An independent engineer says he is no longer able to
assure that the tunnels making up Boston’s Big Dig are safe, media outlets
reported March 15.
Jack Lemley, the engineer, made the warning in
a letter he reportedly sent to the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, the state
agency that oversees the massive underground highway system, formally known as the Central Artery Project.
The Big Dig 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.
The $14.6 billion
project – called the largest of its kind ever in the United States – included
numerous, massive cost overruns, and the private concerns in charge of the work
have drawn the ire of local, state and federal officials.
In late 2004, The Boston Globe began a series of blistering reports about a
series of leaks that appeared in the tunnel system. Since the initial report,
leaks have been reported in more and more tunnel sections, leading to
investigations and legislative hearings.
As of March 15, The Globe reported that leaks, construction faults and damage to
fireproofing can be found in roughly 40 sections of the tunnels.
The comments by Lemley, who was
brought in by state officials to investigate problems with the project, are
only the latest blow to the tunnel project’s waning prestige.
“I am now unable to express an
opinion as to the safety of the I-93 portion of the Central Artery,” Lemley
wrote in his letter to Masspike, which was delivered March 9. The Globe obtained a copy of the letter. “My modified position is necessary due to a revised understanding of the
magnitude of problems that we became aware of following our testimony on
November 30, 2004, and the recent failures reported in the local newspapers.”