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The Big Dig :: Tunnel Construction Essays

The Big Dig The Central Artery Tunnel Project, more commonly known as the Big Dig, is said to be the largest, most complex and technologically challenging highway project in American history. It is the culmination of decades of planning and forethought and is hoped to alleviate the traffic congestion that has plagued the Boston area since the invention of the automobile. The project incorporates a major underground highway system, a revolutionary cable-stayed bridge, and a series of impressive tunnel crossings, each a considerable feat on their own, all constructed in the midst of a bustling city. The idea for a Central Artery through Boston has been talked about since a 1909 special commission determined that a 100-foot wide road should be built through the center of downtown Boston. Little was done with the project until the 1940Ï€s when Boston city planners saw on the horizon a tremendous proliferation of automobiles and decided something must be done. The Massachusetts Department of Public Works eventually came up with a plan that called for an elevated highway 1.5 miles long through the heart of downtown Boston, accompanied by an Inner Belt that wrapped around downtown Boston to the west. In 1948 City and State officials approved a master plan, construction commenced in 1950. As soon as construction had started it became quite clear that the supposedly revolutionary highway had major flaws. The roadway devoured and divided neighborhoods, cut off the city from waterfront, and created confusing traffic situations below. In 1954, it was decided to sink the rest of the roadway underground. Once completed the artery was able to handle about 75,000 vehicles a day. However, a lack of breakdown lanes, an abundance of on and off ramps, and numerous sharp curves makes the artery a treacherous drive. Residents were so unhappy with the Central Artery that officials decided not to build the Inner Belt. That meant that the Central Artery had to handle all of the traffic that was meant to be split between the two. This only exacerbated the existing problems. By the 1980Ï€s conditions on the road had worsened so much that officials were forced to once again step in. Toda the Central Artery carries 190,000 vehicles a day. It has an accident rate four times the national average for urban highways, and is backed up bumper-to-bumper six to eight hours a day.