Although, see: http://chicagoist.com/2013/04/19/photos_what_re-reversing_th... (reversing it back temporarily this year to account for flooding).
In school we used to say "aerospace engineers make bombs; civil engineers make targets." But in fact civil engineering is really cool, especially in terms of what they were able to do before modern technology: http://www.colorcoat-online.com/blog/index.php/2011/05/engin....
(One of my favorite books in the last few years is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Devil_in_the_White_City)
Icky design. :-(
Can you imagine anything of this scale happening today?
They should have eliminated the Big Dig completely and spent the money on increasing rapid transit capacity.
That said, eliminating the elevated highway that cut the North End off from the rest of the city seems to have been a major boon.
But I did want to add that it isn't only the north end that was cut off. I doubt the resurgence of the Sea port area/"innovation district" would have happened if it hadn't been for the big dig.
Every time I see a cathedral or dom tower ... :)
Contrast that to Southern China. Lots of insanely ambitious city projects, driven once again by tons of growth.
Same goes for regulation. Notice that the whole reason Chicago needed to be raised was so they could drain run-off. So where do they drain it into? The Chicago River and Lake Michigan, which became toxic cesspools until very recently. And those shop owners didn't have much of a say while they were hoisted into the air. Regulation and democratic involvement are really annoying when you want a large capital project to go through, but they're really important to you when that large capital project is something that's being done to you.
But it so happens that government projects today are very often financial disasters, particularly when backed by bonds or tax increases. There's no law of the market that says this should happen either, but it seems to be a feature of ossified political systems.
When things work pretty well, it can be more difficult to allocated resources for bigger projects, I suppose.
Today, nearly all traditional American cities are on the tail end of a long decline (save a small handful, like New York, San Francisco, and Seattle), or else are the kind of sprawly suburban cities that don't have the same need for the ambitious public works that the traditional, dense, American cities had.
One wonders if those lawmakers, teleported back to 19th-century Chicago, would deny that drainage is a problem and forbid basic public policy on any scientific report linking sewage to disease.
North American cities used to suffer with depressing frequency civil engineering disasters that killed dozens of people at a time. It truly would be odd if fear and trepidation regarding the topic is greater now, if that's actually true.
Caution might be greater, since we know more about the topic and more about what we need to be cautious of, but that's all to the good.
Moving into speculation... I believe that society values lives a lot more. It would be very hard to cost effectively build another Golden Gate Bridge due to the lives involved. Is this really a bad thing? So instead we build skyscrapers.
After the sidewalks were raised to match the streets, the underground sidewalks were kept open for a time, until (predictably) problems started with drugs and prostitution, etc. They were closed in the early 20th century but you can tour them today.
You can see where the sidewalks enter on the second floor of these flats and the original ground level entrance is now below street level.
We had lots of fun goofing around in the "cave" down on the first floor.
(ObGmapsWeirdThing: My wife and kids were outside on the driveway when the google cameras went by. Now I can see them all the time, staring back at me with their blurred faces...)
The city of Naples was rebuilt at great expense after the a terrible cholera epidemic in 1884 carried off a large number of victims. In response the government funded major effort to raise the city's streets as proscribed by the then current Miasmatic Theory of Disease. The thinking was along of the lines of low lying 'bad air' caused illnesses and thus the raising of the city's infrastructure would improve the general health.
Oddly though flooding in the city proper where there building density is high is generally not a problem. This past year when we had very heavy rains, it was the northern suburbs that had real get out your boat type flooding.
All the references appear to be just newspaper articles or some layman's explanation. Are there any meaty technical discussions of these accomplishments, especially the raising on an entire city block.
Turns out that the ground water level in Berlin is really high so all construction sites (and there are huge number of these in Berlin) need to pump out the water from excavations which explains the pipes everywhere.
†Unless the city expanded outside the elevated seawall, which it did... for a time. Predictably, another hurricane has corrected this oversight recently.
Plus there's good ole Wacker drive...
The construction of the Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico (or MOSE) that is meant to be raised in times of high water started back in 2003 .