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Project on Government Oversight




No Light At The End Of This Tunnel: Boston's Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel Project

February 1, 1995 


The Project on Government Oversight's report findings include:

In the mid-1980's the Central Artery/Tunnel Project was originally sold to Congress as a $2.3 billion highway operation. Currently, the Project has ballooned to $9.6 billion. However, the current $9.6 billion price tag has been estimated by state officials as being low, and some state legislators believe the price tag will reach $12 billion.

This is the most expensive highway project in the history of the United States. In comparison, the Chunnel, the thirty-two mile tunnel connecting France and England, cost $16 billion.

The Federal government is responsible for 80% to 90% of the final cost, but is playing almost no oversight role in how the money is being spent.

The original completion date was 1998. Currently the estimated completion date is 2004.

The Federal government has written a blank check to Massachusetts, who in turn has given free reign to the primary contractor, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas.

An example of Bechtel/Parsons' control was discovered when POGO received information for a Freedom of Information Request from the State of Massachusetts. POGO had to write a check payable to Bechtel/Parsons for this public information.

A Massachusetts Highway Administrator complained: "One must rely almost solely on B/PB because the DPW (Massachusetts Department of Public Works) is not managing the contract as we have urged."

Twenty-nine state employees working on the Central Artery/Tunnel Project are actually paid by either Bechtel or Parsons. Personnel "seconded" to the contractors include: the Media Relations Director, the Director of Communications, an Accountant, and the Supervising Accountant. Any impartial oversight these twenty-nine workers may have had over the Project has been eliminated by allowing Bechtel/Parsons to pay them.

The Federal government has subsidized the purchase of buildings, under the excuse of these buildings being in the right-of-way of the construction project.

  • The Wang Building, bought by the government for $29 million had only cost $11 million for the land and the building a few years earlier. Massachusetts admits now that the purchase was unnecessary, but that because of the federal handout, ". . . the building becomes a long-term Commonwealth asset at (Central Artery/Tunnel) Project expense."

  • The Anelex Building was procured in 1984 for $25 million, tens of millions less than the $94.3 million paid by the government. This cost included a settlement of $15 million with the New Boston Garden Corporation, who leased space in the building for storage of the Celtics' parquet floor and the Bruins' Zamboni machine. The Federal government is responsible for $84.8 million of the total cost.

  • The number of lanes approaching the tunnel from downtown will narrow from eight lanes to merge into the two-lane tunnel. In addition to the bottleneck, a traffic light will be installed before the tunnel's entrance. An internal FHA document asserted, " . . . the Third Harbor Tunnel will be obsolete the day it is opened to traffic and the depressed Central Artery will, be at best, an inferior facility."

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Auditor released four reports detailing additional unnecessary costs that the project has incurred:

  • Up to $64 million because data provided during the pre-bidders' conference was ambiguous and was not representative of the actual soil conditions. Thus, the project must reinforce unstable excavation support walls.

  • $23 million worth of ramps will have to be torn apart because the designs were later changed, thus, eliminating the need for the newly constructed structures.

  • $11 million was added to the cost of the project as a result of not effectively coordinating construction work by not: executing a timely agreement with the airport, relocating a helipad, identifying underground utility lines, and properly organizing construction schedules. In addition to the over $11 million paid to date, these delays could cost the project an additional $10-20 million.

  • $7 million because of the failure to plan for the timely disposal of excavated materials. The excavated materials had to be stored, which changed the temporary placement of the harbor tunnel tubes at an additional cost to the project.

Recently, a precedent has been set by the Department of Transportation to freeze Federal funding of projects when there is evidence of serious mismanagement and disarray. POGO believes this report demonstrates this abuse. The Department of Transportation should immediately freeze Federal funds allocated to the Central Artery/Tunnel Project until solutions are found for the many cost, design and managerial problems that plague this project.

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO's investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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