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Are we as ignorant about the water crisis in Cape Town as one architect there is about the Big Dig?

It seems that, in addition to its ongoing water shortage, Cape Town has a transportation problem that it was planning to solve by constructing a bunch of elevated highways. Now the city has canceled the whole thing, and the architect whose company submitted the winning bid for the work is pretty bitter - bitter enough to write a long, ranty screed about how stupid and shortsighted the city's being and how elevated highways are just so superior to sticking the highways in tunnel.

Highway in a tunnel, you say? Hmm, where is he going with this? Oh, of course:

The big dig bankrupted the City of Boston as well as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts - and is regretted to this day. The tunnels failed and workers died. Commuters died. Boston is a city mired in debt and regret.

Yes, the costs skyrocketed, and T riders have particular reason to bemoan the project (if nowhere near as much as the family of that poor woman who died because of shoddy construction). But, no, neither the city nor the state went bankrupt, and we're not mired in debt and regret.

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no workers died constructing the elevated highways that the Big Dig replaced and no commuters ever died on them, right?

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Sorry to break it to you, but yes we are. A lot.

Debt from Big Dig hampers Mass. transportation
By Bob Salsberg
Associated Press / April 8, 2012

BOSTON—For nearly a decade, traffic has been zipping through Boston's Big Dig tunnels, the nation's costliest highway project that has also left a gaping financial hole in the state's transportation budget that isn't likely to be filled anytime soon.
...
State debt associated with the $15 billion project is spread among a variety of agencies and funded by several revenue sources, making it difficult to pinpoint the state's exact obligations. The Patrick administration has requested $101.5 million in the next fiscal year to pay debt service on special bonds issued for Central Artery/Tunnel -- the official name of the Big Dig -- but officials estimate the state's total annual debt burden related to the project at $417 million.

Not included in the figure is $1.6 billion in debt issued by the now-defunct Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and covered by turnpike tolls. Also not included is the $1.7 billion in debt that was shifted to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in 2000 and became a flashpoint during the recent T fare hike discussions.

Advocates for riders have argued it is unconscionable to ask people who ride buses and trains to help pay for a project that benefits motorists and have demanded that the state assume the T's portion of the Big Dig debt.

http://archive.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2012/04/08/d...

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That debt could be erased if we paid for it through registration fees and such.

Which is why we all have plenty of water despite record drought two years ago - people who used the water had to pay for the water. If MassDOT was like MWRA, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

2012 was six years ago, too.

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That debt is caused by spoiled drivers not paying for the roads they use. Raise the gas tax to near what other first world countries have and the debt would be gone.

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Bbbbut I have a right to drive and to own a giant SUV and to cheap gas. There's no other possible way to get around! This is unconstitutional! Unpatriotic! Make those stupid cyclists pay for roads they use!

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The truth hurts. Maybe Boston should have a Big Dig debt clock somewhere Downtown. Make the debt numbers painfully obvious 24/7/365

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The clock would be counting down to when the bonds are paid off. The Big Dig is over. No new bonds. No new debt.

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Will dwindle somewhat, but when interest kicks in it will go up. Over time, the $20 BILLION PLUS number will decrease, but slightly.

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Bonds were issued to handle the debt. It's kind of like taking out a mortgage for your house. The principle slowly gets chipped away, accelerating towards the end.

Of course, back in 2008 the Commonwealth was screwed because of the instruments they used to issue the debt, but things got restructured.

The federal government, on the other hand, issues new bonds for debt constantly. Hence, the New York debt clock can do what it does. However, since you are talking about debt on a single project whose contractors have all been paid off, the clock would be a countdown clock.

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There isn't all the money to bury roads and money is better spent on treating hiv, malnutrition, infectious diseases, clean water, and better housing for millions who live in shacks.

Per the article, only a tiny minority of the population can afford to live in the city center. Do they indulge the rich with more immensities like buried highways? Is a more pleasant walk to shipping docks worth those billions?

But, you might be thinking that black gold and diamond minors would much rather dig highways instead. It's all for white people, one way or another.

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In fact, it will make it worse as impervious surfaces and heat island effects of paving everything cause droughts to intensify.

You are correct that it is all about the wealthy and privileged, though.

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Well... I regret that they didn’t just tear down the artery at the beginning to make the project easier to build as cut and cover, that they didn’t build the North-South Rail Link (and maybe some extra subway tunnels), that they then didn’t announce that to avoid going over budget they’d have to not build the car tunnel after all, and I regret that they didn’t restore most of the original street grid.

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The Big Dig had a lot of transit commitments which weren't fulfilled. How the MBTA became saddled with debt from the road project, which is the real reason for underinvestment in facilities, maintenance, and staffing, is still difficult to understand. Imagine the tremendous economic boon that would have come from building important regional rail links like the North/South Station commuter rail connection back in the 90s or early 00s. We would be enjoying the fruits now: walkable commuter suburbs, better access to cheaper housing in places we actually can stand to live and don't have to drive everywhere. The T has been subsidizing drivers for decades so in a way it is entirely correct to say the Big Dig left the city mired in debt.

