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Boston’s Big Dig Shirks Prior Notions of State Spending on Transportation

In the final segment of a series investigating the health of the nation's infrastructure, Ray Suarez reports on Boston's Big Dig -- the most expensive single highway project in the U.S. that eventually cost more than $14.6 billion.

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  • RAY SUAREZ:

    After decades of planning, building-related disruption, and billions of dollars spent, Boston's famous — or infamous — Big Dig is being put to the test of the real world.

    With the bridges and tunnels operational, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority reports dramatically improved travel times through downtown. And the pleasant public spaces of the Rose Kennedy Greenway, where an elevated highway, known as the Central Artery, once blocked out the sky, demonstrate the remarkable physical transformation that's taken place.

    There used to be six lanes of choked expressway overhead. Now, there's a modern interstate under my feet.

    Across the decades, downtown Boston had adjusted to the existence of an elevated highway, basically by turning its back on it.

    But since the completion of the Big Dig, builders, architects, and planners have started to reorient to this street, taking advantage of the open space and light, and reconnecting with Boston's historic harbor. Balconies have sprouted, overlooking what was once an eyesore.

    Former state Transportation Secretary Fred Salvucci is sometimes known as the father of the Big Dig, for his tireless promotion of the project. He was an early backer of the radical plan to get rid of the chronically congested Central Artery by sending I-93 underground.

    FREDERICK SALVUCCI, former Massachusetts secretary of transportation: I'm delighted that this ugly thing is down, and we've got a nice park here. But this project is about a lot more than the urban aesthetics; it's about an economy that can grow in a sustainable way. And you've got to have the transit piece of it.

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