Capka drops out of Big Dig probe; more faulty bolts found

| 8/21/2006

The new head of the Federal Highway Administration announced last week he will drop out of the investigation into Boston’s Big Dig tunnel complex.

In the meantime, more problems were found with bolts in the tunnels during the weekend. The Boston Globe reported that one lane in the westbound side of the Ted Williams Tunnel was closed Sunday night and is expected to remain closed overnight through at least Wednesday, Aug. 23.

The closure was ordered while officials were testing bolts in the tunnel. Loose bolts have been blamed for the collapse of concrete ceiling panels that crushed a car July 10, killing a woman.

The Globe also reported that ceiling bolts in the Interstate 90 Connector tunnel came loose during construction seven years ago. Those bolts were never changed or re-inspected.

The ongoing problems in the tunnel system have prompted investigations, which, according to The Associated Press, Federal Highway Administrator Richard Capka recused himself from after questions arose about an apparent sweetheart deal he was involved in before leaving the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority four years ago.

As head of the Authority, Capka oversaw the Big Dig operation, but in 2002 handed his powers over to Matthew Amorello.

With Capka already planning to take a job as deputy administrator for the Federal Highway Administration, Amorello voted to terminate Capka—which kicked in a severance clause in his contract.

As a result, The AP said Capka walked away with more than $82,000 when he moved to FHWA.

In March 2006, when Capka was first nominated for the top job at FHWA, Land Line Magazine contacted the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office and the Turnpike Authority regarding Capka’s departure from the Authority. Some officials said they were unsure of the details, and others said it was a personnel issue and was not public record.