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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.


Voiceless on the Artery


THE DESIGN PROCESS for the Rose Kennedy Greenway begins in earnest today and tomorrow, when four competing teams will present their ideas for the two large park parcels that will replace the elevated Central Artery on either side of Hanover Street in the North End.

Unless the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority alters its schedule, however, the concepts advanced by the teams will not be made public until after the winning group is chosen.

After more than a decade of preliminary planning, including literally hundreds of public meetings, it would be a shame to deny the public a voice in this important decision.

No one is pushing for a protracted public review that would delay the design work, already overdue. But a pause of only 10 days or two weeks would allow public comment that might freshen the selection committee's thinking and add legitimacy to the final choice.

Turnpike officials argue that there will be ample opportunity for public comment once the chosen designer begins work and that the eventual result will not necessarily reflect the "design ideas" included in this week's bids. Indeed, these concepts only count for 20 percent under the evaluation system set up by the turnpike. "This is a qualifications-based selection," said Fred Yalouris, director of architecture for the project.

But Mark Maloney, director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, yesterday renewed his request for "some public vetting" of the four bids. "We want to bring the public into the process as much as we possibly can," he said in an interview. Maloney acknowledged that such comment can be unpredictable, but said he has confidence that the selection committee -- composed of two members from the Turnpike Authority, two from the city, and one from the state Office of Environmental Affairs -- could digest public opinion "without losing a professional standard."

David Dixon, president-elect of the Boston Society of Architects, said a comment period would be most useful if the design teams had a chance to interact with a variety of people, since the winner will have to work well with the public to produce a successful final design.

Even a short wait would allow time for the proposals to go up on the Internet, and perhaps for a public forum where team members could present themselves and their ideas.

Imbedded in this disagreement is a broader problem -- the uncertain relationship between the turnpike, which now controls the entire Artery project, and other interests, especially the city. The turnpike has made an effort to be cooperative but is reluctant to share power. A proposal to establish shared decision-making between the turnpike and the BRA is moving very slowly.

For now, an airing of the North End design bids would be a step forward.

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