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If only we had listened

By Brian McGrory, Globe Columnist, 2/14/2003


Bechtel's mistakes drive up cost overruns, and company profits.

Bechtel's fee overruns
Map of major conflicts
History of the contract
Contract modifications
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


Parsons Brinckerhoff

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


Any tips? Let us know.
Phone: 617-929-3379
E-mail: bigdigtips@globe.com


Beyond the Big Dig   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. Info

He has been ignored by his underlings, ostracized by his colleagues, and threatened by his superiors. He has been harassed in the corridors of power and ultimately fired by the governor of Massachusetts.

This newspaper, in a series of editorials that derided his motive and mission, once said of him, ''Time to hit the road.''

And this week, something else has happened to Christy Mihos, the soft-spoken grocer who never sought controversy but, once it arrived, steadfastly refused to shun it.

He's been vindicated.

For months, for years, Mihos, a board member of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, has cried foul. He has said that Bechtel, the engineering and construction conglomerate that has run the Big Dig with fiscal impunity, is robbing the taxpayers blind.

He has demanded tens of millions of dollars back from Bechtel. He has sought a so-called owner-engineer who would protect the taxpayers' multibillion-dollar investment. He has tried to shower attention on the cozy relationship that has flourished between state officials and Bechtel executives.

And, it ends up, he was right all along.

In a three-part series written by two dogged reporters at this newspaper, Bechtel was shown to have committed - and profited from - hundreds of key engineering mistakes that drove the cost of the project up by more than $1.1 billion. Bechtel accountants worked without fear and engineers without oversight. All along, state officials never questioned bungled jobs; they simply passed along the extra costs to you and me.

How bad was it? When Bechtel offered to pay the state $50 million in recovery costs nearly 11/2 years ago, Jane Swift and her minions effectively told them they didn't have to. At the same time, Swift viewed it as an urgent priority to raise the tolls along the Massachusetts Turnpike.

Imagine, just imagine, as cops and teachers are getting laid off and mental health programs are cut, imagine what $50 million would buy. Imagine $1.1 billion.

Mihos did, and in many ways his plight is the taxpayers' plight.

When he began raising substantive questions about Bechtel two years ago, at the same time he opposed a toll hike, he was immediately vilified by the ruling elite.

Turmoil erupted. Paul Guzzi, the president of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, said Mihos ''failed to provide leadership.'' The Globe editorialized that he was ''not qualified by temperament or experience.'' When Swift fired Mihos and his colleague, Jordan Levy, she called them ''fiscally irresponsible.''

Fiscally irresponsible? A year-plus later, this would all be hilarious if it wasn't so infuriating. Instead, it's a costly train wreck of a shame.

These days, Mihos is back on the board, having been reinstated by a judiciary that ruled Swift lacked a reason to sack him. But he's the ultimate outcast. Matthew Amorello, the chairman of the Turnpike Authority, doesn't speak to him. Staff at the authority refuse to answer to him. A government lawyer once threatened to have him removed from the Transportation Building.

And if he wants anything from the agency he is supposed to govern, he is forced to file requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

''It's like I'm not even there,'' he said yesterday. Just like the taxpayers.

Things have a way of coming around. These days, the talk is of eliminating the Turnpike Authority, meaning Mihos would lose his position. Does that bother him?

''I don't care,'' he said with a laugh. ''I just want to see this coverup stopped. To be put out of a job for reform by an engaged governor would be music to my ears.''

Hopefully, that tune will begin very soon.

Brian McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at mcgrory@globe.com.

This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 2/14/2003.
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