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Beyond The Big Dig
About this project

What happens to the ribbon of land being created by the depression of the Central Artery may be the most important development decision to face Boston in a generation.


Now Is The Time To Focus On What The Big Dig Will Leave Behind

By James J. Kerasiotes, 10/07/1999

It is time to plan for life after the Big Dig. This means that legislators, city officials, environmentalists, business leaders, and neighbors must survey a dizzying array of choices about parks, development, and open space.

The good news is that the choices we have are the envy of other cities around the country. What other city can virtually recreate its downtown? What other major urban center is planning 150 acres of new green space and parkland?

We are opening up new vistas, reconnecting the city to the sea, providing pristine opportunities in the heart of the city for the right kind of development and giving people in East Boston, Charlestown and the North End open space in place of eyesores.

It is time to focus on what the Big Dig will leave behind. The Ted Williams Tunnel has been open for nearly four years; the Leverett Circle connector is about to open ahead of schedule; nearly 60 percent of construction on the Big Dig is done; and 70 percent of its cost is behind us. After all this work, we can't allow the end results to fall victim to some of the Bay State's worst historic traits. No turf wars, no bickering, no endless debates and tribal squabbles should mar or delay the work ahead.

Representative Joseph Sullivan, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, has taken an important first step in the direction of inclusion. He has filed legislation to form a commission to help guide decisions on the most crucial parcel the Big Dig will create, the 27-acre swath of green that will be revealed when the Central Artery comes down between South Station and the Charles River. The commission would include the Turnpike Authority, the state's transportation and environmental secretaries, two designees of Mayor Menino, and members of the Artery Business Committee and Move Massachusetts 2000.

As the agency responsible for building the Artery project and delivering its benefits, we at the Turnpike Authority know we have a special obligation to see that the end of the Big Dig won't leave a vacuum in Boston. Toward that end:

- We will not yield on our commitment to leave 75 percent of the surface beneath the present elevated Artery as open space. Properly planned and implemented, this green swath through the heart of the city will become a Boston landmark second to none.

- I have asked my staff to issue to potential developers a request for inquiries on what are the best uses for the remaining 25 percent of the site. The potential for innovative, vibrant development is enormous.

- The evolution of the new open space and the developable parcels will be put in the hands of professionals. At our request, a selection committee composed of all the stakeholders -- turnpike, city, environmental, and business -- has been formed to select a master planner. This will bring order and organization to a process that could otherwise become a chaotic mish-mash of proposals and agendas.

- We are going to roll up our sleeves and help the Massachusetts Horticultural Society attract the partners it needs to make its landscape and winter garden plans a reality.

The experience we have gained in open space planning in East Boston and Charlestown will serve us well. As with those revitalizations, the Artery's surface restoration must be a model of neighborhood and downtown business involvement in careful planning and reconstruction. And like those parks, the end result will be a crown jewel of this remarkable project.

James Kerasiotes is chairman of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.

Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company
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