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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.

When Dust Settles, Backers Still See Projects On Reclaimed Artery

By Mac Daniel, Globe Staff, 04/12/2000

Nancy Caruso heads the North End/Waterfront Central Artery Committee, a group of eight residents who have met every Tuesday the past eight years to plan and promote their community's windfall once the gaping hole of the Big Dig is filled.

They are hoping for a community center, a clubhouse, something that they can call their own after years of putting up with the dust, the noise, and the hassle of the project.

When yesterday's news of a federal audit upped the Big Dig's price tag to $13.6 billion while castigating project managers for hiding escalating costs, Caruso didn't bat an eye.

"They wouldn't dare, at this time, go back on their promises," she said. "And if they do, I think you'll find that the political fallout will be so tremendous that they won't be able to hold their heads up."

Caruso's cautious optimism was heard throughout a crowd of residents, property owners, and businessmen gathered last night in Faneuil Hall to discuss how to use land opened by the Central Artery project, which some residents now fear is in jeopardy.

After days filled with news about the impending shortfall, officials sponsoring the public meeting and workshop didn't mention the audit or its impact on the artery's surface restoration, a project that has taken 15 years of planning to decide what to do with the 27-acre-long corridor.

Planners said they are locked into a commitment the surface will be 75 percent open space and 25 percent development, but there was little certainty about anything else last night.

"We have a budget in place. We have funding in place. That's doesn't stop," said Terry Brown, spokesman for the Central Artery project. "There's no hint that this is going to stop. No one is proposing that. No one has raised that issue. We're here to do what we set out to do."

The Rev. Stephen T. Ayres, vicar at the Old North Church, said he wants to make sure something is done to find room for tourist buses that are a windfall to his church and community.

He said residents are "mad that they were deceived" but said it's also too early to tell what the outcome on the surface restoration project will be.

"It may get cut short and there may be more pressure to do more commercial development, but if we don't rush to do the wrong thing immediately, we might be able to do the right thing later," he said.

Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company
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