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Beyond The Big Dig
About this project

What happens to the ribbon of land being created by the depression of the Central Artery may be the most important development decision to face Boston in a generation.

Pike Board Angered By Menino Proposal On Artery Corridor

By Thomas C. Palmer Jr., Globe Staff, 02/28/2001

Angry Massachusetts Turnpike Authority board members said yesterday they would fight any attempt by the City of Boston to control the new Surface Artery corridor space but pass the cost on to others.

As Turnpike Chairman Andrew Natsios prepares to leave for a new job in the Bush administration, board members Jordan Levy and Christy Mihos vigorously objected to Mayor Thomas M. Menino's recent proposal that Boston dominate a new commission to oversee the vast public space being created by the Big Dig.

"This is a rape for the people that live in the other 350 cities and towns," Levy said during yesterday's board meeting.

Natsios and Mihos voted against Levy's proposal that the Turnpike Authority withdraw $15 million the authority promised two years ago that would be used to build parks.

Levy and Mihos said the Turnpike cannot afford to spend more on the Big Dig. "We're about tapped out," said Mihos.

Including the $15 million voted on yesterday, the Big Dig will be investing about $65 million in rebuilding the open space along the 30-acre corridor from Kneeland Street to Causeway Street.

Menino yesterday showed no sign of backing down.

In a speech to Boston business leaders, he called on the state to give the city control of the corridor. "The city is in the best position to lead development of the property," Menino said in a press release on the speech.

The topic of who will own or control the land and who will pay millions of dollars annually to maintain it is to come up again this morning at the Legislature's Surface Artery Commission meeting.

Natsios is one of 12 members on the panel, which is charged with securing funding and drawing up a governing structure for the valuable new real estate. He, along with commission members who represent the state, were furious at the city's recent move.

Under the city's plan, the Turnpike would pay half the estimated $4.2 million annual maintenance cost but would have little control over the land or how the money is spent.

"It's sort of like turning over a credit card to your 21-year-old daughter or son, and you have to pay," said Natsios who is leaving to become head of the US Agency for International Development.

Ten years ago the Massachusetts Highway Department paid Boston $44 million for the land so that the new underground Central Artery could be built. The Turnpike itself is contributing about $1.7 billion to the Big Dig's total price tag of $14 billion.

Mihos said he voted to approve the $15 million contribution for parks because it was a promise made by the Turnpike Authority. Natsios predicted "it would cause a furor" among open-space advocates and residents if the Turnpike withdrew its financial pledge.

Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company
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