The Big Dig There is a cynicism that hangs over the topic of American infrastructure – whether it's high-speed rail or off-shore wind – it feels like this country can't build big things anymore. No one project embodies that cynicism quite like what Bostonians call 'The Big Dig.' Infamous for its ever-increasing price tag, this massive highway tunneling effort was once ridiculed as the Big Mess, the Big Hole, the Big Pig, the Big Lie. But now, decades later the story looks more complicated. So how did the narrative around this project go so horribly wrong? And what lessons can it offer for the ambitious projects of today? The nine episode series is produced by GBH News and hosted by Ian Coss.
The Big Dig

The Big Dig

From WGBH Radio

There is a cynicism that hangs over the topic of American infrastructure – whether it's high-speed rail or off-shore wind – it feels like this country can't build big things anymore. No one project embodies that cynicism quite like what Bostonians call 'The Big Dig.' Infamous for its ever-increasing price tag, this massive highway tunneling effort was once ridiculed as the Big Mess, the Big Hole, the Big Pig, the Big Lie. But now, decades later the story looks more complicated. So how did the narrative around this project go so horribly wrong? And what lessons can it offer for the ambitious projects of today? The nine episode series is produced by GBH News and hosted by Ian Coss.

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Introducing: "What Is Owed?"

An episode from a new GBH News Podcast about reparations: "When a City Tries to Heal Itself" Boston, a city entrenched in the history of the American Revolution, creates a task force to explore the city's history of slavery and economic discrimination and to consider reparations for Black citizens. The effort is delicately balanced to navigate political challenges – and yet it is immediately beset with delay and mismanaging, leading some city residents to wonder whether Boston is really serious. ——— Credits: Host, Producer and Writer: Saraya Wintersmith Senior Producer: Jerome Campbell Editorial Assistant: Mara Mellits Editor: Paul Singer Production oversight: Lee Hill Mixing & Sound Design: David Goodman and Gary Mott Theme Song and original music: Malik Williams Artwork: Matt Welch and Mamie-Hawa Bawoh Project Manager: Meiqian He Managing Producer for GBH Podcasts: Devin Maverick Robins

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Part 9: Hearts and Minds

It's been fifty years since the Big Dig was first conceived, thirty years since construction began, more than a dozen years since it was completed – and the final twist is: the project has largely delivered on its promises. How do we reconcile that reality with the scandal and outrage we've heard so much about? Credits: Host and scriptwriter: Ian Coss Executive Producer: Devin Maverick Robins Producers: Isabel Hibbard and Ian Coss Editor: Lacy Roberts Editorial Advisor: Stephanie Leydon Fact Checker: Lisa Wardle Scoring and Music Supervision: Ian Coss Project Manager: Meiqian He

Part 8: I Want Justice for What Happened

Just as the project turns the corner towards completion, its entire legacy becomes clouded. The tunnels are leaking, concrete suppliers are being arrested, and everyday drivers are forced to wonder: are these tunnels safe? Credits: Host and scriptwriter: Ian Coss Executive Producer: Devin Maverick Robins Producers: Isabel Hibbard and Ian Coss Editor: Lacy Roberts Editorial Advisor: Stephanie Leydon Fact Checker: Lisa Wardle Scoring and Music Supervision: Ian Coss Project Manager: Meiqian He

Part 7: The Turnpike Revolt

By the year 2000, the Big Dig has passed through many hands, but in its final years a power struggle spills into public view – over who will determine the project's fate, and who will take responsibility for its mistakes. Credits: Host and scriptwriter: Ian Coss Executive Producer: Devin Maverick Robins Producers: Isabel Hibbard and Ian Coss Editor: Lacy Roberts Editorial Advisor: Stephanie Leydon Fact Checker: Lisa Wardle Scoring and Music Supervision: Ian Coss Project Manager: Meiqian He

Part 6: The Up Down Charts

As work progresses through the 1990s and the tunnels take shape, the true cost of the Big Dig remains unknown to the public, until a series of revelations pulls down the curtain and shakes confidence in the whole project. Credits: Host and scriptwriter: Ian Coss Executive Producer: Devin Maverick Robins Producers: Isabel Hibbard and Ian Coss Editor: Lacy Roberts Editorial Advisor: Stephanie Leydon Fact Checker: Lisa Wardle Scoring and Music Supervision: Ian Coss Project Manager: Meiqian He

Part 5: Hatchet Man vs. the 800 Pound Gorilla

In 1991, the Big Dig is handed off to a new leader – the brash, aggressive, hatchet-toting Jim Kerasiotes – who makes it clear he plans to shake things up. The one thing he can't shake is the equally aggressive private company managing the project. Now they have to work together. Credits: Host and scriptwriter: Ian Coss Executive Producer: Devin Maverick Robins Producers: Isabel Hibbard and Ian Coss Editor: Lacy Roberts Editorial Advisor: Stephanie Leydon Fact Checker: Lisa Wardle Scoring and Music Supervision: Ian Coss Project Manager: Meiqian He

Part 4: The Double Cross

The project faces an unexpected challenge on the home front: resistance from local environmentalists and residents – the very people the Big Dig was intended to please. Now, they say that Fred Salvucci has lost his way.

Part 3: All Politics is Local

The Big Dig needs federal funding. House Speaker Tip O'Neill is determined to get it; President Ronald Reagan is determined to stop it – setting up a final showdown in one of the great political rivalries of the 20th century.

Part 2: Unholy Alliance

In the early 1970s a radical idea took shape: tearing down Boston's elevated downtown highway, and rebuilding it underground. But making it happen will require a grand bargain between two competing tunnel projects, and between bitter enemies.