Two items of interest from the Herald on Big Dig-related documents.
First, the Herald says it has “secret documents” showing that, as early as 2001, both Bechtel and the Turnpike knew of significant defects in the supports that were supposed to hold up the panels that collapsed Monday night:
Big Dig officials discovered defects in a crucial metal support as they were pushing to wrap up construction of I-90 tunnel ceilings in 2001, but did not make substantial design changes amid a growing concern about the projectâs escalating costs, secret documents obtained by the Herald reveal.
The supports used for the concrete ceiling panels that collapsed this week and killed 38-year-old Milena Del Valle were not fully weather-protected or fabricated to contract standards – a deficiency reported to the lead contractor, project manager Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority during construction, the bombshell documents show.
In September 2001, a Big Dig âdeficiency reportâ indicated that a key part of the ceiling hanger known as the clevis was not âfabricated and galvanizedâ to contract specifications. The report also stated the clevises, which connect to metal rods supporting 3-ton slabs that collapsed, were found to be plagued by âsignificant rust.â
If those “clevises” are why the panels collapsed, and if they failed because they weren’t properly galvanized or because they were rusty, that’s really horrifying.
Second, a useful reminder on how bad things really got under Jim Kerasiotes, the guy Bill Weld put in charge of the project in 1991 and who ran it until he was forced out in 2000:
Everyone wants a look at those records – the attorney general and the U.S. attorney included.
Well, lots of luck. That train has left the station – and it left long before Matt Amorello ever got the Turnpike job. A March 2001 report by then-Inspector General Robert A. Cerasoli found even then âthousands of pages of documents are missing.â Investigators asked the newly appointed chairman, Andrew Natsios, about the gaps. Natsios told them that when he took over after Gov. Paul Cellucci fired Jim Kerasiotes in April 2000, he arrived to find âfile cabinets had been emptied and computer hard drives had been âsand blasted so data could never be recovered from them, and so that the computers wouldnât even turn on,â â Natsios was quoted in the report as saying.
Natsios also told investigators that surveillance videos showed a former MassHighway staffer removing boxes of materials from the Turnpikeâs offices in the state Transportation Building. âThis removal of material occurred during four trespasses or break-ins over a three-day period,â the report said.
Sure, there’s lots of blame to go around, as many of you pointed out in response to my rant from yesterday. But it wasn’t the legislature that was sand-blasting hard drives in the Big Dig’s offices.