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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.


Greenway secrets


ALONG ATLANTIC Avenue beside South Station, officials shoveled some dirt on half a dozen handsome 20-foot linden trees yesterday afternoon -- the first of some 900 linden, honey locust, and other trees ready to grace the milelong string of parks that will transform the heart of downtown Boston once the elevated Central Artery comes down.

Later yesterday, calls went out from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority to the four design teams selected as finalists for two key parcels between the North End and Haymarket.

Meanwhile, negotiators at the State House continue to fumble the drafting of legislation to determine who will build and operate the open-space corridor, known as the Rose Kennedy Greenway. Actually, it is hard to know whether fumble is the right word, because everything is being done behind closed doors. Not even a draft of the legislation has been made public, and the lawmakers' session ends in five weeks.

This is preposterous. There has been agreement for more than four years that a new entity should be created to take charge of the greenway, but none exists. Acting Governor Jane Swift, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, House Speaker Thomas Finneran, and Senate President Thomas Birmingham all support creation of a trust run by state and city appointees, but the crucial details have not been resolved among the four -- and have not been aired by the decision makers.

The Legislature's Transportation Committee has scheduled a hearing at the State House Wednesday with the hope, according to the House chairman, Joseph Sullivan, that the airing ''could trigger a resolution.'' Sullivan says he does not expect a draft of the specific legislation to be ready for Wednesday's hearing.

Sullivan is providing a useful opening for public sentiment, but the legislators should expect to hear from some angry citizens who have devoted countless hours to planning for this project and now feel cut out.

With time short, the possibility is growing that yet another year will pass with the greenway's governance unresolved.

Meanwhile, the Turnpike Authority cannot be blamed for pushing ahead with planting trees and selecting designers. It would be better if the trees were going in as part of an approved design, but no overall design has been adopted because there is no trust -- no client -- to adopt it. And the trust should be choosing designers but cannot because it doesn't exist.

Wednesday's hearing is a start, but the fine print of legislation should also be aired publicly before it is voted. Secrecy only feeds suspicion of insider deals that might leave the greenway in the hands of politicians' sidekicks. It has happened too often before.

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