$80 million and whadaya get? At Government Center, ya get wet

Gin Dumcius reports the two-years-in-the-making like-new Government Center station is already leaking.

UPDATE: MBTA says it's on the case.



Free tagging: 


Leaking is the new normal?

The $2.4 billion Hudson Yards station in NY is leaking, too. I teach in a relatively new high school that leaks. So many new things leak. But, has that always been the case or has the construction industry forgotten how to do some things? I'm perplexed.

Maybe I shouldn't make sweeping generalizations about the industry. But I seem to be observing a pattern, especially with public projects, and I'd like people who know what they're doing to do some sort of investigation - and not cut any corners while doing so!

It sucks is all I know

Not only do infrastructure projects cost orders of magnitude more in the US than in other advanced countries, but now the results seem to be objectively crappier too.

All of which combines to make it politically harder and harder to get new infrastructure built at all...

that project is a proper mess

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I wasn't sure anyone here would know about this airport. I remember hearing about it a few times!

C'mon, really?

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you thought that the place where arguably the best local infrastructure talk happens would not have several users that know about Brandenburg? You should come around here more often (really!). I note for the record that your post is directly below that of one of our preeminent contributors on the matter.

A huge industry problem with

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A huge industry problem with contracts anymore is the owner (the T, in this case) is left holding the bag when the contractor and their subs argue endlessly about materials or means and methods, or, blame the architect... who refuses to accept responsibility because of vague language referenced "in the spec."

The nytimes recently wrote about this with their own over-designed station boondoggle. Instead of paying starchitects, these public works projects should pay for a few independent owners reps to crawl the site daily and hold the contractor accountable on the spot when they or the subs try and provide "equivalents," cut corners or perform a sloppy install.

Wrong place for water

I was in the station last night for the first time and I noticed the water spray system for keeping the trains from squealing was already turned off. (And the trains were as load as ever on the turn.)

It couldn't last a month?

Maybe something to do with the snow?

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I'm no subway-station engineer ("NO!" you say, I know, I know), but maybe if you spray water on wheels that are already cold and snow-covered, it's not a good thing? Of course, I wasn't there to see if the wheels even had any snow on them, so what do I know?

I predicted back when I heard

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I predicted back when I heard about this water-spray system that it'll self-destruct in the (incredibly rare, I know) event it gets cold in Boston. Pressurized water hoses and pipes tend not to fare well below freezing temperatures.

I also wondered at what point will one of these things go haywire and make a short between the third rail and something else. (Don't think I posted that here though.)

Looks like the T found a different way to suck at this.

I'm always impressed at their innovation, you know that?

Neither should happen, both might

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Theoretically, Gov't Ctr is a modern indoor station and shouldn't hit freezing on the heated platform. Additionally, the Green Line uses overhead electricity, so the water shouldn't bridge anything on the rails (though I believe the wheels do create a ground, which is why they can't use rubber tires that would make less noise).

But hey, I wouldn't put money against either happening somehow.

Should this be treated as a

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Should this be treated as a public safety threat? I feel scared. Is the glass above all the human bodies secure enough?

Sorry but

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The T isn't a designated safe space!

However I can think of many

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However I can think of many other reasons the T should have a gaggle of grief counselors on-hand on a daily basis, though.

Let the lawsuits begin

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After a night of frigid cold temps the platform in the AM will resemble an ice rink. The passengers will slip and slide and the lawyers will be handing out their cards to all those injured in the latest fiasco.

When new stuff falls apart in

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When new stuff falls apart in 5 minutes it's easy to see why the MBTA never makes headway in their multi-billion dollar maintenance backlog.

Even the brand new Blue Line cars and newly factory refurbished Type 7 Green Line cars have been breaking down far more frequently than they should.

Recently renovated Aquarium, State Street, Arlington, North Station, Copley, Kenmore, etc. all have gross leaks.

Silver line

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Has an active stream in it

This is the kind of stuff I

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This is the kind of stuff I show people when people talk about raising the $7.2B (actually something like $24B when accounting for time/inflation) for the state-of-good-repair backlog. This is what the T will deliver with that $7.2B.

That much salt/sand and right on the ocean?

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I am not a structural or materials engineer, but I think that I might have insisted on constructing those stairs with another material. There must be a marine-grade something that could have been used and would have fared better.

As for the initial expense, yes, it probably would have cost more, but when factoring the repairs with the inevitable lawsuits, would it have cost more to use better materials in the long run?

Sloppy Construction — Slathered With Too Much Salt This Year

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This winter, instead of shoveling the small amount of snow we received, the applied tons and tons of salt. Perhaps because there was so little snow, they had more salt available than usual and wanted to use it up, or perhaps it was just sheer laziness.

This is incredibly foolish because salt is so destructive; it corrodes metal and breaks down concrete. As concrete ages, it becomes more salt-resistant, but new concrete is particularly vulnerable.

When some of us rail about grandiose and pretentious projects like Government Center, it's not because we don't want nice things, but it's because we've seen time and time again that the will not take care of them. It's like buying expensive toys for an irresponsible child. They might be amused for a few minutes, but the toys will invariably become lost, broken, or simply discarded.

For these Wonderland stairs to fall into such an appalling condition so quickly, there's certainly more than one party to blame. The design and specification of materials might be proper, but constant inspection needs to take place during construction to assure that those specifications are followed.

          July 2012 - stairs under construction
          June 2013 - brand new, just before bridge and stairs were opened

Sure enough, looking at this picture taken when those stairs were brand new, you can see how sloppily the masonry was finished, and how poorly the joints were grouted. After the freeze-thaw cycles of just a couple of winters, it's not surprising they're now falling apart in exactly the same places where there are visible stains and patches on the new staircase!

