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Globe statement on Bechtel defense

2/20/2003

The following statement was issued by Boston Globe editor Martin Baron in response to Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff's dispute of findings reported in the Globe series "Easy Pass":

The Globe has carefully reviewed Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff's response to the paper's three-part series about the company's management of the Big Dig project. The Globe stands by its reporting.

The Globe finds itself in much the same position as the state Inspector General, who recently attributed to Bechtel /Parsons a $65 million error on a small part of the Big Dig in 1997 only to be told by Bechtel/Parsons that it did nothing wrong and the state should pick up the tab because of "differing site conditions." Once again, in reviewing the reporting in the Globe series, Bechtel/Parsons acknowledges no errors on its part whatsoever. The company seeks to minimize its responsibility by describing its role as simply providing "management consulting services" for the Big Dig, suggesting its role is only to "estimate'' and "monitor."

In fact, Bechtel/Parsons oversaw a design process that resulted in drawings containing numerous errors and omissions, which led to substantial construction overruns. According to its contracts, the company had an obligation to "evaluate the completeness, currency, and accuracy" of mapping and surveying information before designing began. Bechtel/Parsons also was obliged to "perform surveys in critical areas,'' especially "where information gaps exist." Regarding its responsibilities for the final designs, Bechtel/Parsons was obliged contractually to "perform formal reviews of all design submittals" for "conformance with accepted professional standards for quality." Bechtel/Parsons was to do this when drawings were 75-percent complete and 100-percent complete, although by the company's own admission, many designs were not 100 percent complete until after construction began.

Bechtel/Parsons does not dispute that many final designs included errors or omissions that drove up the cost of construction.

The Globe stands by its reporting that $1.1 billion of the more than $1.6 billion in construction cost overruns to date are tied to Bechtel/Parsons's management of the Big Dig. Bechtel/Parsons itself acknowledges that $736 million in contract modifications resulted from proceeding with construction before designs were completed. The other $350 million was rung up because contractors found different work zone conditions than the designs stated. Bechtel/Parsons lays claim to hundreds of millions of dollars in "fast track" savings without documenting savings of that magnitude or any "fast track" plan.

In its response to the series, Bechtel/Parsons chose to gloss over or disguise the facts. For example, Bechtel/Parsons seemingly takes issue with the Globe's assertion that the FleetCenter was not included in a preliminary design. The FleetCenter was, in fact, missing from a crucial design document that was carried over to the section design consultant, who finished the designs under Bechtel/Parsons's supervision. Contract modification documents show that $991,000 was spent to rectify problems stemming from that error.

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