Report: Massachusetts will soon sue managers of Big Dig work

| 12/8/2004

The state of Massachusetts is on the brink of filing a $100 million lawsuit against the private-sector managers of the Big Dig, the massive underground highway through the center of Boston, The Boston Globe reported.

Just a week ago, Massachusetts officials revealed a new defect in the Central Artery Tunnel Project, as the Big Dig is formally known, the latest in a series of such leaks.

The 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 say 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 late 1990s.

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.

The latest leak was revealed just as state and federal highway officials were preparing to testify to state lawmakers about the problems and the leaks they have caused.

One of those officials, Debra S. Ritt, assistant inspector general for Surface and Maritime Programs at the U.S. Department of Transportation, told lawmakers, “the 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. 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.”

“There 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 said in prepared remarks posted on the Internet by the Office of the Inspector General.

The Big Dig was 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.