Massachusetts didn’t launch the Big Dig as a moneymaking scheme. The Central Artery tunnel project was aimed at streamlining traffic below ground, and repairing the highway-scarred streets above. Project planners considered the short-term costs to be secondary to the long-term benefits that would flow to residents, businesses, and visitors, and that philosophy has guided the development of the parkland and buildings that replaced the elevated Central Artery.
That enlightened era looks endangered now. A group of Boston residents charged with vetting development on one of the last unclaimed Central Artery development parcels believes the state is contemplating making a cash grab along the Artery. A state official has told community members that the state is preparing to offer a key piece of land along the Rose Kennedy Greenway to the highest bidder. Such a move would be short-sighted, and run counter to two years of planning. Even more, by elevating cash considerations above civic ones, the state is potentially turning decades of Artery planning upside-down.