S Representative Michael E. Capuano yesterday asked the inspector general of the US Department of Transportation to investigate the $1.6 billion in construction cost overruns that have sent the Big Dig's budget skyrocketing in recent years.
Bechtel's mistakes drive up cost overruns, and company profits.
Bechtel's fee overruns
Map of major conflicts
History of the contract
Cross section of roadway
Construction cost overruns
State officials overlook and excuse Bechtel's mistakes for a decade.
Cost recoveries initiated
Powerfull allies help protect Bechtel and its bottom line.
This series has generated strong response from the state, the public, and Globe columnists.
More Globe coverage
On Feb. 20, 2003, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff issued a document disputing the findings of the "Easy Pass" series. Globe editor Martin Baron responded with a defense of the Globe's reporting.
Read Bechtel's statement
Read the Globe's statement
Building a reputation
Bechtel has never shied away from big construction projects, but worldwide achievements are accompanied by controversy.
See past Bechtel projects
Review cites flaws at Big Dig
Cerasoli charges Big Dig coverup
$1.4b overrun known in '99
Firm rejects call to offset costs
'99 memos warned of tunnel leaks
Officials disclose more defects
Lawsuit raises Big Dig questions
State to reopen deal with Bechtel
Big Dig hires quality manager
US knew of hidden expenses
Big Dig overrun just plain big
SEC probers to target Big Dig
Big Dig review to target overruns
Turnpike, firm set deal on leak cost
Contracts to be reviewed
Central Artery/Tunnel Project
State Inspector General reports
On the history of the Central Artery/Tunnel project's finances:
On the Central Artery/Tunnel project's attempts to recover money for mistakes:
About "Scheme Z" bridge design
State oversight of the Big Dig
Mass. Turnpike Authority
The Artery Business Committee
On February 11, 2003, Globe reporter Raphael Lewis chatted with Boston.com readers about the Bechtel series.
Transcript of chat
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What happens to the ribbon of land being created by the depression of the Central Artery? A joint effort between The Boston Globe, MIT, and WCVB-TV explores.
A special report
Progress updates on the Big Dig.
Capuano, who recently took a seat on the House Transportation Committee, said he was chagrined by what he sees as an apparent lack of proper oversight of the Big Dig, and weak attempts to hold down costs.
''It seems to me that no one was watching,'' said Capuano, a Somerville Democrat.
David Barnes, a spokesman for Inspector General Kenneth Mead, who already conducts annual reviews of the Big Dig's finance plans, said that Mead was mulling the request. He said Mead and Capuano's staff would continue to discuss the request.
Capuano was the first federal lawmaker to respond to Globe reports this week which showed that the Big Dig's managers, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, had made hundreds of mistakes and bad decisions that led to more than $1.1 billion of the $1.6 billion in cost overruns to date.
Bechtel has insisted that the company saved taxpayers money by shortening the Big Dig's schedule and coming up with ingenious solutions to engineering challenges. A spokesman declined to comment on the Capuano request.
Stanley Gee, regional administrator for the Federal Highway Administration, said in a written statement yesterday that his agency had been pressing Big Dig officials for more than a year ''to focus more attention'' on efforts to get back money from Bechtel and other firms that committed costly mistakes. To date, Bechtel has not paid for any mistakes.
On Beacon Hill, meanwhile, 48 state representatives and senators yesterday signed on as sponsors to a bill that would greatly extend the state's ability to pursue Bechtel and other Big Dig firms for errors.
The bill, created by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, would give the state 25 years after mistakes are discovered to file suit for recovery. Currently, as many as two-thirds of the cost overruns cannot be recovered because they took place too long ago. The current law forbids bringing claims after six years. Senator Bruce Tarr, a Gloucester Republican who helped draft the bill, said he had a ''high degree of confidence'' the measure would be approved today as a rider to the supplemental budget bill. It would still require House approval.
House Speaker Thomas Finneran, who was not one of the co-sponsors, said in a statement that he was furious about the costly errors, and a spokesman said that he was certain to support ''any measure that would increase the state's ability to get money back for mistakes.''
Finneran also had harsh words for the state agencies that have overseen the Big Dig over the years.
''The casual approach of the agencies supervising the Big Dig has filled me with a cold fury,'' he said.
Senator Marc R. Pacheco, chairman of the Senate's Post Audit and Oversight Committee, which has subpoena powers, said in a statement yesterday that he has spoken to Senate President Robert E. Travaglini about holding hearings in the near future with other committees, to make Bechtel and the Big Dig's state overseers answer to the questions dogging the project.
Tarr said he was certain that the Senate would ''move forward with an aggressive investigation.''
State Representative Joseph Wagner, who cochairs the Legislature's Joint Transportation Committee, said his committee, too, would hold hearings to make sure that future overruns are kept in check as the Big Dig winds to completion. The idea, he said, was not only to rectify past wrongs, but to make sure others don't happen in the future.
''The focal point will be the state management, and we would expect clear and direct answers,'' Wagner said.
Eric Fehrnstrom, a spokesman for Governor Mitt Romney, said Romney had yet to see the legislation making the rounds, or a competing measure proposed by Secretary of State William F. Galvin. However, he said, Romney supports ''efforts that would assist the state in cost recovery associated with the Big Dig project.''
Sean O'Neill, spokesman for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which oversees the Big Dig, said the agency is looking forward to working with lawmakers in recovering money owed to taxpayers.
Raphael Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Sean P. Murphy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.