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Paid $0 for the Big Dig.

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Anyone who doesn't remember how dank and dark it was under the artery probably was too young or too removed to remember how bad it was. Sure there were many issues with the project or unfulfilled promises, but anything one can do to remove elevated roads is worth it.

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Despite the excessive lanes of car traffic where the artery once was, the plantings on the greenway have reduced the heat storage in the area compared to what it used to be.

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Correct, the city made a tidy profit off the big dig. The city needed a full-time employee just to track all the overtime and details collected by BPD and BFD people who got work out of the Big Dig.

If you live in Boston, the Big Dig was a great deal. If you live to the west and have to pay $5 in tolls everyday to pay for Boston's overpriced infrastructure which you rarely use, then it's not a great deal.

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Thanks for straightening me out, I'm a lay person commenting and tend of think of "the city" as "the places you can get to without a car." The Big Dig left our mass transit system with a tremendous financial burden while simultaneously deferring many major systemic improvements that would have benefited and encouraged transit ridership. It is bafflingly myopic, it should have been a win/win. The Big Dig was built on the backs of transit riders, who got decades of hemming and hawing while the system deteriorated instead of growing as it could have.

MBTA seem to have some wind in their sails now, although TNCs are skimming a critical share of their ridership. Smart but urgent action is needed. Let's start with debt forgiveness and reinvestment to mend the broken parts of the system and accelerate the expansion of the rail network.

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I thought he details went to the State Police and, surprisingly, Suffolk County Deputy Sheriffs. It was really weird seeing Suffolk County Sheriff's Department vehicles anywhere aside from around the Jail, House of Correction, and perhaps somewhere in between those places and a courthouse.

Also, since there were no occupied buildings in the Big Dig, the BFD were SOL when it came to overtime.

In short, law enforcement officers who most likely didn't live in Boston got a good deal, so thank your neighbors for your tolls. And get an EZ Pass. The bridge and tunnel tolls for Massachusetts residents tops out at $3.00 round trip. 128 to South Station is $1.70 each way, meaning if you live along Route 128 and take the Pike to the airport, you are talking $3.20 each way.

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is my Paula Cole tribute band.

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The MBTA is mired in debt and regret, the city of Boston is doing quite well.

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That article is amazing. What the heck was that guy smoking?! Here's an idea. Get rid of the freeways. They have no place in a dense urban environment. Whether they are elevated, in a tunnel, or at ground level, they pump too many cars onto streets that cannot and should not handle them. Cities are for people. If he truly cares about equity and social justice, he should be promoting urban design that allows people to walk. For moving longer distances, high quality public transit should serve that need. His renderings show street-life killing towers along huge roads with no people in sight: Le Corbusier bullshit that has been thoroughly disproven as a realistic, healthy, or economically sustainable model for how cities should be structured.

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There are good architects don't get me wrong. But there are also the elitist crybaby architects that can cause millions in damages. Boston got hit hard back in the 60s. One of the architects that was rejected for the Boston City Hall commission [ Paul Rudolph ] was so enraged he designed a Boston state office building [ Gov Services Center ] to be his counter City Hall design. The state building has never worked and is now an ugly money-pit. Further out in New England. A developer built a mid-rise in New Haven thats straight outta the Seaport [ 360 State ]. The local New Urbanist architects declared war and forced the city to build a New Urbanist wrapper building as a counter protest [ Live Work Learn Play ]. If its ever built, the wrapper building would send New Haven into bankruptcy. Crybaby architects can do some incredible damage. Cape Town is breathing a sigh of relief. Boston & New England should be prepped for the next crybaby

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Heard for ages that the Big Dig / engineering business was a Fiasco under Romney, etc, during the Partrick years. This has suddenly changed due to the Patrick Legacy?

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Your history is mixed up it mixed up. The Big Dig was started under Dukakis, and completed under Weld, Celluci, and Swift. Romney was the guy who fired Amorello after the tunnel ceiling tile collapsed. Patrick took office long after the Dig was completed.

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If you are saying that somehow the furor over the Big Dig has died down, you might be right, but it has nothing to do with Patrick or Romney.

While it was being built (we'll call that the Cellucci/Swift era) there was major cost overruns that were covered up to the extent that the US Department of Transportation might not have provided the matching funds they did. When they found out, the refused to match any of the overruns or future costs, which caused all sorts of fiscal issues. Around the time of completion, the Herald ran a story noting the cost including future interest on bonds taken out to finance it, thus making the actual cost jump, BS in my books since no one takes out a mortgage thinking about the total interest payments, only the monthly payment due.

So, it opened in the Romney administration, and there were troubles. At first, the big one was the leaking water, not in the tunnel that actually went under the water, but a tunnel under land that was poorly sealed. Then someone got killed by a falling beam.

Romney leaves office to run for President and Patrick takes office. Since then, there have been no new failures in the tunnels and somehow the monthly payments on the bonds are made without much pain. Time passes, people grow to like the results of the project, so we don't quite think it's a bad project. Until, of course, someone proposes another project like it.

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Elevated highways might be a bit too advanced. Perhaps they should start with a n aqueduct.

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