The Big Dig is Almost Over

By Deane Barker on December 25, 2007

Boston’s $14.8B Big Dig finally complete: I can’t believe it’s finally coming to an end. All that’s left now are the lawsuits.

Officially, Dec. 31 marks the end of the joint venture that teamed megaproject contractor Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff with the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority to build the dizzying array of underground highways, bridges, ramps and a new tunnel under Boston Harbor — all while the city remained open for business.

The project was so complex it’s been likened to performing open heart surgery on a patient while the patient is wide awake.

I’ve driven the Big Dig. It makes you feel like a prairie dog — you run in underground tunnels, just popping up above ground long enough to get your bearings, then you’re back down again.

There’s a nice sidebar in the article that shows all the construction techniques that were invented to make the Big Dig work. One of my favorites:

Tunnel Jacking: Part of the project called for a tunnel extension under an active Amtrak railroad. Project managers realized the soil was so unstable that the rail lines could collapse. Engineers built a gigantic concrete box open on both ends, froze the soil using hundreds of rods and nudged or jacked the box under the railroad a few feet at a time.



  1. Have you not been in any other tunneled highways under big cities? They all put you into tunnels and later you come out of them. It’s a strange slam to stick in there. That’s why they’re tunnels, pooky.

  2. I’m confused. How is that a “slam,” exactly?

    I haven’t been in tunnels under other big cities, actually. The Big Dig is probably the only metro tunnel complex I’ve been through.

    Now, I’ve been through tunnels before — you go in one end, then come out the other. But the Big Dig is different. You go under — down, down, down, then up, up, up, to see daylight, but have no option to get off the road your traveling on, before you go down, down, down again. You repeat this until you come out.

    I remember it being pretty fun, actually. Getting from one point to another under Boston, I think I drove for five minutes, never left the road I was on, and popped up to daylight three separate times before being ejected out the other side.

    I was just in DisneyWorld, and a lot of the rides were almost the same experience. So, the Big Dig is kind of the most expensive thrill ride ever built.

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