After construction is completed, inspection needs to continue, so that any flaws are detected in time to be rectified by the original contractors involved. I don't know if two years is too long for the Wonderland contractors to be held legally responsible, but the probably won't even bother to try.

( The application of huge amounts of salt is quite literally rubbing salt into the wounds! )

The lacks the in-house knowledge and skilled craftsmen needed to maintain their infrastructure on a day-to-day basis. Masonry, carpentry, plastering and painting are ancient professions. Knowledge, skills, and tricks-of-the-trade, are passed down from generation to generation.

Instead of letting everything deteriorate to the point where it needs to be completely rebuilt at great expense by outside consultants and contractors, it would be much more cost-effective to have full-time craftsmen repairing, patching and pointing-up little problems before they become bigger problems.

In addition to saving money in the long run, the stations would look nice everyday, and not just the first day they open.

Project Management

This is a failure of the T to write contracts which put the responsibility on the contractor to fix any problem which arise shortly after the project is completed and to hold the contractor accountable in ensuring all work completed is top notch.

What the GLX has shown is that the T is HORRIBLE at project management and writing/enforcing contracts.


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Sometimes owners get so ticked off at the contractors that they just want them off the site.

Or if a contractor (GC) digs in their heels claiming it was their subs who did the poor job, the GC chooses to not pay the sub any $$ who, of course, won't come back to the site, the correction won't happen. And then the owner gets so ticked off they just want them off the site.

The joys of public bid and GC's who are actually construction managers and do no work in house but sub everything out. There is a list of "GC's" that I will not work with. Or, if forced (iow: no way to disqualify them), their feet are held to the fire by how I review submittals and adherence to the schedule, and etc.

Nothing was learned from Boston's North End Molasses fiasco.

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There are too many shortcuts, and too much cheap, shoddy materials being used, plus they clearly don't hire people to construct these things who really and truly know what they're doing.

Sadly, almost nothing was learned from the Big Dig fiasco some years ago, which killed a Jamaica Plain woman, when a piece of the ceiling of a newly-built tunnel fell on her head. Sad, sad, sad, indeed.

I will never...

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take any comment seriously with such obvious exaggerations, regardless of how accurate other details in your statement might be.

"Falls apart in 5 minutes" - so the leak started on March 21st at 12:05pm? No, no it didn't

"...brand new Blue Line cars" - I wouldn't call 7 to 9 years of service "brand new"

"Recently renovated Aquarium, State Street, Arlington, North Station, Copley, Kenmore, etc." - here are approximate completion years of the "recent" renos:
Aquarium: 2004, State: 2011, Arlington: 2009, N. Station (subway): 2004, Copley: 2011, Kenmore: 2010

Your newest renovation of these stations is about 5 years...that's not what I'd consider recent.

Folks need to remember, like other stations listed above, Government Center was RENOVATED. That's extremely different than being REBUILT from scratch. It's the same core structure underground, in the same location. Of course one should rightly expect renovations to help solve some prior issues long-term...the reality is, these stations are still underground & retain their core structure, which will continue to allow water in.

I'm happy it's not sewerage, so I can deal with avoiding a 1 foot wet area of the station. It's still better than what it was 2 years ago & trains can still pass through it regardless of a leak...it's a subway station, not a resort hotel.

I Hate To Say "I Told You So"

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          ( Well no... actually, I love saying "I told you so". )
     See, they just need to add more of these "drip tray" contraptions to the ceiling to catch the leaks.

But but

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Getting hit in the face with Nasty Brown Subway Ceiling Water is an urban rite of passage.

Kids these days are so weak, with their "protective drip trays" and their texting and their next train signage. Back in my day, we got hit in the face with water and had no idea when the next train would arrive. And we liked it! Oh wait...

It's A $10,000 Piece Of Drainage Artwork

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It's a stainless steel tray, installed for the express purpose of capturing a particular leak in the ceiling above the Wonderland platform at Scollay Under.

A pencil-thin piece of copper tubing connected to the bottom of the pan is intended to drain the leak off to some unseen location. As you can see however, the tubing is so tiny that it's sure to become clogged from the falling plaster and other debris associated with the leak.

Well, at least you can't say this otherwise hideous station is devoid of artwork. The drip-tray contraption thing is an interesting piece of metal sculpture, and the rusty drip adds a welcome bit of rich color — in a technique perhaps even suggestive of Jackson Pollock.

      ( I have no idea how much it cost — I would guess more than $10,000 )

Boylston inbound has had those drip trays for years

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Except that none of them are connected to copper tubing to actually lead the water away. Rather, one drip tray is located above another, which is located above a third one, and so on and so forth. Water falls from one tray into the next lower one, and eventually ends up draining to outside the track bed of the old Tremont Portal lines - where the "museum" Type 5 and PCC cars now reside.


It looks like some temporary construction above the station involved removing concrete and opening up soil, allowing snow to accumulate and melt in the ditch.

Nah, I'd rather post T SUXXORS!!! GUBMINT MORANS!!!!

Common sense people common sense!

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The street level still has construction going on and until it is finished and everything is properly covered up there will be the chance for leaks.

This is why I'm agnostic

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It'd be a totally different story if the roof had leaked water all over Chuck and Marty's ribbon-cutting photo-op.

If only the T had been

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If only the T had been delayed in the middle of the tunnel for the one stop they took it. Then maybe they'd know what the rest of us deal with regularly.