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The Big Dig

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Pedal to the metal on Big Dig land

As development looms, city races to set master plan for prime space

By Thomas C. Palmer Jr., Globe Staff, 9/13/2003

From the Boston Globe

The Boston Redevelopment Authority is racing to create a master plan for developing a large swath of Big Dig land near Chinatown, south of Kneeland Street, before the area is built up without community guidelines in place. The plan will specify what mix of uses -- hotel, office, residential, and commercial -- is right for the area surrounding the openings of the new Big Dig tunnels.

For months, community representatives have urged the BRA to hire a consultant to establish such a plan, before the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority selects a developer for the property. After behaving for months like scorpions in a bottle over who will control these parcels and other new Surface Artery open space, the BRA and the Turnpike this summer issued a long-delayed request for bids for the study.

This week, the BRA said five planning and design firms -- Utile Inc. of Boston; Goody, Clancey & Associates of Boston; Icon Architecture Inc. of Boston; Chan Krieger & Associates Inc. of Cambridge; and SAS Design of Brookline -- have asked to vie for the contract to determine the shape, uses, and height of buildings in the area adjacent to future Big Dig loop ramps. The BRA is expected to make a final decision on a consultant by the end of the year. It could be another year before the consultant offers its guidelines.

Meanwhile, Turnpike officials want to press forward to find a developer for the parcels, one of which includes the old Wang building at 185 Kneeland St. It is now occupied by the Massachusetts Highway Department and used as headquarters for the $14.6 billion Central Artery/Ted Williams Tunnel project.

Although seeking a developer for the land now would seem to be putting the cart before the horse, Turnpike officials say they can get the early stages of a development process going and still accommodate the guidelines laid out in a master plan that will arrive months later.

The Turnpike is eager to seek a developer for the site because it is committed to pay about $2 billion of the cost of the Big Dig and can use some of the proceeds from development for that purpose.

The parcel occupied by the 10-story building at 185 Kneeland St., on Atlantic Avenue across from the South Station Transportation Center, is zoned for the maximum height of any location in Boston -- 400 feet or, with a variance, higher. The three other parcels included in the redevelopment area are zoned for 80 to 100 feet in height and also for a variety of uses.

The potential for what will essentially become the gateway to downtown could make the property extremely valuable to a developer who would bid on the site now and gamble that the office market, now in the doldrums, might have recovered just as a new tower on the site were to open up in several years.

Interest in the future of the South Bay land comes as the conceptual designs for the open space parcels on the Surface Artery corridor, which have received much more public attention, are being completed.

Of the three separate areas in the corridor stretching between Kneeland Street and Causeway Street, both the North End and the Chinatown/Leather District now have fairly detailed final proposals. The design teams for those two areas presented their plans, refined over months of public meetings, on Thursday to the Mayor's Central Artery Completion Task Force, and they were well received.

More problematic has been the larger, five-block area known as the Wharf District, stretching from Christopher Columbus Park to High Street. Initial ideas for the Wharf District from the design team led by EDAW were considered uninspired.

EDAW has brought in three new designers and will unveil its new concept to the community at this Thursday's task force meeting.

Concerns remain about whether the various parts will cohere. The Surface Artery includes not only the North End, Wharf, and Chinatown open space areas, but also a new configuration for Dewey Square, at South Station, and three large blocks designated for use by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society.

This giant hole in the ground , the future I-93 South,is the former horticultural site.

Thomas C. Palmer Jr. can be reached at [email protected].

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Guest donaltopablo

Those are some pretty impressive pics. With what the big dig is suppose to do for Boston, I hope that can keep that spirit with their developments.

I think this opens up some very nice real estate in Boston, but as the article mentions, I've heard commerical real estate performance has been less than stellar. Is it too risky to start building on what will probably be already expensive piece of land?

Scott - as a local, do you get a feeling major residential components may come with this?

I'm very interested to see how this turns out.

