Massachusetts officials have revealed a new defect in
Boston’s Big Dig similar to one that caused the largest water leak in the
highway tunnel project, media outlets reported.
The leak was revealed just as
state and federal highway officials were preparing to testify to lawmakers
about the problems and the leaks they have caused.
The Boston Globe reported in early November that the massive
underground highway tunnel system was leaking water to the tune of 26 million
gallons a year. Engineers quoted by the newspaper said the repairs could take
10 years and involve lane closures. Engineers also found documents that the
firms in charge of construction may have known about the leaks as early as the
The tunnel system was designed
to handle 500,000 gallons of water removal a year – about 2 percent of the
actual amount removed since last December.
Local media outlets reported
in January that one of the tunnels had experienced icing problems that closed
lanes in some areas. The Globe report linked those troubles to the
About two weeks after that report, local
media outlets said the leaks were even worse than first thought. Rather
than the 400 leaks previously reported, one section of the tunnel, running
roughly 1,000 feet, had as many as 700 leaks.
Mitt Romney has reportedly called for the head of The Big Dig, Matthew
Amorello, to resign from his post, the Statehouse News Service reported.
Amorello is chairman of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, as well as a
former state highway commissioner and former state senator. Amorello did not
resign at that time.
The news of the latest series of
flaws and associated leaks came as Amorello was scheduled to testify to state
lawmakers about the problem.
In addition, Debra S. Ritt, assistant inspector general for
Surface and Maritime Programs at the U.S. Department of Transportation, was
also scheduled to testify before lawmakers.
Authority has reported that 700 tunnel leaks remain in the project’s current
inventory, and that the earlier number of leaks it identified and tracked was
considerably more,” Ritt said in prepared marks posted on the Internet by the
Office of the Inspector General. “Authority officials have said some of the
leaks are a normal part of the construction process, while others are
construction deficiencies. It is already clear that the Sept. 15th leak was not a normal occurrence.
is much about this problem that we do not yet know, including how many leaks
there are and their severity; how much it will cost to fix the leaks.”
Ritt recommended that the
state create a “small, independent,
bipartisan commission” that would determine who was responsible – and who
should pay – for the leaks and for repairs. That commission would report back
to lawmakers by June 30, 2005.
The Big Dig is the largest
construction project of its kind in U.S. history. It was created to take the
elevated interstates that once ran into the center of Boston and replace them
with wider, higher-capacity underground highways, including new tunnels and
bridges to carry traffic over and under the city’s waterways. The Big Dig
carries portions of several highways, including Interstate 93 and I-90.