Report: Lead Big Dig Contractor Responsible for Most Overruns in Boston Highway Project

Tue February 25, 2003 - National Edition

BOSTON (AP) The lead contractor for Boston’s massive Big Dig highway project is responsible for most of $1.6 billion in cost overruns, according to a published report.

The Boston Globe’s review of construction contracts, change orders and interviews with state officials and contractors shows that Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff was responsible for $1.1 billion of the overruns and has received $264 million more than its contract said it would be paid — in many cases in order to fix its own mistakes.

The findings also show Bechtel failed to perform basic work, leading to $350 million in overruns; that some construction began with incomplete or erroneous designs, costing another $750 million; and that Bechtel did not heed warnings about problems in its drawings that were later corrected at much greater cost.

Bechtel officials disputed that any part of the overruns resulted from mismanagement or design deficiencies. It attributed about $1 billion to justifiable expenses, and another $550 million to the cost of moving up the project completion date to mid-2005.

“I believe the Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff team has performed admirably, and to a higher standard of care than required in our contract,” said Bechtel’s top Big Dig official, project manager C. Matthew Wiley.

The company said putting the project on a “fast track” created a net savings of $1 billion. But the Globe reported it could find no record of a plan to award contracts with incomplete designs to shorten the project, then fill in design gaps on a cost overrun basis.

After at first asserting that designs were “100 percent complete” when soliciting bids, state and Bechtel officials acknowledged designs were still “substantially incomplete” on portions of the project, the Globe said.

The $14.6-billion Big Dig is burying 2 mi. of Interstate 93 underneath downtown Boston.