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Hey donaltopablo,

First this project is near South Station a major transport hub- Red Line and Commuter rail so residential development will be encouraged. The city has also encouraged the growth of large residential buildings downtown thru zoning. Condos are always a money maker in the city where office space is a whole other animal. Probabley both will be in the plans.

The first picture is a pic that has brought alot of criticism because it shows a spaghetti of highways most of which will no longer excist when this project is being built.

In the second picture on the left is where the South Station Tower is to be built along with a large technology element.

I will also be curious as to how this document and finally this development turns out.

I'll keep you posted.

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  • 1 month later...

I was stuck in traffic on the Central Artery yesterday

and was very impressed at all the destruction going on

and then there was this article in the Boston Globe today.

Gives a good update on what's going on in this amazing project.


Other 'green monster' falls

Central Artery demolition to be complete within a year

By Anthony Flint, Boston Globe Staff, 10/28/2003

Big Dig officials have accelerated the schedule for tearing

down the old Central Artery,

eager to show the public more visual evidence of how the

$14.6 billion project is transforming Boston's landscape.

All sections of the elevated roadway should be

dismantled and cleared away by the fall of next year,

said Matthew J. Amorello, chairman of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority,

which oversees the project. Earlier timetables called for

demolition to continue well into 2005.


The stepped-up effort to demolish what has sometimes been

referred to as Boston's other "green monster" is driven in part

by the Democratic National Convention... Globe story...

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  • 3 weeks later...

Regional briefs: December opening eyed for I-93 tunnel

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Big Dig officials hope to open the southbound Interstate 93 tunnel by Dec. 19,

though Boston Mayor Thomas Menino is worried the road change could

discourage holiday shoppers.

Big officials have projected the tunnel opening sometime between December

and mid-February. Now they say that opening the tunnel by mid-December

would allow crews to start tearing down the elevated Central Artery earlier than

anticipated and in time for the Democratic National Convention in July.

Menino is concerned that opening the I-93 tunnel and making the accompanying

surface road changes so close to Christmas could confuse holiday shoppers

and have a negative impact on business.

From MetroWest Daily News

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I drove down the elevated southbound side last sunday as sort of a last look at this thing from on high. In a way I'll miss the elevated ride through downtown, the cityscapes are amazing. I took a bunch of pix from the lower deck and the artery. I'll get them posted soon.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Behind the scenes, plot unfolds for 1-93 opening

By Anthony Flint, Globe Staff, 11/30/2003

If everything goes according to plan, daybreak atop the elevated

Central Artery on Dec. 20 should bring the sound of silence -- the end of a

six-decade era of driving along the elevated highway through the heart of Boston.

For that to happen, however, project managers for the $14.6 billion Big Dig must

stage a sequence of engineering feats that must come together with the precision of

a Balanchine ballet.

Project officials still will not commit to a date for the opening of the southbound

Interstate 93, but say they are on a schedule for it to start the evening of Dec. 19.

Most of the mile-long main tunnel section has been paved, and construction

equipment is being removed.

Two big traffic changes will signal the run-up to the opening over the next two weeks.

The first is the extension of Cross Street from Atlantic Avenue by Christopher

Columbus Park to Hanover Street, allowing drivers to travel to North Washington

Street and on to Charlestown.

The second is a new ramp from the Ted Williams Tunnelconnector westbound on I-90

to I-93 south, a significant change that will allow drivers to travel directly from Logan

International Airport to points south of the city.

Noncommercial drivers must now use surface streets to get on I-93 south, or the

Sumner Tunnel to the Central Artery.

The new southbound tunnel will feature two onramps -- one from Storrow Drive east

at Leverett Circle, which will join I-93 south at the base of the Leonard P. Zakim

Bunker Hill Bridge near the FleetCenter, and the other from New Chardon Street

near the Government Center parking garage. The tunnel will have two exits, one for

Government Center and the Callahan Tunnel, and the other a new South Station exit

at Purchase Street, which is just now being completed.

