WGBH News Focus: The MBTA

The Big Dig: $23 Billion and Counting

By Sarah Birnbaum

July 11, 2012

big dig tunnel

The Tip O'Neill Tunnel, part of the Big Dig. (Wikimedia)

STATE HOUSE, Boston — At a Beacon Hill oversight hearing on July 10, Massachusetts transportation officials said the Big Dig debt is starving other road and bridge projects statewide.
At the hearing, state transportation officials said the total cost of the Big Dig, including interest on borrowing, has grown to more than $23 billion. It is the costliest highway project in the nation’s history.


Dana Levenson, the chief financial officer for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, said the Big Dig is preventing the Commonwealth from doing work on other transportation projects.

“The magnitude of the debt and the attendant debt service required by the Commonwealth, MassDOT and the MBTA certainly keeps us from tackling not only desirable but necessary capital projects for the good of the Commonwealth, its taxpayers and transportation users,” Levenson said.

This year, the Department of Transportation will pay $129 million in debt service alone on the Big Dig. The state will pay somewhere north of $300 million. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will pay $125 million. And the interest payments are going up.

State Transportation Secretary Rich Davey said the current administration didn’t create the problem — but they still have to deal with it.

“I told the assistant minority leader that I think I was in grammar school when it started," Davey said. "We didn’t build it. But it's ours to manage.”

Furthermore, in order to get approval for the Big Dig, the state had to agree to build several large transit projects, including the extension of several commuter rail lines. The Green Line Extension is expected to cost $1.3 billion, adding to the state's Big Dig financial obligations.


About WGBH News Focus: The MBTA

Love it, like it or lump it, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority touches nearly everyone's lives in eastern Mass. And it's in financial crisis, with newly announced fare hikes not enough to cover next year's projected $100 million budget deficit. WGBH News features special focus coverage of the tracks and troubles of our public transit system.

About the Author
Sarah Birnbaum
Sarah Birnbaum is WGBH News' State House reporter. Send her a news tip.

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The Fare and Service Plan

On July 1, the T will introduce fare increases and service cuts to cover a $159 million budget gap for the next fiscal year. Read the plan on mbta.com.


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