Bill would change construction rules in Massachusetts

| 9/15/2006

A bill introduced in the Massachusetts statehouse Thursday, Sept. 14, would change the way the state builds major public works projects like Boston’s trouble-plagued “Big Dig.”

Sponsored by Sen. Steven Baddour, D-Methuen; Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester; and Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, the bill would require the state to hire independent engineers to oversee the design and construction of certain projects. The engineers couldn’t be connected with the actual construction company, The Associated Press reported.

Critics of the tunnel system have long argued that the state’s Turnpike Authority and private “Big Dig” contractors have had too cozy a relationship through the years.

Bill supporters said the need for changes has taken more urgency since a motorist was killed this summer when her car was crushed by an Interstate 90 concrete ceiling panel.

The state would be required to hire a so-called “independent owner’s representative” for all public construction projects in excess of $50 million, The Eagle-Tribune reported. The independent representative would check the quality of the work to ensure the state was getting its money’s worth.

The nearly $15 billion tunnel system is the most expensive highway project in U.S. history. The project has been plagued by delays, cost overruns, leaks and allegations of shoddy workmanship.

The bill is awaiting assignment to a committee.