The Central Artery project in downtown Boston – also known as the Big Dig – has been more than a decade in the making and cost the state and federal government upwards of $15 billion. Basically, the Big Dig took Boston’s primary downtown highway, Interstate 93, and moved it underground. This had the benefit of unclogging what some called the worst bottleneck in the national highway system, and freeing some valuable real estate on the surface of downtown Boston. On the other hand, the project was also the most expensive single highway project in history, and it has been plagued by cost overruns and a severe engineering disaster.
Evidence has been mounting lately that, while downtown Boston highways are now speedy and frequently not crowded at all, the traffic jams have instead moved a few miles away to the outskirts of the city. It’s faster to get through downtown, but getting into downtown is much, much slower. The interesting thing is that transportation officials that were in charge when the project was started have said that they fully expected this to happen, but they went ahead and did it anyway. I have to ask you, at $15 billion, was it really worth it? $15 billion could get you a brand-new highway from New York to Boston. A new airport would only be slightly more, at around $20 billion. Amtrak estimates that $10 billion would modernize the Northeast Corridor and slash train travel times enough to move a couple hundred thousand cars off the roads. Now, it’s just my opinion, but there are so many other ways to spend that money – was the Big Dig really worth it?