the 70's and 80's, Boston spent billions on improving public transit, forgoing interstate highways in the process. Boston's subway and commuter rail system not only carries hundreds of thousands of workers every day, it does so in safe, clean, graffiti-less trains. The MBTA system has a customer approval rating approaching 95%! Problem is, traffic must also travel THROUGH Boston, which means that even if 100% of commuters took the train, there'd still be plenty of traffic downtown! Finally, unlike any other major city, Boston is made up of many neighborhoods, tied together by small, winding streets. The surface street system that serves so many other cities (such as Los Angeles) well, simply does not exist in Boston. A city the size of Boston simply NEEDED the Big Dig for its very survival.
  • by Hao Wu ( 652581 ) on Sunday December 21, 2003 @11:52AM (#7779190) Homepage
    I know I am paranoid, but it's a sign of the times.

    What would a well-placed truck-bomb do in the tunnel? Wouldn't such a terrorist attack kill thousands and cause billions in damage?

    Has anyone thought of this threat and how we might counter it?

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