FOLLOW-UP | A BOSTON GLOBE EDITORIAL
Big dig reckoning
ECHTEL PARSONS/Brinckerhoff, the giant engineering partnership, has been a fixture on the Central Artery project for 18 years. It is time for an assessment of its work, and the Romney administration ought to make sure it is done by competent independent engineers and officials.
Bechtel's mistakes drive up cost overruns, and company profits.
Bechtel's fee overruns
Map of major conflicts
History of the contract
Cross section of roadway
Construction cost overruns
State officials overlook and excuse Bechtel's mistakes for a decade.
Cost recoveries initiated
Powerfull allies help protect Bechtel and its bottom line.
This series has generated strong response from the state, the public, and Globe columnists.
More Globe coverage
On Feb. 20, 2003, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff issued a document disputing the findings of the "Easy Pass" series. Globe editor Martin Baron responded with a defense of the Globe's reporting.
Read Bechtel's statement
Read the Globe's statement
Building a reputation
Bechtel has never shied away from big construction projects, but worldwide achievements are accompanied by controversy.
See past Bechtel projects
Review cites flaws at Big Dig
Cerasoli charges Big Dig coverup
$1.4b overrun known in '99
Firm rejects call to offset costs
'99 memos warned of tunnel leaks
Officials disclose more defects
Lawsuit raises Big Dig questions
State to reopen deal with Bechtel
Big Dig hires quality manager
US knew of hidden expenses
Big Dig overrun just plain big
SEC probers to target Big Dig
Big Dig review to target overruns
Turnpike, firm set deal on leak cost
Contracts to be reviewed
Central Artery/Tunnel Project
State Inspector General reports
On the history of the Central Artery/Tunnel project's finances:
On the Central Artery/Tunnel project's attempts to recover money for mistakes:
About "Scheme Z" bridge design
State oversight of the Big Dig
Mass. Turnpike Authority
The Artery Business Committee
On February 11, 2003, Globe reporter Raphael Lewis chatted with Boston.com readers about the Bechtel series.
Transcript of chat
Any tips? Let us know.
What happens to the ribbon of land being created by the depression of the Central Artery? A joint effort between The Boston Globe, MIT, and WCVB-TV explores.
A special report
Progress updates on the Big Dig.
C. Matthew Wiley, Bechtel's program manager, contends that the partnership has worked to the highest professional standards, but Globe Staff members Sean P. Murphy and Raphael Lewis, in a series of articles this week, report that design errors have inflated the cost of the project by $1.1 billion. With the cost of the project ballooning to at least $14.6 billion, the state should make every effort to recover money for faulty work.
The statute of limitations has run out on much of the work, and prior efforts to recoup costs have been pitiful. Inquiries by the Artery/tunnel project's cost recovery committee have resulted in the return of only $35,707, and that was from a subcontractor, not Bechtel.
The roots of the problem go back to the original decision by Frederick Salvucci, the progenitor of the project, to make Bechtel both the project manager and the overall supervisor of design contracts. Salvucci established a committee of high-ranking public officials to monitor the work, but this was disbanded by the Weld administration. As construction began in earnest in the 1990s, the 50-person state work force was dwarfed by the 900-plus contingent from the partnership. In effect, Bechtel was policing itself.
The Turnpike Authority began preliminary inquiries a year and a half ago, when board members Jordan Levy and Christy Mihos began raising questions about Bechtel. But a power vacuum existed at the authority at the time, and Levy and Mihos seemed to want to kick Bechtel off the job, which would have been a disaster while much of the project remained unfinished. Matthew J. Amorello became chairman a year ago and restored strong management to the authority.
Just before the Globe series was published, the authority appointed Edward M. Ginsburg, a retired family court judge, to look into cost recovery. But the Turnpike Authority has been overseeing Bechtel for the past six years, ever since it took over responsibility for construction. Even though Amorello is untainted by past artery problems, the authority lacks the institutional distance from Bechtel to undertake a dispassionate investigation.
Governor Romney, because he has no relationship with Bechtel, is better positioned to begin an inquiry. However, he proposes to give the work to a competing engineering company. The size of its fee would depend on the amount of money it recovered.
This arrangement would establish an adversarial relationship with Bechtel that would do the project no good as it nears completion in 2005. Romney should instead select a committee of outside experts in law and engineering who do not have a financial stake in the outcome. The Turnpike Authority, because it is ultimately responsible for the quality of construction, should defray the cost.
Secretary of State Wiliam J. Galvin is drafting legislation to extend the statute of limitations. That might be helpful to the cost recovery efforts, but the top priority is an independent, impartial investigation.
Relations between Romney and Amorello are complicated by the governor's proposal to fold the authority into the state Highway Department. This cannot be done without legislative approval. Amorello's support of an outside investigation would show that the Turnpike Authority does not confuse independence with irresponsibility.
This story ran on page A18 of the Boston Globe on 2/12/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.