In 1991, a megaproject known as the “Big Dig” commenced in Boston, Massachusetts — local and statewide officials sought to transform the cityscape and revitalize downtown Boston. This ambitious initiative, officially named the Central Artery/Tunnel Project, promised to improve transportation infrastructure and reshape the city’s urban environment. The results have been nothing short of remarkable, turning Boston into a more accessible, connected, and vibrant urban center.

Originally broadcast May 7, 2000, CBS “Sunday Morning” anchor Charles Osgood went underground to explore Boston’s Big Dig.

The cost of Boston’s Big Dig was tremendous — adjusted for inflation, the present day cost surpasses $24 billion, making it the second most expensive highway infrastructure project in American history, second only to the national interstate highway system.

Prior to the Big Dig, an elevated Interstate 93 ran through the heart of downtown Boston, separating much of the city from the waterfront and polluting it with traffic and noise. The megaproject sought to move the highway underground, in what ultimately proved to be one of humanity’s greatest feats of engineering. Though the project was long, arduous and expensive, the City of Boston reclaimed some 27 acres of prime real estate and, rather than turning it over to the highest bidder, preserved it in the form of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, an expansive urban park that now connects neighborhoods from Chinatown to the historic North End.

When I moved to the City of Boston last year, my top priority was to live on or near the greenway — not because it is beautiful and peaceful, which it is, but because of its incredible accessibility. Rolling in my wheelchair, the greenway provides an accessible path that connects me to so much of what Boston has to offer — top attractions like the New England Aquarium, Faneuil Hall, Boston Tea Party Museum, Boston Children’s Museum and the Paul Revere House are all within a few blocks of the greenway.

Greenway in downtown Boston.
Photo courtesy The Greenway Conservancy.

The Rose Kennedy Greenway is itself an attraction and a hub for activity and events. Visitors will delight in the many gardens, public art installations, fountains and food trucks which dot the greenway. There is even a wheelchair accessible carousel! Many of the city’s premier hotels, highest rated restaurants and popular watering holes border this public park, which is only a block away from South Station (the city’s largest transit hub, with connections to the airport and subway system). It truly does bring visitors to the heart of Boston.

Breathe Life Together mural by Rob “ProBlak” Gibbs.
Breathe Life Together mural by Rob “ProBlak” Gibbs. Photo courtesy G. Ortiz.

While Massachusetts taxpayers may continue to shoulder the burden of the Big Dig for years to come, the result of the project is something that all Bostonians — myself included — can be proud of. The greenway is not just a park, but an accessible gateway to our city, its diverse neighborhoods, and the incredible people and businesses that make Boston one of the premier tourist destinations in the United States.

In the coming months, I look forward to sharing more of my new hometown with you — we’ll explore the greenway, each of Boston’s 23 neighborhoods, and the surrounding area (including Salem on Halloween!) together. I hope you’ll be inspired to visit and discover all that Boston and greater New England has to offer and I’m confident you’ll find it to be one of the most amazing cities in the world.

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