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Massachusetts SuperGraphic

The Central Artery/Tunnel Project

The solution to the traffic mess and related problems was to implement a plan, called the Central Artery/Tunnel Project (CA/T.) The construction and operations would be placed under the supervision of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. A massive project of this scale would take years of planning and preparation. The construction would be in the middle of a major city, affect the residents and businesses of a large urban area and would absolutely require that mobility in and around the city be maintained throughout the entire construction process. Project planners worked with governmental agencies, community groups, businesses, political and environmental leaders and many oversight and permitting regulartory agencies in an effort to create a plan that could be implemented to ensure that the interests of all those affected would be considered. The city's vitality, economic progress, and competitive position were now at stake.


It would be difficult to design a workable solution for building a complicated underground expressway that would be one of the largest, most expensive, technologically challenging and environmentally impactful projects the U.S. had ever seen would prove difficult to design and construct. Initially, the Central Artery/Tunnel Project was managed by the Massachusetts Highway department and later by the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority(MTA). When the planning began on the Central Artery/Tunnel Project no one, not even transportation experts, could predict the challenges and problems that would arise during the course of its design and construction.  In 1982 the project formally began – with the preparation of documents to outline the anticipated environmental impact of the project. The Final Environmental Impact Statement/Report was filed in 1985 and approved in 1986.


Because a project of this size and scope had never been undertaken by the MTA, a joint venture was formed to provide design and construction management services. Betchel/Parsons Brinckerhoff (B/PB), a joint venture of BechtelCorporation of San Francisco and Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas, Inc. of New York, began work as project-management consultants. They were to provide preliminary designs, manage design consultants, oversee the construction contractors and manage the project costs. They also were to manage planning and construction schedules, and consult with and represent the MTA with some of the decisions on the project. Eventually, the project faced obstacles as the MTA's ability to independently oversee B/PB was compromised because the two groups were, in essence, project partners.


After  Congress approved federal funding and the initial scope of the project in 1987, the final design process began and exploratory archaeological digs were initiated in1988. During the next three years much work was required before construction could begin – the building acquisition and the relocation process started, final design and environmental review continued, Congress began to fund the project, the Federal HighwayAdministration granted the construction approval, construction contracts were awarded, and the Final Supplemental Environment Impact Statement/Report was approved. Finally, the actual construction began in September 1991. The first job was to build a bypass road through South Boston to take large heavy vehicle traffic off neighborhood streets and to begin to building the third tunnel (later named the Ted Williams Tunnel) to cross the Boston Harbor.


Construction continued on the various tunnels, bridges and roadways in different phases throughout the remainder of the 1990's. Major milestones of the massive project began to reach completion or near completion in the early years of the 2000s and the overall project was considered substantiallycompleted by January 2005. Highlights of the project's progression are featured on the official website of the MTA:


http://massdot.state.ma.us/highway/bigdig/bigdigmain.aspxtimeline.

Related images

The Central Artery/Tunnel Project plan illustration.
The Central Artery/Tunnel Project plan illustration.

Boston's “Big Dig” - The Beginning The End of the Road