July 11, 2006

HIGHWAYS ARE MURDER (via Bryan Franceour):

Massive Big Dig debris crushes woman to death (AP, 7/11/06)

Twelve tons of concrete fell from the ceiling of one of Boston's Big Dig tunnels, crushing a woman in a car and again raising concerns Tuesday about the integrity of the massive highway project in the central artery through the city.

Authorities said they were inspecting at least 17 other sections of the tunnel system where similar "tiebacks" were used to hold ceiling panels in place.

"I don't think anyone can feel the tunnels are safe, given what happened this morning," Gov. Mitt Romney told a New England Cable News reporter after touring the tunnel under an industrial area of South Boston where the woman died.

Though such projects are inherently anti-human they aren't always this obviously so.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 11, 2006 2:20 PM

Let's see, the US's largest boondoogle collapses killing a woman and you draw a conclusion about the dangers of driving cars?

Talk about a guy with a hammer seeing only nails.

Posted by: Pepys at July 11, 2006 2:38 PM

It was only a tiny section of the broader boondoggle.

Posted by: oj at July 11, 2006 2:40 PM

Could someone explain this to me? Why do you have 40-foot concrete ceiling panels suspended over a roadway? The concrete panel obviously was not providing structural support. If anything, it was a structural burden. So why not make the ceiling panels out of styrofoam?

Posted by: Bob Hawkins at July 11, 2006 2:42 PM

Hey, the Big Dig was only about pilfering $15 billion from federal taxpayers, not about building roads.

Bob -- It has to be waterproof, since the tunnel goes below the water level and below Boston harbor. Too bad they didn't make it waterproof either, we've had leaks from the get-go, and they keep a sizable staff devoted to patching leaks.

Posted by: pj at July 11, 2006 2:56 PM

Good thing underwater railway tunnels can't collapse like this.

Posted by: Random Lawyer at July 11, 2006 2:58 PM

If, God forbid, a section of the tunnel under Penn Station collapses, would you run a "Mass Transit Is Murder" headline?

Posted by: Ed Driscoll at July 11, 2006 2:58 PM

Tile ceilings seem to have been the norm on all the vehicular tunnels built in the northeast from the 20s through the 50s. And as far as I know, there's never been a case of tile coming down and killing any passengers in New York, Baltimore or in the Ted Williams tunnel in Boston (the closest paralell I can remember is when part of the ceiling came down on top of the No. 7 train heading from Manhattan to Queens about 25 years ago killing one person. But the tunnel was at least 60 years old by the time that happened).

Posted by: John at July 11, 2006 3:05 PM

Trains are lovely. They belong above ground.

Posted by: oj at July 11, 2006 4:13 PM

And of course, Britain has no need of a train to France.

Posted by: pj at July 11, 2006 4:37 PM

Just a clear missile path....

Posted by: oj at July 11, 2006 4:42 PM

Coincidentally I was reading "The Late, Great Pennsylvania Station" today. Prior to the opening of the station the Pennsy had to transport passengers across the Hudson in ferries. The station opened in 1910, so the tunnels connecting it to Jersey and Long Island now must be almost 100 years old.

Posted by: George at July 11, 2006 7:09 PM

I don't get the anti-human angle. Is the tunnel anti-human because it is used by infernal combustion vehicles, or is "tunnelness" itself antihuman? If the former is true, then oj is simply on his "cars are evil" hobbyhorse again. However, if it is the latter, mass transit systems the world over are bad.

Are we to sit on our estates, leaving only for the village green from time to time? That is so Jane Austen, not that there's anything wrong with that.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a nice property requires nothing else except UPS deliveries.

Posted by: Ed Bush at July 11, 2006 11:02 PM

The PATH tunnels that the terrorists were eying for their "let's flood land above sea level" plot last week are even older than the Hudson River Pennsy tunnels -- they turn 100 in two years (and have had the smell of rusting cast iron for as long as I can remember).

Posted by: John at July 12, 2006 12:19 AM

Ed, that's certainly my preferred life style, but sadly delivery persons need tunnels and roads and bridges, etc. to get the goods to us, ergo they must be kept in good repair lest we miss out on our ration of plum pudding and marmalade.

Posted by: erp at July 12, 2006 7:56 AM

Trains are anti-human, Orrin! :P

Posted by: kevin whited at July 12, 2006 11:37 AM

Trains are certainly murder.

Posted by: joe shropshire at July 12, 2006 11:54 AM

That project has been plagued with logistical problems(hydraulics) very early on in construction. In structural engineering lingo all is well when the final calculations achieve a unity less that 1.

As many repairs, requiring re-design, and rework along the way the unity is probably all over the scale with little hope of ever balancing.

Kind of like having 10 band-aids stacked on top of the same cut. The top 9 don't do much.

Posted by: Tom Wall at July 12, 2006 12:12 PM

No, trains are inevitable targets of anti-humanists. Al Qaeda loves highways.

Posted by: oj at July 12, 2006 12:34 PM

So all those roadside bombs are love bombs, then.

Posted by: joe shropshire at July 12, 2006 1:05 PM