by Jeff Taylor
A young mother of three died beneath falling concrete slabs inside the city’s new network of freeway tunnels, designed by a Bechtel joint venture that also supervised construction. …
In Washington state, the San Francisco company is building a nuclear waste treatment center that may end up $7 billion over its original estimate and six years late.
At the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage site in Nevada, a federal investigator last year said the company received about $4 million in incentive fees for work that had been turned in late — or in poor quality.
A California congressman this spring accused Bechtel of double-billing the federal government for Hurricane Katrina relief work, potentially costing taxpayers $48 million if government auditors hadn’t objected.
Meanwhile, in Hawaii, the Parsons Brinckerhoff arm of the joint venture has jumped the cost of a $3 billion transit plan to in excess of $4 billion. The very complicated reason for the hike? The original estimate given just last month did not include little details “such as trains and rights-of-way.” See a pattern here?
Parsons Brinckerhoff is also the outfit that CATS has hired — repeatedly — to manage its choo-choo plan, paying the company millions in your money along the way. Parsons is also largely responsible for the light rail cost estimate which started at $880 million in 1998 and now stands at, oh, $6 billion.
In Boston, the deadly Big Dig project was supposed to cost $2.6 billion and clocked in at $14.6 billion. For that kind of money Massachusetts still got shoddy work. The Boston Globe on the slab fasteners that failed last week:
Field tests by construction workers indicated that bolt-and-epoxy fasteners might not support the multi-ton ceiling panels in the Interstate 90 connector tunnel, but the firm that designed the tunnel persuaded Big Dig officials to use the system anyway, law enforcement officials said yesterday.
At the same time, Big Dig officials became so confident in the epoxy used to secure the bolt fixtures that they canceled laboratory tests to regularly check if the high-strength glue was working properly, according to documents obtained by the Globe yesterday.
The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and lead management contractor Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff approved both decisions as the tunnel ceiling was built in 1999.
And here’s Massachusetts inspector general Gregory Sullivan on the Big Dig tragedy and the project’s management:
So who was left to mind the shop? Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, which had an enormous conflict of interest because it also designed and managed the Big Dig.
Before the death of Milena Del Vallein that I90 tunnel, the Massachusetts attorney general had agreed to settle Betchel/Parsons mismanagement of the project for a $108 million fine. Now that settlement is back in play.
Plus Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has shut down the Big Dig’s tunnels — would Gov. Mike Whatshisname ever do anything so forceful in a crisis? Would we even be able to find him? — after the discovery of hundreds of “unreliable” bolts holding up concrete ceiling panels. Boston is convulsed by the situation.
The upshot? For one, be very happy CATS does not have the $20 million needed to tunnel the Independence transit line under I485 to the CPCC Levine campus in Matthews. And be very circumspect about anything Parsons Brinckerhoff has to say about CATS’ light rail system.