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EASY PASS | PAST BIG DIG COVERAGE
Big Dig hires quality manager
Officials had left job unfilled for three years
By Raphael Lewis, Globe Staff, 04/27/2002
fter operating for three years without someone to coordinate the Big Dig's all-important quality assurance program, which holds contractors accountable for poor work, the Central Artery project filled the position last week.
Ron Sacco, a Boston native who spent more than a decade doing similar work on the Trans-Alaska pipeline and at nuclear power plant construction sites, arrives three years after the position was eliminated for cost reasons, and as failures in the Big Dig's quality assurance program called into question the project's commitment to such work.
In January and February, the Globe reported that lapses in the program may have allowed a faulty ventilation system in the Ted Williams Tunnel, a flawed road surface overlay in South Boston, and substandard road sealant in East Boston to go unrepaired for several years. As a result, state taxpayers could end up footing the bill for the work, which will total at least $4 million.
Told of the new Central Artery hiring, state Representative Joseph Sullivan, the Braintree Democrat who as co-chairman of the Legislature's Transportation Committee slammed the Big Dig for not filling the position sooner, said he was "cautiously optimistic" that flawed construction work will get caught in a timely manner.
"This looks to be a step in the right direction, but I think it's important that this individual have an independent mindset to make adjustments and to operate in a style that's going to be aggressive about monitoring public dollars," Sullivan said. "The only way in which to give this position the juice that it needs and create the appropriate incentive is to allow a serious evaluation, separate and distinct from the current management structure."
Until Sacco's arrival, the project's joint-venture management consultant, Bechtel /Parsons Brinckerhoff, had controlled most of the Big Dig's quality assurance work. Each construction firm holding a major contract also must hire a quality assurance manager.
The contractors' commitment to that obligation has also been called into question, however. A whistleblower lawsuit resolved earlier this year revealed that one major contractor had hired someone with no prior experience monitoring heavy construction as the contract's quality assurance manager. His only experience, it turned out, was at a shrimp processing plant.
Sacco, interviewed yesterday, promised to scrutinize the contractors' quality assurance programs, as well as the Big Dig's as a whole. Sacco said he was arriving "with no preconceived notions" about the viability of the Big Dig's program, but said that he will "come to my own conclusion about the adequacy of this program. If I have to revise it, I'll revise it. If I don't, I won't." He added that he was prepared to find a certain degree of complacency, since the Central Artery work has been going on for more than a decade.
"In the dozen years so far, there must be some set ways of doing things," Sacco said.This story ran on page B1 in the Metro/Region section of the Boston Globe on 04/27/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.