With crews ripping down steel beams as a backdrop, Big Dig officials said that demolition is on schedule and most of the elevated highway will be gone by the time the Democratic National Convention begins in late July.
“Now, we’re getting to see what the new Boston is starting to look like, how it’s starting to take shape,” said Matthew Amorello, chairman of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which oversees the $14.6-billion Big Dig.
The soon-to-be open space — approximately 28 football fields in length from South Station to North Station — will consist of parks, new commercial buildings, new housing, and community centers. That portion of the project is scheduled to be complete in the summer of 2005.
The old elevated “highway in the sky” opened in 1959 and carried 200,000 vehicles daily, earning the green-painted portion of Interstate 93 the scorn of generations of drivers, who dubbed it the city’s “other Green Monster.”
“This was considered the last word in highway construction,” historian Nancy S. Seasholes said. “It was a way of solving urban traffic problems in a particular era. Boston is not the only place that has one.”
Seasholes, author of “Gaining Ground: A History of Landmaking in Boston,” about the city’s history of building on fill, hopes the new open space will make the waterfront more desirable.
“The highway has been a barrier. It has cut off the waterfront,” she said. “This will help people appreciate it.”
Carbone, whose mother-in-law still tells her about the days when you could walk from one end of the city to the other with “no big green obstructions,” sees another kind of green for local businesses.
“It helps so much with tourism,” said Carbone, president of the North End Waterfront Residents Association. “You can actually see where you’re headed. I don’t see how it cannot work out. It can only be positive. It allows people to get back together.”
In January, project officials opened a tunnel connecting Interstate 90 to the Ted Williams Tunnel to Logan International Airport, and in March, the I-93 northbound lanes opened to traffic.
The southbound tunnel opened Dec. 19, marking completion of the last major portion of the Big Dig.