November 10, 2004


Big Dig found riddled with leaks: Engineers say fixes could take decade (Sean P. Murphy and Raphael Lewis, November 10, 2004, Boston Globe)

Engineers hired to investigate the cause of September's massive Big Dig tunnel leak have discovered that the project is riddled with hundreds of leaks that are pouring millions of gallons of water into the $14.6 billion tunnel system.

While none of the leaks is as large as the fissure that snarled traffic for miles on Interstate 93 northbound in September, the breaches appear to permeate the subterranean road system, calling into question the quality of construction and managerial oversight provided by Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff on the massive highway project.

Finding and fixing all the leaks will take years, perhaps more than a decade, said Jack K. Lemley, an internationally known consultant hired by the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority to investigate the problem. Just repairing the section of wall where the September leak occurred will take up to two months and require closing of traffic lanes.

Yet people believe in progress.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 10, 2004 9:51 AM

No, people (who live in such districts) believe in government spending. Too bad the citizenry didn't form a quality oversight committee.

As someone who occasionally travels through Boston, the Dig was probably necessary - but if these reports are true, then John Kerry and Ted Kennedy should pay for the repairs themselves.

Posted by: jim hamlen at November 10, 2004 10:35 AM

The Roeblings may have overengineered on the Brooklyn Bridge, but it didn't take long for the design standards to start going down. The neighboring Manhattan Bridge was built too rigidly for handling subways, and has been under constant repair over the years due to cracking, while one of the engineers on that project, Leon Moisseiff, would have some problems with a lack of rigidness on the roadway three decades later with the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

Posted by: John at November 10, 2004 11:14 AM

Shoddy construction on a union-made, Federally-funded mega-project that took decades and cost tens of billions of dollars. And this is a surprise?

Posted by: Bart at November 10, 2004 12:02 PM

At least they don't have to worry about how it will react to the next big earthquake. Otherwise I'm sure Boston would have it's own Cypress Structure/Nimitz Freeway primed and ready to go.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at November 10, 2004 12:12 PM


While not as high risk as the west coast or Memphis, Boston isn't out of the woods earthquake wise...

US Earthquake Hazard Map

Posted by: TimF at November 10, 2004 12:41 PM

Halliburton could probably fix it, but it should refuse until JFK and Teddy grovel.

Posted by: curt at November 10, 2004 1:45 PM

Seattle has a double deck structure (the Alaskan Way Viaduct) which looks exactly like the Cypress, and seems to have the same defects. It came close to being closed after the Nisqually Quake a few years ago, and is still constantly under inspection. It runs along the waterfront, and really is an eyesore. There's been ongoing talk about replacing it, and one of the options has been to do a "big dig" type project and put it underground. Reports like this mean that the underground solution is now probably taken the lead. Seatlle/King Country has a tendency to do big engineering jobs poorly. (Which is why it's surprising to me that the new stadiums have yet to exhibit any structural flaws or major problems.)

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at November 10, 2004 2:07 PM

Tha Mackinac Bridge hasn't had any engineering problems that I've ever been aware of. The Detroit-Windsor Automobile Tunnel has been in place since the 1920's (or thereabouts). The issue isn't progress, it's doing it right the first time.

Posted by: Mikey at November 10, 2004 2:29 PM

Remember the library they built at UMass that couldn't hold any books?

Posted by: George at November 10, 2004 3:32 PM

I remember the cathedral at Beauvais falling down.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at November 13, 2004 5:29 PM

Wow, you don't seem that old.

Posted by: oj at November 13, 2004 6:09 PM