Don’t Make Us Come Down There, Rhode Island

1195139474The Big Dig is like that crazy relative you make fun of all the time. Sure, you’re allowed to laugh at his foibles, but if an outsider ventures a comment, the gloves come off. Therefore, we’re a little angry with our tiny neighbor to the south, who thinks its own major highway project is too good to be associated with the Big Dig.

The Providence Journal reports that the Rhode Island Department of Transportation will spend $500,000 on a publicity campaign to brand its Iway project, which relocated the I-95 and I-195 interchange in Providence. The hefty budget will mainly be used to assure drivers the project isn’t associated with the Big Dig. (To view the whole article, you’ll have to register.)

Why focus a four-year public-relations campaign on attaching a made-up name to a one-mile stretch of highway that’s only a short piece of another, much longer highway?

Fear that people would start calling it something else, in particular the “Little Dig,” a backhanded reference to the Boston highway project. The “Big Dig” capped a history of cost overruns and delays last year, when a woman died because a poorly built tunnel ceiling fell on her car.

“We wanted to name it, and not have somebody else name it something less fortunate,” said Dana Alexander Nolfe, the DOT’s chief public affairs officer. She said she had started hearing “Little Dig” before the DOT launched the Iway campaign almost exactly two years ago.

A former coworker of ours cutely named the project the “Diglet,” which is a much better name than Little Dig. Or Iway, for that matter. First of all, it sounds like something that should play music and videos. Secondly, anyone who’s been near an Apple store in the past decade knows the initial letter is lowercase, so it should be called the iWay.

We don’t know why Rhode Island has to hate on our marvel of modern engineering. Sure, it’s a little leaky. Okay, it’s riddled with fraud. Yes, it’s killed someone. But you know what? Scandals like that get your huge construction project a ton of free advertising.

When those stories broke, all anyone talked about was the Big Dig. We didn’t need to waste money on a cutesy little slogan. (Which is probably a good thing, since we’d spent any money we would have had on cost overruns.) It’s a road, not a new kind of detergent—people are going to use it whether or not it has a podcast.

So you can keep your floating bridge and new media initiatives, Providence. We did the major highway project first, and while we may not have done it best, at least we didn’t blow a half-million dollars on a lame PR campaign.