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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 rough spots


THIS IS where the parkland hits the road.

With only 13 days left in the legislative session, members of the Joint Transportation Committee should expect an earful of concerns this morning at a State House hearing on their bill to create an authority-like agency called a trust to operate the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

Some of those who have worked for years to assure that an ambitious series of street-level parks will replace the elevated Central Artery now believe that the legislation should be put off until next year. They are legitimately concerned by questions of efficacy and frustrated by the short period left to deal with them.

But it is too soon to throw in the towel. Legislators and advocates should work around the clock in these few days to see if they can resolve the outstanding questions and enact the law.

The overriding reason to press ahead is clear: The delay in designating an agency to design and operate the planned Greenway has already caused problems. Some design options have already been precluded because work on the tunnel underneath has gone ahead while the design process for the surface has lagged.

Even now, some major design firms are disinclined to compete to plan the final parcels because there is no client - they don't know whom they would be working for. And the project will not encourage a world-class result by discouraging world-class designs. In addition, delay until next January would add the uncertainty of a new governor, perhaps with a different outlook.

So there are strong reasons not to delay further. At the same time, major questions in the draft bill need answers.

Underpinning everything is the financing structure, which would depend on two main sources for operations and maintenance: an assessment on nearby properties in a newly created Artery Betterment District and an endowment funded by the sale of development parcels taken over from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. But the Boston City Council must approve the Artery Betterment District. And because federal dollars paid for most of the Big Dig, Washington may have a right to 90 percent of any land sale proceeds. Unless these issues are resolved, it is possible that the legislation would create a new agency with a big job and little money.

Many other problems need to be addressed, and they should be promptly.

Already, since drafts of the bill were first leaked last week, improvements have been made, adding some public accountability and taking legislative leaders out of the appointment process, for instance.

If enough people work hard enough, it is still possible the Rose Kennedy Greenway can get the home it has deserved for years.

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