Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, angered by hundreds of leaks
in the Big Dig tunnels and lagging cost-recovery efforts, filed legislation
Thursday, Dec. 16, to create an independent commission with expanded legal
powers to go after contractors responsible for millions of dollars in mistakes.
Without stronger recovery efforts, Romney said the federal
government might withhold $81 million in Big Dig funding next year.
Creation of the panel would open the possibility of greater
scrutiny of management by the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which appointed
the team now in charge of recovering costs and investigating construction
Romney met with U.S. Transportation Inspector General
Kenneth Mead in Washington, DC, Thursday to discuss cost recovery efforts and
leak problems plaguing the $14.6 billion project.
Mead’s office has harshly criticized the cost-recovery
results of a Turnpike Authority team headed by retired judge Edward Ginsburg,
which has reclaimed $3.5 million from contractors and filed another $163
million in lawsuits.
The governor’s proposal would take control of pursuing the
funds away from the turnpike. Romney proposes replacing Ginsburg’s team with a
five-member commission, created by the Legislature, which could subpoena
witnesses and court documents.
Mead issued a statement applauding the proposal.
“It is quite specific and would create an independent
commission to expeditiously determine the parties responsible for these leaks
and ensure that they, and not the taxpayers, bear the costs of repairs,” Mead
said in a statement.
The federal government has funded $8.5 billion of the Big
Dig costs and would get a percentage of any refunds, The Boston Globe reported.
The two-decade construction has been riddled with
embarrassing episodes and cost overruns. The Big Dig – the most expensive
highway construction in U.S. history – buried Interstate 93 in tunnels
underneath downtown Boston, and connected the Massachusetts Turnpike to Logan
Since September, when an 8-inch breach in a wall panel sent
water gushing onto the roadway, hundreds of smaller leaks have been found.
Turnpike officials have said no state or federal funds would be used to repair