City and state public safety officials must then give the new roadway system their

seal of approval, including a test of all cameras and air-quality sensors.

Under the opening plan, sometime in the early hours of Saturday, Dec. 20, I-93

south will have to be closed, with traffic diverted through Chinatown.

The last part of the new southbound tunnel must then be lined up with the mouth of

the existing Dewey Square tunnel. Drivers will travel through the Dewey Square

tunnel as they do now.

Finally, north of the city, the last concrete barriers will be pushed aside so I-93 south

drivers can bid farewell to the current bottlenecks on the old double deck, and head

down the ample expanse of the Zakim bridge and into the new southbound tunnel.

After the weekend opening, the new roadway system will get tested for real with a

Monday morning commute. At the same time, the dismantling of the old elevated

Central Artery will begin.

Traffic headaches won't be over, however.

The elevated structures loom over ramps and other parts of the new roadway

system, and it's too dangerous for demolition to be done over live traffic, so

overnight closures will be scheduled.

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Although having the new road open will be great, the real treat will be when the old steel comes down, and new parks, roads and buildings replace the artery. I think it will be 2005 before the steel is gone, and who knows how long before the surface is fixed up. My guess is they will build the new surface boulevard and plant grass in the median by the end of 2006. The first real parks and buildings will probably not come until 2007 or later.

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I recently watched a documentary on the Big Dig on, I believe, the Discovery Science Channel. I quite enjoyed it and it helped me to better understand what exactly the Big Dig is all about and how it will help Boston as well as the nation. I think it's worth every penny, even if they did go considerably over budget!

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I recently watched a documentary on the Big Dig on, I believe, the Discovery Science Channel. I quite enjoyed it and it helped me to better understand what exactly the Big Dig is all about and how it will help Boston as well as the nation. I think it's worth every penny, even if they did go considerably over budget!

All the naysayers should really watch that documentary. I got it on DVD, it was very good. And it specifically explains the concept of inflation, which some people seem to have problems with.

There is no doubt that it is grossly over budget, and that it was mismanaged by all parties involved. But people throw out the 1980 price tag and the 2004 pricetag as if there was no inflation and no redesigns of the project within that time frame.

People also fail to grasp how it is vital for the New England economy and how the New England economy is vital to the nation as a whole. People within Mass. fail to grasp that. People on the Cape and in Western Mass. only see it as money being spent in Boston, and fail to see how Boston needs to remain vital in order for the state's entire economy to flourish.

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The tunnels will open soon, good for traffic. The parks and streets on top will be what really makes it look good again/

Big Dig officials say I-93 southbound tunnel will open weekend of Dec. 19

By Steve LeBlanc, Associated Press, 12/3/2003

BOSTON -- The new Interstate 93 southbound tunnel will open the weekend of Dec. 19, marking the completion of the last major portion of the Big Dig, officials said Wednesday.

To celebrate the occasion, the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra will perform a special holiday concert inside the tunnel on the morning of Dec. 19. The tunnel will open to traffic the next day.

The concert, meant primarily for workers, will also be broadcast live on giant screens posted around the city, including at City Hall Plaza, South Station and Copley Square.

"This is a historic occasion for the project and the Commonwealth," said Matthew Amorello, chairman of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which oversees the Big Dig. "With the opening of I-93 southbound, we will be ushering in a new era for Boston and the region."

A tunnel connecting the Massachusetts Turnpike to the Ted Williams Tunnel opened in January. The I-93 northbound tunnel opened in March.

"Work has been progressing mightily," Amorello said. "The year 2003 will go down as the year we opened the three main components of the Central Artery Tunnel Project."

Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart said he was "thrilled beyond measure" to be part of the opening. He said the Pops had played in unusual settings including beaches and the New Orleans Superdome, "but we have never played underground in a highway tunnel before."

Lockhart said the concert will feature holiday tunes, patriotic music and "a good hallelujah chorus" for all those who doubted the tunnel would ever open.

