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Bolts from the blue

Every day, as it becomes more and more obvious that Boston's Big Dig project is not as bad as its critics had been claiming since it started.

It's far, far, far worse.

When the 3-ton concrete ceiling panel collapsed a few weeks ago, killing a woman, it suddenly became no longer feasible for the powers that be in Boston to continue pretending that all was just fine and dandy and to continue using the Turnpike Authority as their own personal piggy bank and dumping ground for public sector jobs. After years of fighting to keep control over the Authority, the Massachusetts legislature passed Governor Romney's bill giving him control over the inspections in barely 8 hours. And as Romney's work continues and more and more people dig into the records, more and more appalling facts are coming to light.

For one, the reason the ceiling panel fell was that it was suspended from the roof by bolts. Bolts not sunk into the concrete roof, but set in epoxy. This was a concern years ago -- in 2000, according to one memo unearthed by the Boston Herald; in 1999, by the Boston Globe. Both alarming memos were ignored, apparently, as the bolts were very rarely (if ever) inspected for signs of the warned failure.

And Matt Amarello, the embattled head of the Authority, finds himself utterly abandoned by his long-term allies. For years, he'd curried their favor by hiring their friends, family membrs, and supporters, as well as enabling them to collect hefty campaign contributions from Big Dig contractors. But the instant the tunnel tasted blood, Matt found himself standing alone. Romney has been trying to get rid of him for years, and now the legislature has washed its hands of him.

(In an "only in Massachusetts" twist, Romney's efforts are being backed by one of Boston's biggest law firms, working to oust Amarello on a pro bono basis -- in other words, for free. Meanwhile, Amarello has hired three of Boston's most expensive law firms to fight to keep his job -- and he's sticking the state with their bills.)

Boston is, in a nutshell, screwed.

The Big Dig was to replace the Central Artery. The idea was to replace the series of elevated highways with a surface and tunnel system. And as each portion of the Dig opened, the portion of the Central Artery it was supplanting was torn down. The crossover and redundancy was minimized. Which means that as each portion of the tunnel system is shut down for inspections and repairs, there simply isn't a ready alternative to getting around the city. Already traffic to and from Logan Airport is severely constricted, and it's getting worse.

If you're wondering why I'm wasting your time on this local story, it's because that this $14.6-BILLION-dollar project was mostly funded with federal dollars -- until Congress finally turned off the spigot about a year ago. I don't have precise figures, but the corrupt swine of Massachusetts flushed about $11 billion of OUR money down their killer hole in the ground -- largely thanks to officials with names like "Kennedy" and "Kerry."

I've gotten a LOT of mileage out of bashing Massachusetts, and there is a lot of truth in the old saw that "people tend to get the government they deserve." For decades, the people of Massachusetts have been re-electing the same corrupt and/or incompetent politicians again and again and again and again, and now the consequences of those votes are coming back to bite them on the ass -- and HARD.

The cynics are already finding their way to give vent to their frustrations. The Tip O'Neill Tunnel is being referred to as the "Drip," while the Ted Williams Tunnel is getting tagged with the name "Dead Williams."

But Boston's current state... I dunno if I'd wish that on anyone, even the Massholes who gave us Tip O'Neill, Ted Kennedy, Michael Dukakis, and John Kerry, just to name four.


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Comments (23)

Jay,I considered pos... (Below threshold)
Lorie Byrd:

Jay,
I considered posting the following, but wimped out. I was listening to the radio in the car recently and heard the report about the innocent girl killed by Israeli fire. A matter of minutes later in the same newscast there was a mention of the collapse that killed the woman in the Big Dig tunnel and it occurred to me that there was so much outrage over the girl killed in the Middle East, but not nearly as much over the innocent woman killed as a result of a big government boondoggle. They are both just as dead. I just found it interesting and sad.

Lori (& Jay),The sad... (Below threshold)

Lori (& Jay),
The sad fact is we taxpayers can be screwed out of BILLIONS and the outrage is never as much as a life of a child in a war-torn country...even as the local boondogle claims a young woman's life as well.

The fact is made more sad in that it clearly (except in the MSM) indicates what "causes" are popular, and which are smeared over.

