Last updated: August 2, 2019
Topic: ArtDesign
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The Big DigREPORT DRAFTSreekanth Menon | CMG 4210 | 11/29/2017PAGE 1Project BackgroundThe Big Dig (unofficial name), officially known as the Central Artery/Tunnel Project(CA/T) was a $15 billion road infrastructure megaproject that consisted of multiple parts,namely – rerouting the Central Artery of Interstate 93 into the Thomas P. O’Neill Jr.Tunnel, construction of the Ted Williams Tunnel, building of the Leonard P. ZakimBunker Hill Memorial Bridge across the Charles River and the Rose Kennedy Greenwayconstruction. The Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. Tunnel, also built as part of the project, ran fromthe northern point of the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge to Boston’sChinatown neighborhood. The project involved rerouting the chief highway of Boston, theCentral Artery of Interstate 93 into the Ted Williams Tunnel, which would also beconstructed as part of the Big Dig. This tunnel connected the last section of Interstate 90to the Logan International Airport. The Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridgeruns between the Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. Tunnel and the elevated highway to the north(Central Artery). The Rose Kennedy Greenway was built on land left vacant by thererouting of the Central Artery. The greenway project consists of landscaped gardens,promenades, plazas, fountains, art, and specialty lighting systems spread out over a milethrough the Chinatown, Financial District, Waterfront, and North End neighborhoods ofBoston.1Reason for Project ConceptionBoston City had a very complex system of roadways, which were plagued by trafficcongestions. The city’s Planning Board had proposed an elevated expressway in the northsouth direction along Downtown Boston with the intention of reducing trafficcongestion.2 The Inner Belt Project, which consisted of the planned construction of ahighway around parts of Boston, Brookline, Cambridge & Somerville, was proposed toreduce congestion. However, this project was canceled due to protests from thecommunity as the project would have uprooted around 7,000 people from theirresidences. The cancelation of this project spurred on conception of the Big Dig projectwith the purpose of reducing congestion on the roads of Boston, which could have beenpotentially solved with the Inner Belt Project. The Big Dig was first proposed in the 1970sby the Boston Transportation Planning Review. The initial scope of the project was toreplace the elevated Central Artery. The reason was twofold: the expressway haddeteriorated due to wear and tear, and it was always congested due to traffic. In additionto the city plans, business leaders in Boston were concerned with connectivity with theLogan International Airport, and hence demanded construction of a tunnel for thatexpress purpose. Hence, both demands were kept in mind and the Big Dig project scopewas considerably increased to include the rerouting of the Central Artery, construction of1 Daily Boston Globe, December 21, 1930 ‘Streets In The Air Only Solution To Boston’sTraffic ProblemsSo Says the Planning Board That Asks for Two-Level Road Across City,Costing $28,000,000, as FirstItem in a Big Scheme’PAGE 2two tunnels and construction of a greenway in the space previously occupied by the oldCentral Artery.Owner of the projectIn 1997, due to project costs that were turning out to be more than estimated, theMassachusetts state legislature formed the Metropolitan Highway System and transferredthe responsibility for the Big Dig which was previously with the Massachusetts HighwayDepartment and the Governor’s office to the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority (MTA.) 3The MTA would also be in charge of operation of the entire project. The MTA had noexperience in managing an infrastructure project of this magnitude, and hence, hired ajoint venture firm (Bechtel and Parsons-Brinckerhoff) that would help the MTA in projectadministration. This joint venture would essentially act as a project management firm forthe MTA, by assisting with preliminary designs, managing the design and constructionfirms hired for the project (contractors), helping with project cost and scheduling and torepresent the interests of the MTA in any and all project related matters. This led to theMTA and the joint venture practically becoming partners in the project and disabling theMTA to operate independently on all project-related matters.4FinancingThe financing for the Big Dig was mostly divided into two categories: federalreimbursement and non-federal contributions. Federal contribution was estimated toaccount for about 60% of the total cost. The Big Dig was municipally financed, whichmeant that the government would act as the guarantor to any project debts. The state andfederal governments have provided most of the financing for the Big Dig.5 In case of thestate financing, the Massachusetts Transportation Authority issued bonds for the purposesof construction financing. The state government, however, is responsible for the currentcost burden of the project.Contract StructureThe Big Dig had a design-bid-build type of contract. For the project, the MTA hiredBechtel & Parsons-Brinckerhoff, who formed a joint venture for the purpose of thisproject, as a project management entity which would carry out initial design for theproject, coordinate and manage interactions between the designers and contractorsinvolved and would also manage the entire project process from a cost and schedulestandpoint. The MTA was responsible for awarding contracts for final design and3 OIG Testimony CC-2005-027, “Impact of Water Leaks on the Central Artery/TunnelProject and Remaining Risks”5 3construction. The payment terms were on a cost-plus basis.6 This meant the projectmanagement firm would be paid the cost of construction of the project by the owner plusan agreed upon fee as profit for the project management firm. The major contractors hiredfor the project included Jay Cashman, Modern Continental, Obayashi Corporation, PeriniCorporation, Peter Kiewit Sons’ Inc., J.F. White, and Slattery Skanksa. The design firm forthe project in this case doubled as the project manager whereas the main contractor wasModern Continental.76 KiewitSons’ Inc.PeriniCorporationObayashiCorporationModernContinentalJay CashmanJ.F. White SlatterySkanksaPAGE 4Risk ManagementFor the project, risk was shared between the owner and the contractor. The partneringconcept was used for this project. This basically establishes an agreement between allconcerned parties involved in the project to distribute risk and to promote partnershipsbetween all parties. The project involved more than 100 different contracts with valuesranging from $4 million to half a billion dollars. For the project, partnering was enforcedfor all contracts with a value of $1 million and more and with a duration of more than ayear. Partnering sessions were periodically held