Despite the dubious acoustics, Lockhart said he was looking forward to playing in the unusual venue. "We've definitely played in worse places," he said.

With the opening of the southbound lanes, the days of the old overhead Central Artery are numbered. Already, half of the elevated highway has been demolished, Amorello said.

Once the remaining traffic is diverted underground, demolition work will begin in earnest on the rest of the artery.

"Over the next several months you will see the artery disappear from the horizon," he said.

The earlier than expected opening of the southbound tunnel will also allow workers to tear down the portion of the central artery that curves around the FleetCenter well ahead of next summer's 2004 Democratic National Convention.

Big Dig officials fear security measures could shut down demolition work around the FleetCenter for weeks if that portion of the artery isn't taken down ahead of time.

Some local merchants are worried that opening the southbound lanes on the weekend before Christmas could scare away shoppers. But Amorello tried to reassure business owners and drivers.

He said the new tunnel will make it easier for drivers to get into the city. He also said drivers will be allowed to park in Turnpike garages near Faneuil Hall for free if they get their parking tickets validated by a local merchant.

The $14.6 billion Big Dig -- officially known as the Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel Project -- also includes the Ted Williams Tunnel under Boston Harbor to Logan International Airport, another tunnel connecting the Massachusetts Turnpike/I-93 to the Williams Tunnel, and the graceful Leonard Zakim-Bunker Hill Bridge spanning the Charles River. All of those projects are finished.

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  • 2 weeks later...

BRA names designer Greenberg to Greenway project

Boston Business Journal - December 3, 2003

The Boston Redevelopment Authority announced Wednesday that urban designer Ken Greenberg will be hired to spearhead the city's effort to develop a comprehensive concept for the Rose Kennedy Greenway and the downtown waterfront and the neighborhoods it will reconnect.

Greenberg will advise Boston city officials on the development of parcels from Chinatown to the downtown Wharf District to the North End and the Bulfinch Triangle that will be opened for development as the elevated expressway is demolished.

According to a prepared statement from the BRA, Mayor Thomas M. Menino felt strongly that the current approach to the design of the Greenway -- three separate park areas and several individual development parcels -- will benefit from the creation of a comprehensive vision for their interconnections with each other and their surrounding neighborhoods.

"Over recent months, we have watched with much anticipation and excitement as more specific design concepts for the Greenway Parks have started to take shape," Menino said in the statement. "There is no better time than now to broaden our focus and develop a theme that truly expresses the essence of this opportunity for a wonderful Greenway and a city reconnected to its harbor. This 'big picture' vision will unify the parks and enhance the meaning and value of the Greenway for generations to come."

Greenberg is principal of Greenberg Consultants Inc. and former director of Urban Design for the City of Toronto. The award-winning architect and urban designer's work includes master plans for Fan Pier in Boston, the Southeast and Southwest Waterfronts in Washington, D.C., Brooklyn Bridge Park and the East River Waterfront in Lower Manhattan.

His planning projects include ones in Philadelphia, St. Paul, Minn., Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Detroit, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Denver and Hartford. His international projects have guided urban development in the Netherlands, France, Venezuela and numerous Canadian cities.

Key among the Greenway projects goals, according to Rebecca Barnes, chief BRA planner, are that the Greenway attract visitors, that it convey Boston's character and respect for its history, and that the Greenway district comprise an integrated system of new parks, new community and cultural facilities, and new housing.

"Greenberg's work will help us all see the full dimensions of this precious opportunity," said Barnes. "We expect it will result in recommended actions in and around the Greenway to achieve these goals."

It is expected that a both private and public funding will be needed to bring the bring the Greenway to reality.

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Street revival

After tunnel, Boston opens new chapter in reshaping its urban landscape

By Anthony Flint, Globe Staff, 12/17/2003

The opening of the southbound side of the Big Dig this weekend, hailed for its anticipated improvement of traffic flow, will also mark the beginning of another dramatic change for Boston: the restoration of city streets that have been chopped up and obscured by the old Central Artery for half a century.