As noted in the above article, now the blood-letting will begin...but only the lower level folk will be netted. The higher-ups will all find a blame point well below them.

Duke

Screw them...They ... (Below threshold)
Gmac:

Screw them...

They wasted OUR tax dollars while providing themselves with a cushy lifestyle through corruption.
They dug the hole, now it's time for them to lay down in it or fix it themselves.

...A matter of minutes l... (Below threshold)
Paul:

...A matter of minutes later in the same newscast there was a mention of the collapse that killed the woman in the Big Dig tunnel and it occurred to me that there was so much outrage over the girl killed in the Middle East, but not nearly as much over the innocent woman killed as a result of a big government boondoggle. They are both just as dead.

That's interesting. I hear the story of the big dig killing a woman and I wonder why the outrage. New Orleans had ~1200 people killed by a government boondoggle and the big media has largly ignored the cause.

I know the media is all foaming at the mouth over the big dig.. we down in New Orlenas just look on with bemusement.

I suspect if 1200 people were killed it the big dig, the media would be a tad more interested than 1200 people in New Orleans.

Waiting for the trolls to t... (Below threshold)
Old Coot:

Waiting for the trolls to tell us why this is the fault of GWB; counting down 10, 9, 8........

I have to agree with your s... (Below threshold)
brian:

I have to agree with your statement that people get the gov't. they deserve. Mass. has to be punished for giving us John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, and this seems to fit the crime. It's just a shame that it cost the rest of us billions.
Maybe John Kerry can formulate a plan to begin planning to commision a panel that would be enpowered to plan for future planning. I think this would have a planning effect on all their plans.

The majority of the ills of... (Below threshold)

The majority of the ills of katrina were the fault of the LOCAL ELECTED OFFICIALS (Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanton), not the President of the United States. So once again, New Orleans was getting precisly the government it deserved. And again - just as in Massachusetts - THE REST OF US ended up footing the bill!

John Kerry ALWAYS says he has a plan - he just never shares any details with the rest of us! In other words, there IS NO PLAN.

These kinds of boondoggles are NEVER, EVER going to end until we give up, once and for all, the idea that the government can solve much of anything! We need to start taking responsibility for ourselves in a much more active fashion.

The majority of the ills of... (Below threshold)

The majority of the ills of katrina were the fault of the LOCAL ELECTED OFFICIALS (Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanton), not the President of the United States. So once again, New Orleans was getting precisly the government it deserved. And again - just as in Massachusetts - THE REST OF US ended up footing the bill!

John Kerry ALWAYS says he has a plan - he just never shares any details with the rest of us! In other words, there IS NO PLAN.

These kinds of boondoggles are NEVER, EVER going to end until we give up, once and for all, the idea that the government can solve much of anything! We need to start taking responsibility for ourselves in a much more active fashion.

"For decades the people ... (Below threshold)
cmd:

"For decades the people of Massachusetts have been re-electing the same corrupt and/or incompetent politicians again and again and again and again. . ."

And they STILL will after all of this, Jay. You know that. Neither Liveshot nor Senator Chappaquiddick will suffer any political fallout from this, and they'll be returned to office by huge margins. As will every slimy Democrat bastard whose fat asses are permanently parked in the Legislature.

Old Coot is right, and you can see it if you watch and read local media. This is all the Republicans' fault, despite our being cursed with a solidly Democrat legislature, despite the Big Dig being a decade-long punchline about where corrupt Democrats sent their feckless nephews or pneumatic-bosomed bedtoys or ne'er-do-well brothers in law to find cushy jobs.

It's Romney's fault. Or Swift's. Or Cellucci's. Or Weld's. Certainly not M. Stanley "Massachusetts Miracle" Dukakis, certainly not the filthy, patronage-ridden Democrat sleazehole that is Massport and certainly not the fault of any Democrat in office who is suddenly shocked, shocked that Amorello screwed the pooch.

There's a reason people from this hellhole of a state are called "Massholes," you know.

That's interesting... (Below threshold)
That's interesting. I hear the story of the big dig killing a woman and I wonder why the outrage. New Orleans had ~1200 people killed by a government boondoggle and the big media has largly ignored the cause.

