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Bostonians Get Big Dig Project Tour

August 26, 2002

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BOSTON (AP) _ Officials opened a window into Boston’s underbelly Sunday, allowing hundreds of thousands of people to stroll along a segment of the huge underground tunnel dubbed the ``Big Dig.″

Visitors said they couldn’t give up the chance to get their feet on a stretch of history in the making.

``I just say to myself, gee, what if I could have told my grandchildren I could have walked on the Brooklyn Bridge just as it was being built,″ said Richard Brody, 49, who descended a cavernous entryway called Glory Hole 52 with his 8-year-old son.

``You have a historical perspective, and that’s a benchmark in time.″

The tour had the ambiance of a summer festival, as a massive line of visitors snaked past a jazz band, between pylons festooned with balloons and volunteers hawking commemorative mugs.

The endeavor, officially known as the Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel Project, will sink two miles of Interstate 93 beneath the city at a cost of about $14.6 billion.

Intended to relieve congestion on Boston’s urban corridor, the project will tear down the existing elevated highway, open up valuable downtown property and reconnect Boston’s waterfront with its downtown.

``The green monster separated the city, and now we’re going to put the city back together again,″ said Mayor Thomas M. Menino, referring to the seaweed green highway that once was Boston’s most prominent eyesore.

``They’ve really performed a miracle.″

The northbound tunnel open for Sunday’s tour is scheduled to open to traffic in December, while southbound lanes are to be completed the following December.

The entire project is expected to be completed in late 2004 or early 2005.

Big Dig’s official Web site calls it ``the largest, most complex and technologically challenging highway project ever attempted in American history.″

But the tunnel has its skeptics.

David Guterman, who hoisted his 8-year-old daughter onto his shoulders for a view over the crowd, said he was impressed but doubted the new expressway would solve traffic congestion.

``I don’t know if they’ll have any more room for cars than they did before,″ he said.


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