between parties concerned to discuss risksrelated to any parts in the project and to solve any problems. Federal and state officialsalong with the various contractors’ project management teams met regularly as part of anintegrated team. This team had an agreement to share risks involved in the project.8 Theproject had a separate risk manager. The project had an owner-controlled insuranceprogram to cover any potential risks involved in the future of the project. This insuranceplan was divided between various areas: workers’ compensation, general liability coverage,builder’s risk, airport contractor’s liability insurance, railroad coverage and professionalliabilities coverage. A single insurance package was decided upon thus negating the needfor separate insurance programs for all contracts involved in the project.9BudgetWhen Congress had initially passed a budget for the Big Dig, it was estimated to be about$2.8 billion and was supposed to be completed in 1998. However, the project’s total cost bycompletion (in December 2007) was estimated to be about $14.6 billion in total due to costoverruns, delays, mishaps and lack of coordination between parties involved in theproject.10Current status of the projectThe project was finally completed in December 2007. As the project careened wildly overbudget, the state was burdened with compensating for 20% of the overrun cost. Once theoverrun hit a specific number, the state was on the hook for 100% of the overrun. Thesecosts were collected indirectly from taxpayers by increasing toll collection prices oncertain bridges, highways and tunnels. As a result, the financing of other projects in thestate was affected due to the state not being able to invest in them as it was still paying for8 5the overruns of the Big Dig.11 These payments are projected to last until 2038, by whichtime the total cost could run up to $24 billion.Problems encounteredThe Big Dig encountered many problems along its long project duration in the form ofconstruction defects, use of substandard materials, site mishaps, malfunctioningequipment installations, etc.In 2001, MTA officials were aware of multiple cases of leaks from ceilings and walls,damage to steel supports and fireproofing infrastructure and under-designed drainagesystems.12 These were due to Modern Continental not performing their work correctly. Asthe years passed by, before construction was fully complete, many instances of leaks werefound inside the tunnels.13 MTA officials stated that the number of leaks was about 500,down from the 1000 number reported previously. The problem of leaks could be attributedto substandard work & use of poor materials.The concrete supplied by Aggregate Industries, the largest supplier of concrete for theunderground tunnels, was found to be not meeting the specifications. The organizationwas sued by the state citing safety violations, leaks, cost overruns and substandard qualitymaterial usage.14On July 10, 2006, a concrete ceiling panel collapsed near the entrance of the Ted Williamstunnel killing a passenger and injuring the driver.15 A steel tieback in the ceiling overInterstate 90 gave way, causing multiple tile panels to collapse and fall down. Furtherinvestigations revealed that the epoxy used to glue bolts into the ceiling concrete was ofinferior quality.1611 Report: Even More Big Dig Leaks Found – Big Dig News Story – WCVB Boston Archived13,%20Tragedy%20Mark%20Boston%E2%80%99s%20Big%20Dig%20Project16 6Another issue was about the handrails installed in the tunnels. They had sharp edges andled to eight deaths, leading to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to decideto take down the handrails near curves & exit ramps in the tunnels.17A number of lighting fixtures were found to have mounting installations which hadalready deteriorated due to corrosion. In April 2012, a decision was made to replace all25,000 lighting fixtures which would cost about $54 million.18During the initial stages of the project, concerns were raised about the huge disruptions tothe surrounding ecosystem and the release of environmentally harmful elements. This ledto a delay of about 4 years in the schedule of construction of the project due to the delayin obtaining environmental clearances.19 This delay could be attributed to a lack of preplanning and oversight in assessing site conditions.About $1.1 billion in budget overruns was found to directly be the fault of Bechtel/ParsonsBrinckerhoff ‘s design documents. It misrepresented existing site conditions thus leadingto obstacles when actual work on the site began.20LawsuitsThe state of Massachusetts sued Bechtel/Parsons-Brinckerhoff for design flaws,mismanagement, budget overruns, leaks, deaths, etc. Bechtel/Parsons-Brinckerhoff agreedto pay the state a sum of $407 million whereas several smaller companies would payaround $51 million to the state as damages. A separate lawsuit was filed by the family ofthe person killed due to the ceiling collapse against 15 companies involved in the project.The family of a state trooper killed due to the handrails also sued the MTA,Bechtel/Parsons-Brinckerhoff and several other small construction companies.17 7Project OutcomeThe project resulted in a 62% decrease in travel hours on the I-93.21 $166 million wasestimated to be savings made by travelers due to decrease in travel times. However, areport in the Boston Globe concluded that the Big Dig never reduced congestion or trafficbut merely transferred them to outside the city.22HindsightA number of things that went wrong in the Big Dig project could have been avoided ifsimple precautions/steps had been taken during the planning and eventual constructionof the project.It has been reported that engineers gave politicians the actual estimates. However,politicians covered up the actual estimates to get the project approved. More transparencyin the entire approval process and pre-planning process could have enabled a betterdecision or better preparedness for the actual outcome of the project.Leaks were caused due to failure of the construction firm to clear out debris from thewalls. Better engineering practices could have helped prevent this problem which led toincreased cost overruns and increased project completion time.The project management firm should have been more stringent in enforcing qualitystandards for all materials used during the construction, only approving those materialswhich met the conditions specified in the technical specifications. This would have saveda lot of casualties and accidents which occurred later from a human as well as materialstandpoint. Federal and state authorities paid out $534 million in settlements.The state, while partnering with a private project management firm should have beenmore vigilant in monitoring and assessing cost and schedule related issues on a proactivebasis.23A better job should have been performed by the private project management firm whichshould have been more efficient in managing and coordinating the project between allparties involved in it.21