You're right that the Corps of Engineers failure in New Orleans should get a LOT more play in the media. One reason it doesn't is general technical ignorance on the part of the media; another is that a systemic problem going back 30 years cannot be pinned on GWB.

But there is a difference here. In New Orleans, a system failed under pressure from a natural disaster. Of course, it was supposed to survive the disaster, but at least the system failed under severe stress. The Big Dig failure happened in normal operation, not under extraordinary circumstances. And it happened relatively soon after installation.

>But there is a difference ... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>But there is a difference here. In New Orleans, a system failed under pressure from a natural disaster. Of course, it was supposed to survive the disaster, but at least the system failed under severe stress.

Not really. As we've documetned over and over there was very litte stress on the wall when it fell. Well below previous stresses and (as a future post will show) about the same stress as a normal day.

While not excusing the admi... (Below threshold)
Tym:

While not excusing the administrations that built the 'big dig', bear in mind that the project is not just ONE tunnel. (or two, depending on the day of the week.)

This was/is one of the biggest tunnel and roadway projects in the world. Hundreds of thousands of people use all the roadways and other tunnels on a DAILY, if not HOURLY basis.

There are often complaints that the original price tag was only 2.5 billion. Those people think that price applies to the project as currently built. They are wrong. Nobody ever tots up the expected costs for what the project is NOW (though, true, it's likely 3 times what it SHOULD have cost).

The failure of a ceiling system in two or three tunnels should not damn the entire project. Yes, there was a death - and such is inexcusable. However, the bolt and epoxy hanging system is accepted engineering practice, and is likely more widely used than anybody expects - because, when installed correctly, works and is very reliable.

Everybody is harping and nitpicking on very small items in the entire project that don't work. Few people realize the true scope of the project. The last big news item was the leaks in a tunnel.

While the tunnels leak more than planned, only rarely is the water at all visible. It's not like you are driving through standing water.


When a car or truck drives off a bridge, or someone dies as a result of an electrical short under a manhole cover, entire infrastructures are not closed. The problems get fixed, and we go on to the next problem.

Here Here!!Massach... (Below threshold)
Robert:

Here Here!!

Massachusetts politicians just aren't holding the screws to the companies who bid on the big dig enough.

Where was the oversight of Bechtel and those who used poor-graded concrete?

The pols were too busy getting kickbacks.

It just goes to show you, more oversight of business is needed.

Sure it might have cost those businesses more to perform their duties and provide the materials (which in turn may have added more cost to the project), but where did it get MA by saving money and cutting corners?

Penny wise, and dollar foolish!

It's sad it took the death of this woman and billions of dollars of waste for people to figure it out.

I'm not sure that embeding ... (Below threshold)
Socratease:

I'm not sure that embeding the bolts in epoxy is a poor design. Here in California, we make a house earthquake-resistant by bolting the frame to the foundation, and an accepted method for this is drilling a hole in the concrete, filling it with epoxy, and inserting the bolt into the filled hole. Obviously *something* went wrong with the mounts for the decorative panels, but it's not at all clear that that's it.

Not really. As we'... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
Not really. As we've documetned over and over there was very litte stress on the wall when it fell. Well below previous stresses and (as a future post will show) about the same stress as a normal day.

The March, 2006 issue of Popular Mechanics has a seemingly well researched article titled Now What? The Lessons of Katrina. On page 4 the 2nd paragraph from the bottom contains the following sentence:

"In Plaquemines Parish, south of New Orleans, the surge topped out at 30 ft.; in New Orleans the surge was 25 ft.--enough to overtop some of the city's floodwalls."

That seems to be at odds with your statement that "...there was very litte [sic] stress on the wall when it fell." I know you live in New Orleans and perhaps your information is correct. However, perception is reality in many cases, so if the MSM says there was a 25 ft surge in New Orleans that overtopped the cities floodwalls, then JohnAnnArbor's point is valid even if the facts are incorrect. The public attributes the cause of the deaths in New Orleans as being caused by Katrina to a large degree.

