Everyone can relate to the feeling of frustration and impotence that being stuck in traffic can cause someone. It is not a pleasant occurrence; especially in other than pleasant weather, or after a hard day at work. Traffic is also a major contributor in automobile accidents. It is, overall, a horrible experience. One of the biggest cities to experience horrible traffic was Boston, Massachusetts. The Central Artery, or Interstate 93, was a six-lane highway that would, at times, be used by over 75,000 vehicles a day and by the 90’s it increased to approximately 190,000. This caused great dilemma for the city of Boston, and a solution was sought out. The central Artery/Tunnel Project, or the Big Dig, was a project which was designed to alleviate congestion in the metropolitan area of Boston. It would take over 2-3 decades to complete, and billions of dollars would be spent; but in the end, was the only solution to the Central Artery.
The roads in the city of Boston were built before the invention of the automobiles. As the years passed, the roads were not suitable for the growing population and the dependency of automobiles. These roads would be traveled by thousand of people, and the traffic was one of the worst, if not, the worst in all of the United States. Aside from the problems that the horrific traffic caused the people of Boston, the elevated highway cut off the Waterfront neighborhoods from downtown Boston, thus affecting their revenue. The solution to these problems was the Central Artery/Tunnel Project, which would replace the elevated highway with an eight-to-ten underground highway and a highway that would have better access to the Logan Airport. The Big Dig was thought up in the 1970’s but it was not until 1982 that the plan was put into motion. In 1991, Congress approved the Big Dig after President Reagan vetoed it in 1987. The plan was to dig the tunnels underground without affecting traffic. It was anticipated that it would cost 2.8 billion dollars to complete the project, which would conclude in 1998. Due to difficulties, it was not completed until 2007, costing the Untied States well over 14.6 billion dollars.
The Big Dig faced many obstacles throughout the years. From the very beginning, President Reagan vetoed the bill because he thought it was too expensive. When the project was approved and put into motion, the workers had to deal with subway lines, which were already in existence, pipes and utility lines. Moreover, to the public, the project did not seem to alleviate their city congestion but rather made it worse. The economy and inflation rates also affected the project, as well as trying to carry on with the project without affecting the traffic. With a project of this magnitude to work, it is crucial to have the support of the public. To have this support, and being able to use the taxpayer’s money to fork the bill, it was important to communicate with the public and get their approval. A primary reason why it took over three decades to complete The Big Dig project can be traced back to public disapproval and billions in taxpayers’ money.
The reason for this blog entry is not to talk to you about The Big Dig project but rather give you an example of obstacles that might arise when working on a project of this magnitude. The Big Dig, in theory, seemed to be a great solution for the city of Boston traffic dilemma but once implemented it was a disaster and 30 years in the making. However, the full potential of The Big Dig project, can now be appreciated. As a result of the Big Dig project, the travel time per vehicle during busy hours has been reduced to 62%. The annual saving for travelers is estimated to be at $160 million. Therefore, it is vital that engineers learn to communicate their thoughts clearly so that they can get the approval of the public. Even a great thought-out project, like the Big Dig project, cannot become a reality without the support of the public and proper funding. Therefore, as future engineers we should take into consideration possible obstacles and plan to minimize them accordingly.