Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Big Dig Rant

It's a good thing that I was already sweating and in full cardio mode at the health club when I saw on television that a huge chunk of the Mass Turnpike central artery tunnel fell and killed 38- year old Millena Delvalle last night.

Should not every Boston-area citizen be enraged by this? This corrupt 14 billion dollar project was botched, mismanaged, and f'd up from the start. For over ten years downtown Boston has looked like Beirut after a bombing and we have tolerated it. We have tolerated the treacherous, arbitrarily marked* detours to major highways, we have tolerated pot holes the size of Detroit, we have tolerated illegible signage leading nowhere, we have tolerated leaking and now collapsing tunnels. We have tolerated a Boston that is more like a third-world country for drivers than are many developing nations' capitals.

Gov. Mitt Romney is promising some serious consequences -- like Transportation Authority Chief Matt Amorello's head -- but it's too little too late. This is and has been a fiasco -- now with truly tragic consequences -- and although it may have the benefit of getting more of us to take public transportation (I certainly don't drive in the city if I don't have to), it is not acceptable for drivers in this major American city to have to worry about 12-tons of tunnel smashing down on them while they drive to the airport.

A few months ago I was driving through that very tunnel, going homeward. Out of nowhere, apropos of nothing, the exit to 93 South was closed and I was forced to drive to the airport (hey, it was either the airport or get off at the next exit in like NEW HAMPSHIRE), circle around, pay a toll in order to exit, and find my way through the city -- following tiny, mostly confusing and misleading signs all the way -- to an open ramp to 93 South.
You must understand that 93 South is not a little side road, or simply the most convenient route home for me. It is the ONLY southbound route from the Turnpike. That the authorities CLOSED IT OFF without posting signs miles in advance is simply unbelievable. But this is business as usual in Boston: motorists are forced into treacherous, last minute changes without forewarning or notice. The same goes for public transportation: routes are closed, buses replace subway trains with no warning, entire lines shut down for no reason, and so on.

I have lived or driven extensively in NYC, Washington, DC, Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and San Francisco. Boston is by far the worst, most dangerous and filthy, inhospitable, treacherous driving environment of all. Boston drivers, to add insult to injury, are the most hostile, lawless, obnoxious motorists I have ever encountered.

We can only hope that Ms. Delvalle's death will finally motivate the powers-that-be to fix this mess, and fast. I wish her and her family God's peace.

(* shout-out to CK!)


Blogger CK said...

That's a grim post to get a shout-out in, but thanks...

I was in Boston (only once) in 2001. I remember seeing the construction and the taxi driver telling me about how great it would be when it was done, and what a pain in the a** it was at the present time.

It is astounding that 5 years later, you're still suffering through that. I hear that Romney is treating it as a murder (manslaughter?) investigation. Let's hope that helps move the process along and promote accountability.

Blogger Paul Wilczynski said...

Someone should do a survey of Bostonians to find out how many of them are surprised this happened.

I'd vote "not surprised".

I think a lot of people made a lot of extra money by doing second-class work on this massive project. Just my opinion, of course.

Blogger LinguistFriend said...

I am glad to know that Boston has not essentially changed since the nineteen years that I spent in the area. The Boston corruption and incompetence in construction was probably equalled in the construction of the LA subway, during which it appeared at one point that parts of the Hollywood surface were sinking because the support structures in tunnels below had been made with wood rather than steel.

Blogger Clyde Grubbs said...

If the board of a church allows its employees and its contractors to engage in criminal misconduct we hold the board liable.

But the political class has made itself immune from accountability. Romney goes after a bureaucrat, but it was the Governor and the General Court that oversaw the corruption for the decade leading up to the firt shovel in the mud of the Big Dig and for all the years in between.

Blogger Chalicechick said...

LF, why would you be glad of that?


Blogger LinguistFriend said...

By saying that I was glad that there was some constancy, I was glad that Boston has not lost its local cultural identity, although it has terrible aspects. This country tends to become homogenized, with the same food at the same restaurants even three thousand miles apart. Oddly, even the worst parts of such local traits can be saving. I recall very clearly reading once in the Boston Herald when I was a child in Newton Corner, about a homeless person in Boston who escaped freezing to death when he slept outside in a blizzard, only because of the proportion of alcohol in his system.


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