Gayle Miller:Just ... (Below threshold)
USMC Pilotb:

Gayle Miller:

Just got home and read our post. I think I love you, but don't tell my wife.

Here in California... (Below threshold)
kbiel:
Here in California, we make a house earthquake-resistant by bolting the frame to the foundation, and an accepted method for this is drilling a hole in the concrete, filling it with epoxy, and inserting the bolt into the filled hole.

Except your house, while maybe weighing 3 tons, is not suspended above your head by the epoxy-bolt design. Most of the house weight is placed on to the base plates which rest directly on the foundation. The bolts and epoxy setup is to keep the house on its foundation during an earthquake not to bear the weight of the house.

as KI says. there is a lot ... (Below threshold)
K:

as KI says. there is a lot of difference between using expoxy when bolting something down and using it to hold something up.

First reports said the bolts were known* for constantly coming loose, and there was a maintenance team assigned full time to locating and fixing it. Records were kept and they thought the ongoing repairs would be sufficient. I haven't seen that reference since.

Shoddy construction does not equal cost overruns. You may have either or both on a project. And overruns do not equal graft. Again you may have any combination. MA seems to have hit a TRIFECTA made worse by management turnover.

The NOLA thing can't be blamed on any person. The city and state agencies did poorly. The designated officals clearly did not follow plans and apparently some were not aware plans existed.

FEMA seemed confused at the top levels. And the engineers had built some levees wrong - they missed or didn't understand the soil. The levees had been constantly built, expanded, reworked, etc. for seventy years in the area.

We also learned that local inspection of levies was a nice political job. Apparently you looked out of your car window, if a levee was still there it passed inspection. But at best they wouldn't have seen underwater anyway.

*I refer, of course, to the bolts as installed on this project, and not to other constuction.

I'm pretty disappointed in ... (Below threshold)
Veeshir:

I'm pretty disappointed in Boston. For years I've compared DC unfavorably to Boston saying, "DC is corrupt and incomptetent. Sure Boston pols are corrupt, but at least they're competent. For its size, Boston is one of the nicest and safest cities in the country."

They saw all those billions and just had to go crazy.

I lived in Boston in 1996-1997 and almost every week another contractor was getting busted for taking money. Or workers were seen going into bars for 2-hour lunches. Or some contractor had a nice, new garage and driveway or.... But I figured they would at least build the tunnel well.

I'm very happy I don't have to drive in Boston right now. It was deranged at the best of times, it must be a nightmare now.

I have read many people in ... (Below threshold)
Kevin:

I have read many people in this thread mention that the Massachusetts government is to blame for all of this. I do hope that you realize that the CA/T project is/was overseen and managed by the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which is a private company.

Veeshir and Kevin:... (Below threshold)
K:

Veeshir and Kevin:

Veeshir. I think the words you are searching for are irresponsible and negligent.

The people working on big projects are usually competent but if the system is not rewarding quality, investigating concerns, and honoring diligence then you get this.

Kevin. It may operate as an independent company. But isn't it a creature of the state government?
Contrast Walmart with the Turnpike Authority. Walmart would exist without the state government. And it could not be abolished by them although they could harass Walmart. But couldn't the state do as it wished with the rurnpike operation?

K,It's quite diffe... (Below threshold)
Kevin:

K,

It's quite different actually. Wal-Mart is free to purchase or lease land from private entities upon which they build and operate their stores. The Commonwealth authorized the administration of a public thoroughfare by a private bond-issuing entity. The sale of any public land or commodity for private use requires a legislative (or at times, executive) act.

Kevin: Thanks for the answe... (Below threshold)
K:

Kevin: Thanks for the answer re Walmart... although I don't understand what you wrote.

So far I haven't found a clear statement of what this MTA actually is. But what I do find is the state created it and the governor appoints the directors.

Since MA has just removed the Dig from the MTAs control and also decided it is possible to fire a Chairman I can only conclude the MTA is not a private entity but is a public entity that operates like a private entity until the state decides otherwise.

Whether it requires a legislative, executive, or constitutional adjustment the state government action it appears the Authority is not 'private' as most people would define 'private'.

I guess this is why we have lawyers.




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