Big dig, local tunnel

After 15 years and $15B, Boston’s ‘Big Dig’ is nearing completion.

Officially known as the Central Artery Tunnel Project, the Big Dig is an ambitious technological and engineering feat. Without a doubt, the project is the largest and most complex highway project undertaken in American history.

The Big Dig’s main purpose is two-fold:

  • Expand and bury Interstate 93 — portions of which are currently elevated — through the downtown core, thereby increasing efficiency and capacity
  • Reclaim the above-ground parcels — some 150 acres in all — as a park-like corridor.

As can be imagined, much squabbling has taken place over construction costs, time and plans. And, after more than 10 years of scoping and planning, the final designs for the park-like corridor still remain unfinished.

The unfortunate part is that the project cast a wide shadow on other ambitious transportation projects across the nation as it ballooned from an initial estimate of $3B to the current total of $15B, and in the process, consumed a lot of federal highway money. But, in the end, Boston will no doubt benefit from it.

On the local front, there too is an ambitious transportation project involving tunneling. Still in the very early stages of initial planning, the project also involves the burying of a highway, only this would be a new highway and it would bore through a 5,000 ft. tall mountain range.

The project — as yet untitled — would extend Riverside County’s newly planned Cajalco Expressway just south of Corona through the Santa Ana Mountains toward Irvine in southern Orange County. Estimated to be approximately 11 miles, the tunnel would be one of the world’s longest. It is also projected to be one of the most heavily used.

“The tunnel is clearly a world-class mega project,” said, Jeffrey Brunetti, vice president of the Bechtel Infrastructure Corp. It would take roughly 10 years to build and could accommodate as many as six lanes and 110,000 vehicle trips a day, said Brunetti, who illustrated his company’s tunneling capabilities to the committee.

Riverside Press-Enterprise – December 20, 2003

Actual approval and funding for any possible local tunnel are still many years off.

(2024 UPDATE: Plans for a proposed tunnel between Corona and Irvine through the Cleveland National Forest did not get beyond the proposal/study stage. Although found to be feasible, the proposal was dropped in 2010 primarily due to cost.)


  • Boston Globe – Beyond the Big Dig

Sources: Riverside Press-Enterprise (PE-20031220), Boston Globe, Orange County Register (OCR-20100205, OCR-20100827)

2024 PAGE UPDATE: Added newspaper citation/insert; removed outdated links to newspaper article and Related content.

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