Friday, December 03, 2004

The Big Sieve

Frankly, I was relieved by the headline:

"I-93 Tunnel to Need Constant Attention"

I had been worried since the Red Sox won the pennant -- against the arch-fiend Yankees no less. With the curse broken -- and the Patriots on their way to a possible third championship -- what would Boston, a city with such long and hard won experience in moaning, groaning and second guessing, have to complain about? Sudden withdrawal can be a dangerous thing. Sure, many fans have bought timeshare vacation condos in Chicago, to be able to root for the Cubs. And speaking personally, I'm still holding out for a winning sports season where at least one student doesn't get run over by a car or shot by the police during after-game celebrations. But the majority of Red Sox nation was out of luck.

Until now. Yes, I know we've been whining about the Big Dig for years -- the traffic hassles, the endless delays and cost over-runs, and mismanagement by the MBTA and Bechtel contractors. Bostonians' complaints about the massive construction project in our city have been second only to laments about the fate of the hometown baseball team. But unlike the Sox's chances of the pennant, the Dig seemed to be making visible progress, however slowly and painfully. When the Central Artery southbound tunnel was opened recently, it appeared completion -- and a new and improved commute -- was almost within our grasp.

But fate has smiled her crooked smile upon the city. As a friend suggested, maybe the Bambino hasn't really dropped his curse, he's just shifted to another venue. Maybe he was the one swatting holes in the concrete with a ghostly bat, or kicking dirt into the slurry walls, while his fans at Bechtel weren't looking. It'll take some time for the dust, or the mud, to settle: who's paying for what (Bechtel said today they'd cover their 'fair share'); what the impact will be on traffic; what the impact will be on city government; how many young Bostonians will grow up with nightmares of dying in underground floods. Take comfort kids -- the Boston Harbor water leaking in is much cleaner than it would have been some decades ago, when the Dig started.

Meanwhile, I think the best way to keep the spirit of futile resentment running high is for the federal government -- who have been paying for a lot of this mess -- to lend Boston the banner that George Bush flew on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln in April of 2003: "Mission Accomplished!" The north end of the Zakim bridge would be good place for it -- the last thing southbound commuters will see before they plunge into the Central Artery tunnel. And remember, that won't be a ghostly car wash attendant you see standing and waving at the entryway. It'll be the Babe, still with us -- and not likely to be leaving real soon.

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