Boston Highway Project Said Full of Leaks
By Steve Leblanc
BOSTON - The Big Dig is riddled with leaks that are dumping millions of
gallons of water into the $14.6 billion tunnel system, according to an
engineer hired to investigate the cause of a massive leak in September.
Locating and fixing the hundreds of leaks could take up to 10 years, said
Jack K. Lemley, a consultant hired by the Massachusetts Turnpike
Authority to investigate the problem. The last major leg of the Big Dig
project opened less than a year ago.
"There is no public safety issue," Turnpike Authority Chairman Matthew
Amorello said Wednesday, adding that the tunnels remain structurally
sound. He said a certain amount of leakage is inevitable, and the
drainage system is keeping water off the roadways.
Lemley told The Boston Globe that repairing September's leak alone would
require two months and lane closures. Amorello said that taxpayers and
motorists who pay tolls will not foot the bill for whatever repairs are
Lemley's team found documents showing that managers of Bechtel/Parsons
Brinckerhoff, the private consortium that managed the project, were aware
that the wall breached this fall was faulty when it was built in the late
1990s, but did not order it replaced and did not notify state officials.
Retired judge Edward M. Ginsburg, leader of a state-appointed team
reviewing overcharges by Big Dig contractors, said he has spoken to
Attorney General Tom Reilly about filing a lawsuit targeting Bechtel and
Modern Continental, the contractor that built the wall section that
leaked in September.
"I can honestly say we were shocked," Ginsburg told the Globe. "I can
assure you we're going to make sure there is a thorough investigation."
Jordan Levy, a member of the Turnpike Authority board, called for an
emergency meeting of the board this week and suggested Bechtel should be
investigated for possible criminal wrongdoing.
Either the Bechtel project was incompetent or there was "malfeasance at
the highest level," Levy said. He added that tax dollars would be spent
to fix the problem "over my dead body."
The 8-inch leak that sprang up in September in the northbound lanes of
Interstate 93 caused 10-mile backups.
Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff issued a statement Tuesday saying the cause
of the leak was still under investigation.
"In a tunnel of this construction type, seepage is inevitable, but is
mitigated by proper engineering and maintenance programs, which have been
planned for and are in place," the company statement said.
Modern Continental, the largest contractor on the project, said its
workmanship "was in accordance with contract plans and specifications."
The September leak was the latest in a series of embarrassing episodes in
the two-decade construction of the Big Dig, formally called the Central
Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel project.
The Big Dig replaced the elevated Central Artery of Interstate 93 with
underground tunnels through downtown Boston. It also connected Interstate
90 - the Massachusetts Turnpike - to Logan International Airport, and
added the Ted Williams Tunnel beneath Boston Harbor.