March 14, 2006


From The Boston Globe: Kerry to put hold on Bush nomination for top highway job


Why do I find the issue of who will be the next head of the Federal Highway Authority so amusing? Because Bush's nomination, Richard Kapka, used to be head of the Big Dig!

The Big Dig, if you don't know, is Boston's white elephant of a 'solution' to traffic congestion downtown. It started, if you can believe this, in 1982 (almost twenty-five years ago!!!), with the goal of taking Interstate 93 from the surface of downtown Boston, and putting the entire thing underneath downtown Boston, instead.

(It continued a rich history of retahded construction projects in the city, including a multi-storey downtown carpark that was designed and built without taking into account the weight of all the cars that would be parked inside it; and, of course, the creation of half the city by filling the bay with dirt instead of, I don't know, expanding into the interior of the newly discovered, completely undeveloped country on the back doorstep.)

Anyway, the Big Dig has become the stuff of local lore, because, as I said, it's been going on for a quarter of a freakin' century, has cost oodles of billions of dollars, and is, in general, the most poorly planned and problem-ridden piece of civil engineering in the history of the universe. Kapka's reign over the project spanned my first year at Emerson, during which the following foul-ups occurred:

•Some of the tunnels open, finally! Then they're closed again because they leak and the roof occasionally collapses.

•It's revealed that the stretch of road that is supposed to connect the underground portion of I-93 to the brand spanking new Zakim Bridge (which carries the highway over the Charles river) had been planned to go straight through the Fleet Centre (where the Bruins play), because, OOPS!, the planners forgot to draw the Fleet Centre on their maps. So there are some hasty revisions and some really sharp curves added.

•One of the tunnels is accidentally built with an extra curve in it, and now leads directly into the bowels of hell.

Okay, so I made that last one up, but still: they want to put this man in charge of ALL Federal Highways?! My God, that would be like appointing an ambassador to the UN who is completely undiplomatic!

Oh. Well. At least they didn't send Kapka to Iraq. Yet.


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