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The Boston Globe OnlineBoston.com Boston Globe Online / Easy Pass

Big Dig team agrees to outside review

Managers meet with Romney, vow cooperation

By Raphael Lewis and Sean P. Murphy, Globe Staff, 3/1/2003

   
 THE SERIES

PART ONE
Bechtel's mistakes drive up cost overruns, and company profits.

Graphics
Bechtel's fee overruns
Map of major conflicts
History of the contract
Contract modifications
Cross section of roadway
Construction cost overruns


PART TWO
State officials overlook and excuse Bechtel's mistakes for a decade.

Graphic
Cost recoveries initiated


PART THREE
Powerfull allies help protect Bechtel and its bottom line.

 FOLLOW-UPS

This series has generated strong response from the state, the public, and Globe columnists.
More Globe coverage

 GLOBE DEFENSE OF SERIES

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

 PHOTO GALLERY

Building a reputation
Bechtel has never shied away from big construction projects, but worldwide achievements are accompanied by controversy.
See past Bechtel projects

 FROM THE ARCHIVES

2001
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

2002
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

2003
Contracts to be reviewed

 RELATED LINKS

Central Artery/Tunnel Project
www.bigdig.com

Bechtel
www.bechtel.com

Parsons Brinckerhoff
www.pbworld.com

State Inspector General reports
On the history of the Central Artery/Tunnel project's finances:
www.state.ma.us/ig/publ/cat01ex.htm
On the Central Artery/Tunnel project's attempts to recover money for mistakes:
www.state.ma.us/ig/publ/catcrex.htm

About "Scheme Z" bridge design
libraries.mit.edu/rotch/artery/

State oversight of the Big Dig
www.state.ma.us/catocc/

Mass. Turnpike Authority
www.massturnpike.com

The Artery Business Committee
www.arterybusiness.com

 ONLINE CHAT

On February 11, 2003, Globe reporter Raphael Lewis chatted with Boston.com readers about the Bechtel series.
Transcript of chat

 CONTACT THE GLOBE

Any tips? Let us know.
Phone: 617-929-3379
E-mail: bigdigtips@globe.com

 MORE BOSTON.COM COVERAGE


Beyond the Big Dig   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. Info
 


Top executives for the Big Dig's private-sector managers met with Governor Mitt Romney yesterday and agreed to cooperate with an independent review of their work on the massive project.

Adrian Zaccaria, president and chief operating officer for Bechtel Group Inc., which has led the management team, called the meeting ''constructive,'' adding that the firm was now prepared to defend its management and design work to a firm of Romney's choosing. ''From our perspective, we're looking forward to a very comprehensive review so that we can address all of these concerns once and for all and get on with our primary business, which is the expeditious completion of this project,'' Zaccaria said after the one-hour meeting in Romney's office. It was the first meeting between a Massachusetts governor and the Big Dig's managers since the fall of 1994, when the project's cost was still $7.7 billion. It now stands at $14.6 billion.

Zaccaria, who was joined by two other Bechtel executives, the company's lobbyist, and the president of the other Big Dig management firm, Parsons Brinckerhoff, declined to answer questions after the brief statement.

Romney, who summoned the project's managers to Beacon Hill after a Globe investigative series tied more than $1 billion in Big Dig overruns to mistakes or poor decisions committed by Bechtel, agreed with Zaccaria that the meeting was constructive, and said he looks forward to beginning the long, deliberate process of scrutinizing the overruns.

Romney said state officials must focus their collective attempts to recoup Big Dig losses into one ''complete, thorough, professional, credible'' review by an independent team of experts, rather than potentially waste money and time with competing efforts.

''I'd like to bring the process of review together to one place, and perhaps . . . we can have a review which really is comprehensive, sets the record straight, and allows us to recover whatever funds may be due to us,'' Romney said.

Romney, who attended the meeting with his chief of Commonwealth development, Douglas Foy, and Transportation Secretary Daniel Grabauskas, said he told the executives that he intends to solicit proposals from a group of engineers, construction specialists, lawyers, and accountants who would review Big Dig overruns. Romney said he would invite a long list of interested state and federal agencies to oversee that review.

Bechtel, in turn, presented its rebuttal to the Globe's series; that rebuttal was released publicly several days ago. The firm also sought to counter reports by the state inspector general's office and the National Academy of Engineering that questioned the company's performance, officials said.

Asked if he felt confident that the state would get money back from Big Dig contractors, Romney said he could only base his knowledge on a decade's worth of anecdotes. He said he was determined to ''really get to the bottom of those stories and find out if they're accurate or not accurate, and if they are accurate, what we're entitled to.''

''I want to get the money, not the headlines,'' Romney said.

Currently, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority is the only state body with direct oversight of the Big Dig, but the state auditor's office, the state inspector general's office, and federal agencies also carry out reviews of the project's finances on a periodic basis.

Turnpike Authority chairman Matthew Amorello recently hired a team of legal professionals to determine culpability for the project's enormous cost growth, and has pledged that the process would also be credible and independent. On Thursday, Amorello appointed the agency's most outspoken Bechtel critic, vice chairman Jordan Levy, as the authority's chief negotiator with the management firm.

But Romney's budget plans have included dismantling the Turnpike Authority and handing Big Dig oversight to his Cabinet. His budget also includes provisions to do away with the inspector general's office.

Romney said his plans for an independent review would include input from those agencies until they no longer exist, assuming he gets the Legislature to back his agenda.

''The inspector general's effort would be put within the Office of the Comptroller,'' Romney said. As for the Turnpike, he said, ''We have begun discussions with the Turnpike Authority and with other agencies that are independent of my office to see if we can't all pool all our resources.''

Romney's proposal met with a variety of responses by Turnpike officials, signaling that confusion over the cost-recovery process would likely continue in the near future.

Christy Mihos, a board member who has repeatedly sparred with the Turnpike's chairman over dealings with Bechtel, praised Romney's initiative. The Turnpike's inaction over the past several years, he said, devalued the agency's reinvigorated cost-recovery efforts.

Levy, the Turnpike vice chairman, said he would work with the governor, but strongly disagreed with the notion that ''we will once again study this thing to death.''

''We don't need any more studies; we need resolution,'' Levy said. ''What is really important is that . . . money is returned to the taxpayers of Massachusetts, who I feel have been ripped off.''

Levy said he is scheduled to meet with Bechtel officials for a negotiating session Wednesday, and fears that Romney may have unintentionally undermined that process by vowing to create an independent review and by dismantling the Turnpike Authority.

''If they don't think I've got the power and the hammer to negotiate, these guys are smart and they won't play,'' Levy said of Bechtel.

This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 3/1/2003.
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