Rust never sleeps in the Big Dig

If you only glanced at the headline of this Globe story yesterday, you might've just gone "Oh, well, more leaks in the tunnel." Dan Kennedy suggests you read the entire story, where you'll also read that some of the steel girders that hold the ceiling together are already rusting:

... There may come a time, if it hasn't already arrived, that the Big Dig will be viewed as the most blatant example of government incompetence in our history. And before you start sharpening your ideological swords, it's unclear whether the problem was too much government or not enough. Certainly there should have been far more oversight of Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, the private partnership given carte blanche to design and build the project....

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    This article is nothing but hyperbole

    By on

    "most blatant example of government incompetence in our history"

    "today may be the day all hell breaks loose, and that we'll be buried alive under tons of water-logged dirt"

    "ongoing mini-flood"

    "government officials knowing they have a potential catastrophe on their hands and having absolutely no idea of what to do about it"

    These statements are all ridiculous. I hate to tell Dan, but all tunnels have water infiltration. That's why they have sump pumps at the bottoms. This is a maintenance issue, not something that could fail at any time.

    And if he wants blatant examples of government incompetence, try the Iraq war, which has cost about 30 Big Digs and could end up doubling that. Furthermore, every major public works project in its time has been called "boondoggle," including such "useless" investments as the Erie Canal and the Transcontinental Railroad.

    Sorry, says_bomb, but I agree with adam here.

    By on

    The report isn't hyperbole at all. There's no question but that the Big Dig has been a total disaster from the get-go. Not withstanding the tremendous amount of graft and patronage involved, the Big Dig is now way, way overbudget and behind schedule. All tunnels may have a certain amount of water infiltration, but one has to ask
    him/herself why neither the Sumner or the Callahan Tunnels have the constant problem of leakage that the Big Dig Tunnel(s) have had. The Big Dig (or, as some people have accurately called it, the Big Pig), is a gross example of government incompetence, and, all that money that's been wasted on this fiasco could well have gone into building affordable housing here in the city, and also more artists housing, education/job training, and the repair of our roads, bridges and public transportation.

    Moreover, traffic jams as a result of the Big Dig have gotten far worse and have expanded farthur out. The fact that this incompetence has already resulted in at least one fatility is horrible enough. We don't need anymore.

    Quite frankly, in some of those Big Dig Tunnels, I have visions of going in there and not coming out again. (shudders at the thought), and I avoid it whenever possible.

    I agree with you on the Iraq War, but that's a whole different issue here.

    Well, I'll be!

    By on

    "There's no question but that the Big Dig has been a total disaster from the get-go."

    You and I are in 110% agreement this morning. This calls for a drink. Now, where'd I put the Bailey's?

    If you people knew 1/100th of the shit that went on behind the scenes at the Big Dig, you'd literally be taking up arms and preparing for the next Massachusetts-based revolution.

    It's not pretty. What you read in the papers is but the tip of the tip of the iceberg.

    (LOL) Yup--

    By on

    We're in total agreement this morning about the Big Dig. As the famous mid-1960's song goes: "No one knows what goes on behind closed doors". I do believe that there's much more that goes on regarding the Big Dig than meets the eye, but I'm nor sure how I'd revolt if I knew even more.

    In Which I Yawn At Bruce's Incessant Prattling

    By on

    "If you people knew 1/100th of the shit that went on behind the scenes at the Big Dig, you'd literally be taking up arms and preparing for the next Massachusetts-based revolution."

    Uh huh. Typical conservative argument: "I know more than you people but I'm not going to tell you what I know." It works wonders, whether you're talking about how dangerous all those poor saps locked away without trial for being terrorist masterminds (hey, that information is classified!) to commenting on the state of the Big Dig. Of course, since you apparently know all of the shit that went down and you haven't started a revolution I guess we can just assume that you're too damn lazy to try to do anything useful.

    I think it is Foghorn Leghorn time for Bruce: "Go away kid, ya bother me!"

    Let Me Retort

    By on

    I know Bruce has inside knowledge. But if what he knows is so scary, why wasn't he out whistle blowing? It is all fine and dandy to say "Oh I know the real story but I can't tell you" but when push comes to shove, I don't recall any significant effort being made to report on this WHILE IT MIGHT HAVE DONE SOME GOOD. His post-Dig analysis is lovely but useless.

    So really, no sugar needed.

    Did you get new assholepants for Christmas?

    By on

    Let me preface this comment by saying I don't give a flying fuck how many leaks the tunnel has, or how much time and money the thing sucks out of the taxbase of Massachusetts.

    Nor, do I really care what you have to say on this matter, for you seem to enjoy talking out of your ass without having any real knowledge of what you're talking about.

    "But if what he knows is so scary, why wasn't he out whistle blowing?"

