The Big Boondoggle

1216304968Like it or not, the Big Dig is going to define Boston for decades to come. What was once celebrated as an engineering marvel has resulted in a death and also serves as a cautionary tale to other cities who want to rework the highways that run through them.

And now, the project’s price tag has skyrocketed to $22 billion.

The Globe throws a slew of sobering statistics our way this morning. Thanks to interest on loans taken out to complete the tunnels and roads, the project, which was originally slated to cost a mere $2.6 billion, will now tip the scales at almost ten times that much. Worse, we’re footing the bill: Massachusetts residents have paid 73 percent of the cost through taxes and tolls.

Then there’s the impact it has on the rest of the state’s transportation infrastructure. The Longfellow Bridge? The Red Line is still crawling across the span, because the state doesn’t have the resources to actually fix it.

How do we know things have gotten really bad? The phrase “crushing debt” appeared in today’s paper an unprecedented three crushing times.

But at least local leaders have a plan to deal with the looming fiscal crisis. Right?

“The Big Dig saddled us with costs we can’t afford,” said Bernard Cohen, secretary of transportation. “We are grappling with that legacy now. There are no easy answers.”

“There is a funding gap,” said [Turnpike chairman Alan] LeBovidge. “It’s a large number, and I don’t have a magic wand.”

So far, the answer adopted by Governor Deval Patrick and his administration is a familiar one: Borrow more money to meet current transportation needs.

Somebody hold us (especially when we’re riding over the Longfellow).