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Big Dig Officials Identify New Problem-Plagued Tunnel Section

Wed July 27, 2005 - Northeast Edition
CEG



BOSTON (AP) Officials with the beleaguered Big Dig highway project have identified a new 1,500-ft. section of tunnel that is riddled with defects.

The problem area in the Interstate 93 tunnel under Boston Harbor is considered in worse shape than a section of the tunnel that erupted in a gushing leak last September.

Big Dig officials stressed that the tunnel is safe to drive through, although the defects could mean more headaches for motorists diverted onto city streets while repairs are made.

“It appears the deepest sections of the Big Dig have problems, and there needs to be an accurate accounting and full disclosure on the problems that are being discovered,” state Rep. Joseph Wagner told The Boston Globe.

Officials with the $14.6- billion highway project decided to take a harder look at the North End section of the tunnel in May, and found a total of 60 defects.

Project officials have brought in an outside engineering firm to conduct an independent review.

Peter White, president of J.F. White, the managing partner of the joint venture that constructed the North End section of the tunnel, said the company is cooperating with the review.

“We stand by the quality of our work, but would like to point out that slurry walls at that depth and under the conditions we worked in can have deficiencies that must be corrected,” he said.

The project, which buries Interstate 93 under downtown Boston and connects the turnpike to Logan International Airport, has been plagued by cost overruns and other construction flaws.

In September, water broke though a faulty wall panel and flooded one of the tunnels, backing up rush-hour traffic for miles. A subsequent investigation found hundreds of smaller leaks.

The defects are caused by extraneous materials in the 3-ft. thick concrete walls, which makes them weak and susceptible to groundwater pressure.