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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.

Groups At Odds Over Funding For Surface Artery

Public, Private Sources Advised During Meeting

By Thomas C. Palmer Jr., Globe Staff, 05/10/2001

Environmental and business interests formed an unlikely alliance yesterday to argue before lawmakers that a constant stream of public funds will be needed to keep the new downtown atop the completed Big Dig from falling into ruin.

The Surface Artery Commission, which has been striving since last fall to determine who will control and pay for the new public space, met yesterday to discuss an early version of what may eventually become a law about the governance of the surface artery by the end of the year.

The draft plan, which leaves many questions unanswered, proposes that maintenance costs be paid for by private companies and an initial endowment.

But Patrice Todisco of the Boston Greenspace Alliance and Richard A. Dimino, president of the Artery Business Committee, criticized the plan.

"These are public places, open spaces, and we're going to recommend that there's not public support for maintenance?" an incredulous Todisco asked Representative Joseph C. Sullivan (D-Braintree), a commission co-chairman.

Todisco said that despite contributions from private-sector neighbors of the Artery Corridor and interest from what is expected to be a sizable one-time endowment from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, parks and other open space would require more money.

The tab for operating and maintaining the land is expected to be at least $4 million a year.

"The operation and maintenance program should be a combination of public resources shared by the state and city, and obviously the private sector needs to take a role as well," Dimino said.

Without annual contributions from the city of Boston and a state agency, Dimino said, "It would badly position the future of these open spaces."

James Rooney, who continues to represent Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino on the commission despite having left City Hall to oversee construction of the new state convention center, said Boston anticipates contributing.

Sources said that meetings between Menino, Sullivan, and another Surface Commission co-chairman, Senator Robert A. Havern III (D-Arlington), over the past six weeks have resulted in little progress.

Commission members have agreed on the general outline of a board that would govern the new open space.

But, said Sullivan, "We've never been on a course to create a public funding source for this."

Thomas C. Palmer Jr. can be reached by e-mail at palmer@globe.com.

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