Benefits of 'dig' are big, despite the price tag

Regarding your Dec. 19 article, "$14.6 billion later, Boston's Big Dig wraps up": The price may indeed be high for Boston's Big Dig, but Bostonians will garner more functionality and real benefit than we here in Los Angeles got for our 17.4-mile, $4.5- billion subway,

Big construction projects such as these are often conduits for money to politically favored contractors and often have little to do with solving real problems, transportation or otherwise.

At least in Boston they get rid of an ugly and congested freeway, create more pedestrian space, and have a long-term solution in place to handle their overall traffic needs in the heart of their downtown.

In Los Angeles by contrast, we got an 11-mile subway corridor (which is yet to be completed some 25 years into the project) to serve an 1,080-square-mile region which is a megalopolis spreading out like syrup over a pancake.
Jeff Softley
Los Angeles

Your article on the Big Dig was both fair and balanced, which is sometimes hard to find in regard to this project. While the engineering achievement is no doubt impressive, what is even more impressive is that the Democrats will tout this as a great benefit to the city, state, nation, and workers. They will miss the obvious point that had the $14.6 billion been invested in the private sector, those workers that are losing (or have already lost) their jobs would still be employed.
Tom VanAntwerp
South Bend, Ind.

Perceptions cloud election coverage

A comment on the inside headline of your Dec 17 article "Dean vs. Bush: Would it be close?" that asks whether Howard Dean is too liberal to win.

I have noticed with distress that most election coverage tends to focus on perceptions such as these rather than the candidates' positions on issues and what they are likely to do if elected. Once a question such as "Is Dean 'too liberal'?" gets repeated over and over, it becomes a truism: "Dean is too liberal" and becomes generally accepted by the media and the public. It then becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy and he becomes effectively unelectable.
Robin Alexander
Durham, N.C.

Better incentives for conservation

Regarding your Dec. 18 article, "Should fishers manage their own quotas?": Why is it that we don't worry about farmers having a conflict of interest when they decide how much to harvest from their herd, flock, or crop?

The key difference is that farmers have long-term, secure rights to their crops. Farmers are not competing with one another in the fields to see who can catch, cut, or gather a larger share of nature's bounty. Secure rights to long-term-use give individual farmers the incentive to place a high value on future harvests as well as this year's harvest.

The failure of our fishery-management system results from our failure to allocate fishery-use rights that create real value in uncaught fish - future harvests. The growth rates of many fish and shellfish stocks make an investment in fishery conservation extremely attractive, but we can't expect fishermen to voluntarily invest in conservation if someone else can reap the returns, which happens under the current system.

We need a fishery-management system that is based on "stewardship shares" that turns conflicts of interest into a confluence of interests. That way we can turn the troublesome race for fish into a profitable and sustainable race to conserve.
Richard B. Allen
Wakefield, R.I.
Former member of the New England Fishery Management Council

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