By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

A Big Dig death

A husband and wife are driving through the Big Dig tunnels around 11 p.m. It is, in every respect, a normal night. It’s not raining. The wind’s not howling. Yet a giant concrete slab falls out of the ceiling, killing the woman, and leaving the man to crawl out of the wreckage. (Globe coverage here; Herald coverage here; AP coverage here.)

Massachusetts Turnpike chief Matt Amorello on NECN: “We are taking every measure to make sure this doesn’t happen again.” Well, that’s a relief. He also says he hopes to reopen the tunnel by noon tomorrow. No thanks.

This is an awful tragedy, so I hesitate to suggest that anything good might come out of this. But now that someone has actually been killed, we may finally get the criminal investigations and private lawsuits we need to find out why our brand-new, $14.6 billion highway project is leaking, crumbling and endangering public safety.

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  1. BosPhotog

    Sadness and anger should rule over every driver who uses this nightmare project. Sadness that one of us has been killed, brutally, while we have been told in the past that there is no need for concern. How in the world could we have been duped while all this happened right before our eyes? Remember how it was touted by one politician..that he could drive from Framingham to Kelly’s roast beef in Revere and enjoy a very quick sandwich…? And people are suprised that citizens are leaving MA. in droves? !!!

  2. Stella

    The Boston Central Artery/Tunnel Project (CA/T) is the largest and most complex urban transportation project ever undertaken in the United States. Dubbed the “Big Dig” by Bostonians, it is the result of more than 30 years of planning and 12 years of construction to replace the elevated section of Interstate 93 Central Artery through downtown Boston with a much wider underground highway and to extend the Interstate 90 turnpike to Logan Airport via a third harbor tunnel. Among the only other transportation projects on this large a scale were the Panama Canal and the Channel Tunnel. The project comprises 161 lane-miles of interstate highway—over half of it underground. Its host of civil engineering firsts include the world’s widest cable-stayed bridge, the deepest underwater connection in North America, state-of-the-art freeway segments built only inches above 19th century public transit railways, and an unprecedented ground-freezing program to stabilize Boston’s historic soils during construction. The project has been widely recognized through dozens of awards for engineering excellence and aesthetics. Perhaps most remarkable, greater Boston’s millions of residents and businesses have enjoyed continued access to the city during more than a decade of construction starting in 1991. Through it all, Boston’s downtown financial and commercial district has stayed open for business. Now substantially complete, this engineering marvel will enable Boston and the state of Massachusetts to meet their critical transportation needs in the 21st century with a great sense of civic satisfaction and pride. So sayeth Bechtel.

  3. Anonymous

    1. Boycott the Big Dig. Refuse to use the tunnels until the bastards responsible have been prosecuted, jailed, fined and sued to the tune of billions of dollars.2. Use the money to build mass transit, like we should have done in the first place.

  4. RichC

    Love this quote from Amorello:Several of the 40-by-20-foot concrete slabs fell at about 11 p.m. when a metal tie back gave way, killing Milena Delvalle, 38, of Jamaica Plain, police said. Angel Delvalle, 46, managed to crawl out of the crumpled car and was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital.The metal tie was anchored in the concrete ceiling, but not affixed to a metal support rail, as was done with ceiling panels in other tunnels, including those on Interstate 93, Amorello said. Certain site locations prevented builders from using the support bar, Amorello said, without going into specifics.Grrrrrreat. One wonders what other unspecified parts of the whole system have ceilings waiting to fall on cars.

  5. Dan Kennedy

    Refusing to use the Big Dig in order to preserve life and limb is no more a “boycott” than refusing to jump off a cliff. I have a feeling we’re going to learn so, so much over the next few weeks.

  6. e$

    I still think it was only a matter of time until something like this happened… the whole operation’s been botched from the get-go. the leaks, the mismanagement, everything. It doesn’t make anything better, but neither does “making sure nothing like this happens again”.

  7. Al Toid

    I turned into Romney’s press conference on WBUR late (the joy of listening from NY), but please tell me that he’s not trying to use this to score points by just jerking Amorello off the board.(God, I being in Mass.)

  8. Al Toid

    e$, I don’t know. “Making sure nothing like this happens again” seems like it would be better than the current situation.Granted, what we really need is to know how this happened and make sure there aren’t any other surprises waiting for us.

  9. Lesley

    As a taxpayer (and a mother whose only child had only minutes before sped through that tunnel heading for a flight out of Logan), I damn well want to know why “the metal tie was anchored in the concrete ceiling, but not affixed to a metal support rail, as was done with ceiling panels in other tunnels, including those on Interstate 93 …. certain site locations prevented builders from using the support bar …. “!!! No specifics? $14.6 billion later and its “crumbling, leaking and” now claimed its first fatality. Sure, find the bastards at fault and sue them. But more importantly, are the people in charge qualified to get qualified people to make the repairs necessary to insure our travelling safety?????Maybe I can swim to the airport?

  10. Rick in Duxbury

    Aside from the tragic death,this is huge for a lot of additional reasons. Remember the consequential damage in NY after 9-11? Supporting cash flow to service highway bonds, lost retail trade, civic outrage, etc., this will be a study in reverse economic development. Tourist and retail dollars are fickle.And we’re sure in no position to request disaster relief from Washington.

  11. tony schinella

    I have two things to say about this: 1) They should have never built this tunnel. They should have built the Boston Bypass instead – a proposed bridge around the city, and 2) Where is Jerry Williams when we need him!!! R.I.P.

  12. Rick in Duxbury

    Tony,After they open this misbegotten mishegas, we should have a “Jerry Williams Memorial Dinner” to review the fiasco. (Sorry to mix my personality metaphors, but did Jerry ever “get a dinner”?)

  13. tony schinella

    No, he never did realy get a dinner. They had a fundraiser thing but it was like $500 a seat or something – way out of my price range. However, there is a great tribute site up for him:

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