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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.


The Right Direction


AT LAST! One of Boston's most anticipated newborn projects -- the corridor of open space parcels that will replace the Central Artery -- will finally have a parent. That was the welcome prediction yesterday from Mayor Menino, who announced that he and House Speaker Thomas Finneran have agreed on the creation of a nonprofit organization to take on the task.

If the details of the arrangement are worked out effectively, the new entity -- probably a trust -- should give great momentum to this unique project, which Menino referred to appropriately as "the opportunity of a lifetime."

Finneran, who attended Menino's speech to the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, later echoed that view, saying of the project: "I would not want to see a half-baked effort. It has to be top-of-the-line."

The agreement is overdue. More than four years ago the Boston 2000 Working Group proposed just such an entity with the single job of overseeing this project. Boston 2000 emphasized the need to put that governance structure in place quickly. The issue has been studied in depth since then, but there was little movement until yesterday.

If details are worked out and legislation is enacted in the next few months, design and implementation of the project will be speeded enormously. Mark Maloney, director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, said yesterday that the idea is to have a new entity that will "manage, plan, operate, and maintain" the space, which has been designated the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

Prompt approval would allow the trust to assume some of the planning functions now being led by the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.

But significant questions remain. One -- as Menino freely admitted -- is who will pay for construction and maintenance. His proposal for a special taxing zone is promising but would be only part of what is needed.

Another question involves the crucial details of how the trust would be organized. Menino said it would have three boards: a board of trustees, a board of directors, and a large advisory board. As described by Maloney, the board of trustees would keep a close eye on financing and would have five members, one appointed by the mayor, two by the governor, and one each upon recommendation of the House speaker and the Senate president. The board of directors would be the main operating authority and would have 13 members. Maloney said the allocation of directors has not been set.

Last year the city was seeking power to appoint most of the members of any governing board. Menino said yesterday that he agreed to a more disparate membership because it was time to reach a compromise and "you can't stay in cement." Still, the city deserves a strong voice in a project so crucial to its future.

This story ran on page A14 of the Boston Globe on 2/23/2002.
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