The restitching of these streets, some dating to the 17th century, will not occur all at once. In some cases, along Cross Street from Atlantic Avenue to North Washington Street, for example, old offramps and other barriers have already been taken away, and the street is back to the way it was 300 years ago.

In others, such as Hanover Street, which will be restored from the North End to Congress Street, the reconstruction has to wait for the elevated Central Artery to come down.

That demolition can finally start this weekend, when traffic is taken off the structure and diverted permanently underground. The excitement of city officials and project managers is palpable, as they envision historic streets becoming part of the daily lexicon for commuters, pedestrians, and drivers traveling from one part of the city to another. In the reestablished street layout, everything old will become new again.

"We're putting back what was there to start," said Charles F. Sterling, director of traffic operations for the Big Dig.

The changes will require a primer in urban geography, even for longtime residents. The new landscape will be simple to learn, Sterling said, compared with the detours in the maze of surface streets from Chinatown to Faneuil Hall to Causeway Street over the last 12 years.

In most cases, the restored streets will come full circle, historically speaking, from major Colonial thoroughfares to obscurity, to landmarks once again.

Take Oliver Street, once a vital link from what is now Post Office Square to the Colonial wharves on the Fort Point Channel. About three blocks long, Oliver Street was cut short by the construction of the elevated Central Artery in the 1950s. Now it will become the key route to the Seaport District over the Evelyn Moakley Bridge, for motorists coming from north of the city and taking Exit 23 in the new Interstate 93 south tunnel.

Cross Street, once disrupted by ramps leading to and from the Sumner and Callahan tunnels, will similarly reemerge as a way to travel north on the surface through the city, without using the new Big Dig tunnels at all. The intersection of Hanover and Cross streets, once a hub of Jewish, Italian, and Swedish merchants, as lively an urban crossroads as 5th Avenue and 42d Street or Hollywood and Vine, will once again become a recognizable city spot.

"Those kinds of places are going to work their way into people's consciousness," said former state transportation secretary Frederick Salvucci, one of the original architects of the $14.6 billion Big Dig.

The great promise of the Big Dig, Salvucci said, was not only that it would smooth traffic flow and end bottlenecks, but also that it would repair the damage done by the construction of the elevated Artery and restore Boston's old street network.

The parks and development parcels in the 30-acre corridor that is the long footprint of the Central Artery, the surface of the Big Dig, will be framed by those restored streets, both running alongside the parcels and across them, said James Gillooly, executive director of the city's Central Artery team.

The streets that will cut across the surface of the submerged Central Artery include Hanover, State, Milk, Broad, High, Oliver, Pearl, and Congress. The streets running alongside the parcels are Atlantic Avenue and then Cross Street, which will be one-way northbound; and Surface Artery and then Purchase Street and then Surface Road, one-way southbound.

City officials are considering restoring Surface Road with the name of Albany Street, because it originally ran past Kneeland Street into Chinatown. Surface Artery is also a prime candidate for renaming, city officials say, given its echo of the elevated highway.

But for the most part, downtown streets are being reconnected to the waterfront, and their names, however obscure, are being kept, Gillooly said.

"It's creating a network of one-way streets, playing off the existing street system of the city as much as we can," he said. "It's a great moment."

Boston's crazy quilt of streets is a function of the way the original Shawmut Peninsula was expanded and filled in, historians say -- and not the meanderings of cows or as part of a plan to confuse the British, as legends have it. As such, it's not a New York City-style street grid.

Several streets were rerouted, renamed or changed long before the Central Artery, and others were altered in the years after the elevated highway's construction, said Yanni Tsipis, author of a book on the Central Artery and project manager at the real estate firm of Meredith & Grew.

The restoration of streets over the next year or so "will really be more of an evolution" in a city that is continually reinventing itself, Tsipis said.

