Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Boston's Big Dig debacle

Poor Boston. What a grotesque tale of modern values has beset the city. The Big Dig, the epic work of urban engineering which was to lead the world and liberate the city in streamlining high-density traffic management has turned out to be a humiliating nightmare of rorts and shortcuts. It was such an exciting venture, the biggest of its kind in the world, which would transform the city, removing the "Green Monster" of ugly elevated roads which slashed through the city, turning tenements into prime real estate and liberating waste land to parks for the people. I remember going to the Big Dig's display seven years ago when the venture was the pride of the city, marvelling at the sophisticated way in which the harbour mud would be removed to make new traffic tunnels... In ensuing years we have ventured into the city always wary of the delays which have blighted Bostonians as they waited for the venture to be completed. Closed roads, construction sites, detours, jams of crawling cars... But it would all be worth it in the end. Now the end has come and it is closed roads, construction sites, detours and jams of crawling cars. Why? Because contractors took shortcuts, because everyone has to cut a corner and save money. So now, bolts suspending tunnel roofs have not been properly secured and not tested at all. Because a hapless woman was killed when a chunk of concrete ceiling fell on her car. Because even the great jet fans which keep the air clean on the tunnel ramps may not be safely suspended. Big Dig tunnels are closed indefinitely. Cheap bolt and epoxy fasteners are blamed - and a lack of safety checking. A lack of safety checking! Apparently it would have been expensive to check. So checks were not made. It would have required taking down ceiling panels to check the safety of their bolts. The contractors did not want to do that. Everyone was trying to cut costs as the price of the Big Dig blew out.
So much so that one enterprising worker actually tried to secure one of the bolts with duct tape! Perchance it was the safest bolt. Let's face it, a lot of the world is held together with duct tape.

This is the era of cost-cutting. This also is the era of people growing absurdly rich. It is the economic rationalists' path to success - success being wealth and a personal goal which abnegates altruism or public interest.
Boston is now in the middle of a desperate blame game in which lawyers will be the only winners.

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