    For the record, prior to my leaving the Big Dig, I sat face to face with one of the higher-up project managers and expressed my concerns. He had inquired why I was leaving, so I told him.

    On numerous occasions, in the years prior to that, I had reported on materials deficiencies and improper material installations to field inspectors, as was my role at the time. My reports were essentially ignored by those further up the chain than myself.

    Later on, when I was a field inspector, part of my job entailed overseeing construction activities on site to ensure conformance with project, state and federal requirements. Several times, I had to slow the job down, so that a contractor could redo a portion of the work, or do additional work, to bring it into compliance.

    I was verbally threatened on more than one occasion for causing delays (as little as one or two hours) to the job. My refusal to back down allowed me to sign off on those inspection reports with a clear conscience.

    I knew others who were in the same boat I was in. We were out there doing the right thing, only to be ignored by the power structure that was responsible for moving the job forward - at all costs.

    "It is all fine and dandy to say "Oh I know the real story but I can't tell you" ..."

    It's not that I "can't" tell you. It's that I simply don't give a shit.

    I don't recall any significant effort being made to report on this WHILE IT MIGHT HAVE DONE SOME GOOD.

    What? You weren't sitting next to me in that guy's office while I was DOING JUST FUCKING THAT???

    Get a friggin' clue, pal.

    [Adam, my apologies for the colorful language. Feel free to **** some of that, If you must.]

    The Big Dig Fiasco

    By on

    Brought to you by THE REPUBLICANS!

    Hands off, folks! There's money, BIG money, in that hole in the ground! We need to get it into private hands as soon as possible - no time for questions, now, ya hear?

    Partisan jabs not helpful

    The project was conceived under a Democratic administration and executed under a Republican one. During the entire period, Democrats ran the state legislature.

    Lots of unqualified statements around here

    By on

    I disagree that that the Big Dig has been a disaster. There have been disasters that are part of it, but the Project itself was a good idea, a necessary project for Boston's continued vitality, and a positive from economic and transportation standpoints.

    Now, if you're opposed to government spending in general, there's nothing I can say to convince you.

    Sorry, independent minded, but I think you're wrong

    By on

    "There's no question but that the Big Dig has been a total disaster from the get-go."

    There is a question. That's what I'm saying. Saying there's no question doesn't make it true.

    "why neither the Sumner or the Callahan Tunnels have the constant problem of leakage"

    Do you actually know what the infiltration levels of the Sumner and Callahan tunnels are, or how they're maintained? Or even what type of tunnels they are? Do you know this information for the subway tunnels too?

    "Moreover, traffic jams as a result of the Big Dig have gotten far worse and have expanded farthur out."

    This is just plain wrong. Even the harshest critics acknowledge that the traffic goals were achieved. You are misinterpreting what you see... the problems now have to do with the bottlenecks outside the city.

    I understand the objective of the Big Dig....

    By on

    to re-route the traffic around the periphery of town, as opposed to right smack through the heart of town, the way it was prior to the Big Dig. However, during rush-hour, the traffic seems worse than ever. Moreover, here's another question: Why can't they keep the leaks plugged up? It's ridiculous.

    Huh?

    By on

    The Big Dig goes right through the heart of town. It just does so a lot more efficiently than the old elevated highway, especially when coupled with improvements at the northern end and the bleeding off of some airport traffic that used to go through the Sumner and Callahan tunnels.

    What?

    What Adam said. The Big Dig takes the exact same route through Boston as the old elevated highway did -- just a few feet lower.

    I agree she has no idea what

    By on

    I agree she has no idea what she's talking about.

    Traffic is much, much reduced from all areas because of the big dig. Save a tunnel car crash every now and then from a motorist so in awe he can't read the signs, and it's much better then the elevated highway of death. Much better during accidents, as you can get off easily and take the surface streets.

    next time your gunning

    By on

    next time your gunning thought the tunnel, slow down a bit and try to look for just how many areas you can already see <5/10 year old concrete crumbling.

    That's very disturbing to say the least, especially after reports of sub par porous concrete being used in the tunnel and zakim bridge.

    I think we need to worry less about rusty girders, and more about the concrete already breaking down and crumbling.

    True, true, true, and true

    By on

    I agree with everything said (well, most everything) about the Big Dig. However, I thought I'd add a little sunshine: whenever I'm walking around Columbus Park, or see pictures of the good 'ol central artery cutting its way through downtown, casting a shadow over everything in its path, I think: "Thank G-d for the Big Dig."

    Of course, the road to hell is paved with good intentions and the bones of inept politicians, administrators and contractors.

    As someone who works in the North End,

    I appreciate the Big Dig. I see only the good parts of it -- an ugly, noisy, and dirty elevated structure removed from the cityscape, replaced by green space that should get a lot of use once the weather gets warm again.