Of course, some of the city's original road network, such as Haymarket Square, a bustling rotary where the Government Center parking garage is now located, is gone forever, said Nancy Seasholes, author of "Gaining Ground: A History of Landmaking in Boston," an account of Boston's practice of filling in waterways and adding to itself.

"There's no way to go back to the way it used to be in those cases, but for Hanover Street, the demolition of the artery will realign the way Bostonians think about the city," she said. "For 50 years there was never a clear path from Government Center to the North End, and now there will be."

The new southbound I-93 tunnel will open to traffic sometime during the day on Saturday.

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Interesting, the Boston pops are going to play in the tunnel itself?

They were, but everyone agreed that a project that has cost so much money, really shouldn't spend more money on a lavish festival. Though... I personally rather feel that this was such a huge project for Boston and has dramatically changed everyone's lives, there should be something to mark it.


Full coverage of the Big Dig fromThe Boston Globe

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It's officially open! Gov. Romney is such a total stick in the mud, he wouldn't attend the ribbon cutting. Another politician who is both ineffectual and boring.

Major Big Dig milestone opens to traffic

By Mark Pratt, Associated Press, 12/20/2003

BOSTON -- The sun rising over the frigid city of Boston on Saturday heralded not just a new day, but a new era of less frequent traffic jams and more navigable city streets.

That's the theory, at least, after the new southbound lanes of Interstate 93 opened to traffic.

In a simple early morning ceremony, Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Massachusetts Turnpike Authority chairman Matthew Amorello cut the ribbon to officially open the two-mile stretch of highway that allows traffic to soar over the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge before sweeping through four gleaming lanes of underground interstate.

''How often do you see a landmark like this open in your city? Menino said. ''This changes the face of Boston forever.''

Appropriately, a Boston resident was the first motorist to travel the new stretch of highway. Elaine Cronin, returning home after visiting her sister in Woburn, was met on the bridge by Menino and Amorello and presented a Big Dig baseball cap and map of the project autographed by the two men.

''This is really wonderful,'' Cronin said. ''It's part of history. I live in the West End and I've watched this being built.''

Just moments earlier, officials had greeted Anne and Nick Najjar of Stoneham in the last vehicle to drive across the aging elevated Central Artery, the stretch of highway being replaced by the new road.

The crumbling highway hailed as a ''highway in the sky'' when it opened in 1959 was often clogged with all-day, bumper-to-bumper traffic. It's matte green paint prompted Menino to call it Boston's ''other Green Monster.'' The original Green Monster is Fenway Park's famed left field wall.

The opening of the new southbound lanes of I-93, which will handle about 91,000 cars per day, according to a Big Dig spokesman, marked the last major milestone of the $14.6 billion endeavor, officially known as the Central Artery/Tunnel Project.

Work crews spent the night adding the finishing touches to the road, erecting signs, painting lines, moving barriers, and even sending a sweeper up and down the highway.

''This is the beginning of the end,'' said Big Dig project director Michael Lewis, who has spent 12 years on the project. ''For myself and for all the people who have been working on this project, it's been a career. It's very gratifying to see it come to fruition.''

There is still about $1 billion to be spent and 18 months of work to be completed, including the dismantling of the elevated highway and the restoration of surface streets, Lewis said.

Saturday's event was the third major opening for the project this year. In January, officials opened a tunnel connecting Interstate 90 to Logan International Airport. The I-93 northbound lanes opened to traffic in March.

''The sooner we finish, the sooner the project stops costing money,'' Amorello said.

Officials had hoped to celebrate the opening of the tunnel with an underground concert by the Boston Pops. That was scrapped after critics, including Gov. Mitt Romney, said the concert was too flamboyant for a project that was years overdue, and billions over budget.

Instead, officials held a brief ceremony on Friday during which they observed a moment of silence for the four workers killed during construction, followed by Saturday's ribbon cutting. Romney did not attend either event.

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