Article Title

Beyond the Big Dig


For more than a decade, from the day that the decision was made to put Boston’s Central Artery underground, many forward-looking planners and designers have been conjuring up visions of the mile-long street-level corridor that would replace the elevated highway, reshaping the heart of downtown. By the end of 2001, the corridor had acquired a name, the Rose Kennedy Greenway, but work was far more advanced on the traffic tunnel underground than on the open space above. These precious twenty-seven acres had the potential to flower into a magnificent, vibrant urban oasis that would become known the world over. But some pessimists predicted they would soon deteriorate through indifferent maintenance and become barren dustyards, dividing the city as surely as the elevated highway had. During the first half of 2002, a unique public information campaign was mounted to encourage the former result, rather than the latter. Called Beyond the Big Dig, it included community forums, ambitious news coverage in the newspaper and on TV, a dynamic website, an expert panel discussion televised live from Faneuil Hall, a dinner with business leaders, and literally dozens of editorials and op ed columns. The conveners were the Boston Globe and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the core partners were WCVB-TV Channel 5 and the Boston.com website. But the project also drew on the active participation of many agencies and advocates, public, private, and nonprofit. Indeed, the very cooperation needed to plan the Beyond the Big Dig campaign likely contributed some badly needed collegiality to the Greenway planning. This article is written with the view that the Rose Kennedy Greenway is still a once-in-a-century opportunity for Boston to redefine its central district, that the Beyond the Big Dig campaign provides a useful lens through which to view Greenway planning during a key period, and that the campaign itself may be seen as a model that could be employed to good effect in addressing other complex public issues.

[Essay includes reprints of editorials that originally ran in the Boston Globe. Editorial authors: Robert Campbell, Jill Ker Conway, Hubie Jones, Laurie Olin, and Elizabeth Barlow Rogers.]



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