    Also, my boss who drives in from Milton says it has immensely improved his commute.

    What were the options?

    In these parts "keeping a crumbling something and hoping it stays up" seems to be a popular idea, but it isn't a realistic one.

    The central artery had to be replaced. What went wrong was that this region has very little solid history of transparency in anything governmental. Sure, there's PR hype, but no oversight from anybody who isn't already connected to somebody firmly controlled by that which is supposed to be watched.

    Look at how Martha Cokefly went after the glue manufacturer because she didn't want to make waves! Sick.

    OH but there is a SCARY MOONINITE OVER THERE PUT UP BY HAIR PEOPLE! OUTRAGE! HORROR!

    Nobody's disputing that the structure needed replacing.

    By on

    That's a big problem throughout the country and not just here, but that's another issue.
    However, the thing that's worrisome is the fact that (A) there are so many leaks in the Big Dig Tunnel(s), especially the one on Storrow Drive that replaces the Central Artery, and (B), the fact that the newer construction is also weak and poorly glued together. The fact that there was a fatality not that long ago speaks volumes right there about the problems of the Big Dig. Are they doing anything at all to fix it? Just curious. Also, ( C), the fact that the Big Dig is way behind schedule and way over budget, and the fact that so much graft, which Massachusetts is especially known for, is present.

    Huh, redux?

    By on

    Yes, the leaks are worrisome. However, the Storrow Drive tunnel doesn't replace the Central Artery. It might even have been built before the Central Artery.

    Not sure how you missed the roughly 72,000 articles in both daily papers about the replacement of fasteners and glue in the Big Dig tunnels after Ms. del Valle's death.

    Sorry if I missed the articles, but

    By on

    the fact that her death occurred at all was still inexcusable, plus on reading Bruce's link on the Big Dig indicates that lack of quality control and proper monitoring has been a huge problem.

    Storrow Drive?

    By on

    The famously leaky tunnel on Storrow Drive not only doesn't replace the Central Artery; it has nothing to do with the Big Dig. It's leaking because it was poorly built, true, but it was built fifty years ago.

    independentminded, are you sure you've been to Boston?

    Storrow Drive and Big Dig

    The Big Dig did, however, add a new tunnel to Storrow Drive. It is in the eastbound lanes, just beyond the Longfellow Bridge, and it runs under Leverett Circle. Before the Big Dig, all eastbound traffic on Storrow had to stop at the Leverett Circle traffic light. Now, traffic heading for I-93 north or the Tobin goes through this new tunnel.

    Ron is correct in that there

    By on

    Ron is correct in that there is a new tunnel connecting Storrow Drive to the Central Artery. BUT this is not the tunnel on Storrow that is leaking so badly that it now needs to be replaced. The leaky tunnel is under the Fiedler Pedestrian Bridge near the Hatch Shell.

    If I understand correctly, though, that's not the tunnel where

    By on

    that woman got killed from having a slab of poorly-glued on concrete fall on her from the ceiling. I avoid that one too, whenever I can, because it's always backed up, trafficwise.

    Accusing me of not having any idea or not living here is uncalled for.

    Who's on first?

    By on

    Nooo... That's not the tunnel where the slab fell down.

    But the tunnel where the slab fell down is also nowhere near Storrow Drive.

    I still think you're kinda confused.

    Well then,

    By on

    where exactly is that particular tunnel where the woman got killed, and which one is it?

    Ah, Ok...and, yes, I do know where the Ted Williams Tunnel is.

    By on

    I took a wrong turn and ended up in the Ted Williams Tunnel quite by mistake one day about a year or two ago when I was headed back home from dropping my sister off at the airport after she'd been visiting us. It was about 7:45 in the morning, at the beginning of the a. m. rush-hour. While in there, I smelled some gas--there was clearly a gas leak. I got out of there as fast as I could, honking my horn for all it was worth. Freaky, freaky, freaky. I've been more careful since.

    I wonder if you are as

    By on

    I wonder if you are as strange in person as you are on the internet...

    It was on I-90 eastbound

    between I-93 and the Ted Williams Tunnel. If you live in Somerville you're unlikely to use it very often. You can't even reach it from Storrow Drive, as there is no ramp connecting I-93 southbound to I-90 eastbound.

    Have you really not seen any of the many many newspaper articles, TV reports, etc. about this? It was quite a while ago -- Romney was still governor.

    (And why do I know all of this when I don't even own a car?)

    Answer

    By on

    Eastbound lane of 90 connector tunnel.

    Several miles from Storrow Drive.

