While the huge project was in progress during the ribbon cuttings and while millions of drivers traveled through the new tunnels and connectors Big Dig insiders engineers, inspectors, contractors and state officials were exchanging dozens of memos these we obtained from NBC news reveal an undercurrent of concern and downright fear about safety hazards and construction flaws.
A 1995 Turnpike engineers interoffice memo subject line: Ted Williams Tunnel Inspection. It cites “Significant leaks”, “Improper water proofing”, “Dramatic loss of tiles.”
It raises concern about the ceiling panels saying though they are “very vulnerable to rust”, “the contractor stored a large quantity of panels outside.”
A year later: Pike engineers still concerned about the “Tunnels ceiling panels” and now also point to “rust” in the panels slated for the “east and west bound portals of East Boston.” They complain “no effort as all was made to repair” part of it. It points to “rust in the anchor bolt inserts” and worries about the bond between bolts and the ceiling panels.
Hank “These memos we obtained, do they prove your report might have been the tip of the iceberg?”
We showed the memos to this former state inspector general his report from 1998 charged the Williams Tunnel is dangerous. Now he says because Big Dig managers essentially do their own inspections, thats disaster.
Robert Cerasoli, Former Massachusetts Inspector General “Design built projects are put in place to avoid as many regulations as possible, to avoid as much oversight as possible, and to get them done so the people who are involved can get the most money as possible.”
Look at the results of a 1996 walk through inspection of the tunnel ceiling panels they reveal core damage in dozens of them. Remember the tunnel at this time was open to commercial traffic.
Hank”And whats the result now?”
Robert Cerasoli, Former Massachusetts Inspector General “The result is danger, very serious.”
The memos show a pattern of concern by Masspike engineers brushed off by contractors and the final 10-year-old memo from pike insiders ends ominously.
“Left unresolved by the contractor,” it says, “these problems will necessitate a major expensive, multi-year maintenance and replacement program”.
Experts we talked to say the obstacle now is admitting theres something wrong. Itll be impossible they say, to tell the public the only way to insure safety is to rip it up do a thorough inspection, and then, start over.
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