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2017 Greenway Gala Co-Chair Mike Carragher, VHB, Reflects on the Road to The Greenway

I was in college studying engineering at the University of Delaware in 1982 when planning for the Central Artery/Tunnel project (commonly known as the Big Dig) in Boston began with preparation of environmental impact documents. I had no knowledge of the project, and at the time, I never thought I would someday call Boston home (I’m from Philly!), let alone contribute, if even in a small way, to transforming the city into what it is today. The Central Artery/Tunnel—one of the nation’s most complex transportation and civil works projects —was a game changer for the City of Boston and New England. In fact, it set the stage for our urban, contemporary public park in the heart of Boston—The Rose Kennedy Greenway. For VHB, and for me personally, The Greenway has special meaning, which is why I’m honored to serve as co-chair of this year’s Greenway Gala, along with Jeffrey Beale, Chief Administration Officer of Eaton Vance.

Today, more than 1.4 million employees, visitors, and residents are brought together to explore the “roof garden atop a highway tunnel,” and many never imagined what it looked like prior to the 1.5 miles of lush grass, gardens, sculptures, unique water features, food trucks and so much more that adorns The Greenway today.

I took this photo on my phone last week on the way into the office – beautiful morning on the Greenway in Boston.

I took this photo on my phone last week on the way into the office – beautiful morning on the Greenway in Boston.

Picture an aging, rusted elevated six-lane highway (Interstate 93), with 27 on-and off-ramps blocking off the Boston Harbor waterfront area and dividing downtown neighborhoods from each other. Imagine the noise and constant rumbling of trucks…the fumes emanating while traffic sat uninterrupted 10+ hours a day. It is no wonder it had nicknames such as “the other green monster,” and “the distressway.” The Central Artery/Tunnel project relocated the elevated, deteriorating highway underground, presenting the opportunity to create unique open space gardens and parks and reconnect and transform Boston’s oldest neighborhoods. What was once “the largest parking lot in the world,” now stages world-renowned public art displays, hundreds of free public programs, a robust food truck program, free public Wi-Fi, organically maintained green spaces, water features, and the one-of-a-kind Greenway Carousel at The Tiffany & Co. Foundation Grove.

Very early in my career as a transportation engineer I moved to Boston from Philadelphia and took a job at Amman & Whitney. Most evenings some of the more senior folks at the company stayed late to work on a “confidential project.” The following day we would be asked to refine these plans that a team of Boston’s industry leaders had worked on the night before. I didn’t initially realize that these plans were laying the ground work for reshaping the city’s future. As it turned out, I was fortunate to be part of the development of the early concepts for I-90 through the Seaport and the Ted Williams Tunnel, which became an integral component  of the Central Artery/Tunnel project. About 10 years later at LS Transit Systems in Boston, I worked on the rebuilding of the MBTA’s North Station terminal tracks and signals systems above the Central Artery and was first introduced to VHB, where I now proudly serve as President and CEO.

Since VHB’s founding in Boston in 1979, we’ve had the opportunity to play a critical role in the transformation of the city into the vibrant community it is today. In addition to solving numerous planning, design and demolition elements of the Big Dig, VHB, led by John Kennedy (founding member of the firm) is most proud of having carefully orchestrated traffic operations to keep people—and the economy—moving throughout the duration of the Central Artery/Tunnel megaproject. After completion and with minimal disruptions, VHB’s effort to keep traffic moving throughout the project was recognized and received a Technical Leadership Award from MoveMassachusetts. Today, our VHB team in Boston enjoys The Greenway—the “people’s park” just steps away from our office—and we look forward to continuing to make meaningful contributions to keep our city thriving for generations to come.

My wife Joan and I reside in Boston now—we’re having a blast re-discovering the city after spending many years raising our kids in Holliston, MA. I am humbled and reminded of my early days as an engineer when I walk along The Greenway. This bustling world-class park that ties our wonderful, historic Boston neighborhoods together is better than I ever could have imagined and it’s been rewarding to watch it all unfold. The engineering marvel that is the Big Dig improved mobility, enhances the urban environment, and laid the foundation for continuous vitality.

It’s wonderful to continue to be part of enhancing our community through my involvement with the Greenway Gala. Thank you to the Greenway Conservancy for its important work to manage, program, and continually enhance the vibrant Rose Kennedy Greenway.

2017 Greenway Gala Co-Chair Mike Carragher, VHB

2017 Greenway Gala Co-Chair Mike Carragher, CEO of VHB