    Click to see the
    map

    Yes and no

    By on

    There are plenty of new tunnels connecting Storrow to 93 North and South, both east-bound and west-bound. But none of these new tunnels is the Storrow Drive tunnel that leaks and needs to be replaced. That's the 50-year-old one next to the Esplanade, near the Hatch Shell... you know, the one referred to generally as "The Storrow Drive Tunnel."

    Gareth:

    By on

    The Storrow Drive Tunnel near the Esplanade is not the one I've been referring to.

    Of course...

    By on

    A) there are so many leaks in the Big Dig Tunnel(s), especially the one on Storrow Drive that replaces the Central Artery...

    You're referring to the leaky Storrow Drive tunnel that the slab fell from which you can get to going South on the McGrath that replaces the Central Artery... That is to say, a mishmosh of different locations. I think they drove through that tunnel in What's The Worst That Could Happen on their way from Scenic Location A to You Can't Get There That Way.

    Yup.

    By on

    "You're referring to the leaky Storrow Drive tunnel that the slab fell from which you can get to going South on the McGrath that replaces the Central Artery"

    Exactly, Gareth.

    ?!!?!?!?!

    By on

    *stares slack-jawed, hoping this is meant to be a joke*

    I'm not talking about the older tunnel on Storrow drive ldg dtwn

    By on

    I'm talking about the newer tunnel that's directly after the big high-rise buildings in Longfellow Park, which is the (Old) West End of Boston, not the older Storrow Drive Tunnel that you're thinking of, Gareth. That is a newer one, which does replace (at least part of) the Central Artery. I live near the McGrath-O'Brien Hwy, and if I go straight on McGrath hwy towards Boston, I can get to that tunnel easily.

    Yes, but

    that isn't the tunnel that is falling apart and needs to be repaired or replaced.

    And if you drive east on McGrath Highway, you cannot reach either of the Storrow tunnels. Not the old one and not the new one. If you turn right from McGrath-O'Brien onto Storrow, you will not go through any tunnels at all.

    Do you even live here????

    By on

    Independentminded,

    From your comments, it seems as if you have little actual knowledge if what the Central Artery is and what typical conditions were before the Big Dig and now. I drive those tunnels at rush hour quite a bit and it is certainly an improvement over the elevated structure. Both the transit time and the backup are shorter.

    Come on now, Anonymous..yes I do live here.

    By on

    I avoid driving through there like the plague whenever I can, because I don't trust it, due to all the leakage and structural weaknesses.

    Well,

    By on

    that would tend to make your traffic worse...

    independentminded, I don't mean to..

    By on

    Independentminded, I don't mean to disregard your reasons for concern. But I do ask that you acknowledge your opinions are based mostly on press reports. And yes, I am saying the press reports have been overhyped, but not completely mistaken.

    Anyway here's a response to your points.

    (A) there are so many leaks in the Big Dig Tunnel(s), especially the one on Storrow Drive that replaces the Central Artery

    There are 3 tunnels on Storrow Drive: the old one at the Fiedler Footbridge, which was never part of the Big Dig and which DCR is now supposed to repair; the old one under Leverett Circle, which connected to Big Dig work but wasn't actually re-built; the new one under Leverett Circle going in the other direction, which was built by the Big Dig and has that Big Dig tiled look. Which one are you talking about here?

    (B), the fact that the newer construction is also weak and poorly glued together. The fact that there was a fatality not that long ago speaks volumes right there about the problems of the Big Dig. Are they doing anything at all to fix it? Just curious.

    Fasteners of that sort were replaced with mechanical fasteners anywhere they were used. That has already all been done.

    (C), the fact that the Big Dig is way behind schedule and way over budget, and the fact that so much graft, which Massachusetts is especially known for, is present.

    1) Budgets and Schedules change. To which budget and schedule do you refer? Because if it's the infamous $2.3 Billion from 1983, that's barely the same project. 2) There was no graft. I don't know of a single instance in which government employees personally profited by their decisions. Questionable decisions? Unscrupulous contractors? Incompetence? Sure, there was some of all that. But no graft.

    What's your definition of "graft"?

    By on

    2) There was no graft. I don't know of a single instance in which government employees personally profited by their decisions.

    Two words: Campaign contributions.

    Frankly, I really don't care what anybody says,

    By on

    I think that the people who're saying that the Big Dig has been a disaster and that it's playing Russian Roulette to drive through it are right, no matter what anybody else says or thinks, and I avoid it like the plague when I can.

    What is a Director of Professional Development ?

    Ex-state rep Augusto Grace from Burlington recently hired
    (for $90K/year) by Mass Highway Department as
    a "Director of Professional Development".

    WTF?

    As they say, indoor work with no heavy lifting.
    The tunnels may be falling down and leaking and
    rusting, but there's always room for one more
    ex-state rep for yet one more sinecure...