For years, long-suffering Bostonians always had two things to complain about — the failure of the Red Sox to win the World Series and the endless Big Dig. Then, the Red Sox started winning, and New Year's Day marks the end, finally, of America's most expensive construction project. Contractors officially turn over the project to the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.
For the full report, watch "World News With Charles Gibson" at 6:30 p.m. ET
At radio station WRKO, talk show host Avi Nelson asked listeners to "regale us with your thoughts on the Big Dig ... endless years of construction." One caller responded "This thing is never going to be over, because it can't be fixed."
Planning began 25 years ago — a remarkable effort to build 5 miles of highway under Boston's clogged streets without shutting down the city. But construction was a nightmare, and a cautionary tale to other cities embarking on grand projects.
Jeff Mullen, with the Massachusetts Office of Transportation and Works, worked on the Big Dig from the start. He told ABC News, "I think we need to do some more work to restore the public's confidence, and that's what we're working on."
Leaks in tunnels caused floods in 2004. In 2006, six executives with a contracting company were charged with trying to conceal defective concrete. Last year, a woman was killed in a tunnel when tons of concrete fell from the ceiling onto her car. That resulted in more than a dozen lawsuits. One company just paid $6 million to her family, and still faces a manslaughter charge.
Some drivers still worry about safety. One woman who drives through the tunnel to work said, "I want to have faith in it. But I'm a little skeptical."
When work began in 1991, the Big Dig was supposed to cost $2.6 billion. But as costs skyrocketed, the federal government got fed up and capped its contribution at $8.5 billion. Final cost: $15 billion, the rest paid by state taxes and tolls.
And some Bostonians are happy to pay it. Taxi drivers give the Big Dig a big thumbs up. Commuter George Forte said, "My drive on the expressway has gone from 20 minutes down to two. So, it's incredible, wonderful, worth every dollar."
And Maria Merola's pastry shop is finally back to normal after Big Dig construction across the street drove customers away for years. Maria urged us to "tell everyone I survived the Big Dig!"
So, as a new year comes in, the Red Sox are winners ... the Patriots are undefeated ... even the Celtics are winning ... and the Big Dig is finally over. Life is good in Boston.