Thursday, 4:30 PM
Governor signs bill to take over Big Dig investigation
By Andrew Ryan, Globe Correspondent
Governor Mitt Romney signed a bill into law this morning that gave him authority over the investigation and the inspection of the Big Dig in the wake of Monday’s partial collapse of the Interstate 90 connector tunnel that killed a 38-year-old Jamaica Plain woman.
“Our effort is going to … focus on opening the tunnel as quickly as possible and doing so when it is entirely safe,” Romney said at a brief ceremony in his office.
Secretary of Transportation John Cogliano will oversee the probe for Romney, shifting control away from Massachusetts Turnpike Authority chairman Matthew J. Amorello.
Romney has intensified his calls for Amorello to leave his post since Monday and has begun legal proceedings to forcibly remove the chairman from the Turnpike Authority. Attorney General Thomas Reilly has joined the call for Amorello to step aside, a move echoed by legislative leaders who suggested Thursday that he take a lesser role at the agency.
As of this morning, however, Amorello remained in place.
“He's still head of the Turnpike Authority,” Romney said when a reporter asked if Amorello was still in charge.
“But in terms of the inspections,” Romney said. “The entire inspection process is under the direction of Secretary Cogliano and he reports to me. So ultimately, me.”
The emergency measure, which passed by almost unanimous votes in the House and Senate Thursday night, gives Romney access to documents, files, consultants and all inspections concerning the tunnels. It takes effect immediately.
Monday night, concrete ceiling panels fell and crushed a car, killing Milena Del Valle, 38. Her husband, Angel Del Valle, 46, crawled out of the vehicle with minor injuries.
Romney plans to meet this morning with leaders of the turnpike authority engineering and construction staff to instruct them how to move forward.
The governor said he has been in touch with the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. Federal inspectors are trying to determine what caused the concrete ceiling panels to fall.
On the state level, the attorney general has launched a criminal investigation that could lead to negligent manslaughter charges.