op executives for the Big Dig's private-sector managers met with Governor Mitt Romney yesterday and agreed to cooperate with an independent review of their work on the massive project.
Bechtel's mistakes drive up cost overruns, and company profits.
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State officials overlook and excuse Bechtel's mistakes for a decade.
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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.
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Big Dig overrun just plain big
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Central Artery/Tunnel Project
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On February 11, 2003, Globe reporter Raphael Lewis chatted with Boston.com readers about the Bechtel series.
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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.
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Adrian Zaccaria, president and chief operating officer for Bechtel Group Inc., which has led the management team, called the meeting ''constructive,'' adding that the firm was now prepared to defend its management and design work to a firm of Romney's choosing. ''From our perspective, we're looking forward to a very comprehensive review so that we can address all of these concerns once and for all and get on with our primary business, which is the expeditious completion of this project,'' Zaccaria said after the one-hour meeting in Romney's office. It was the first meeting between a Massachusetts governor and the Big Dig's managers since the fall of 1994, when the project's cost was still $7.7 billion. It now stands at $14.6 billion.
Zaccaria, who was joined by two other Bechtel executives, the company's lobbyist, and the president of the other Big Dig management firm, Parsons Brinckerhoff, declined to answer questions after the brief statement.
Romney, who summoned the project's managers to Beacon Hill after a Globe investigative series tied more than $1 billion in Big Dig overruns to mistakes or poor decisions committed by Bechtel, agreed with Zaccaria that the meeting was constructive, and said he looks forward to beginning the long, deliberate process of scrutinizing the overruns.
Romney said state officials must focus their collective attempts to recoup Big Dig losses into one ''complete, thorough, professional, credible'' review by an independent team of experts, rather than potentially waste money and time with competing efforts.
''I'd like to bring the process of review together to one place, and perhaps . . . we can have a review which really is comprehensive, sets the record straight, and allows us to recover whatever funds may be due to us,'' Romney said.
Romney, who attended the meeting with his chief of Commonwealth development, Douglas Foy, and Transportation Secretary Daniel Grabauskas, said he told the executives that he intends to solicit proposals from a group of engineers, construction specialists, lawyers, and accountants who would review Big Dig overruns. Romney said he would invite a long list of interested state and federal agencies to oversee that review.
Bechtel, in turn, presented its rebuttal to the Globe's series; that rebuttal was released publicly several days ago. The firm also sought to counter reports by the state inspector general's office and the National Academy of Engineering that questioned the company's performance, officials said.
Asked if he felt confident that the state would get money back from Big Dig contractors, Romney said he could only base his knowledge on a decade's worth of anecdotes. He said he was determined to ''really get to the bottom of those stories and find out if they're accurate or not accurate, and if they are accurate, what we're entitled to.''
''I want to get the money, not the headlines,'' Romney said.
Currently, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority is the only state body with direct oversight of the Big Dig, but the state auditor's office, the state inspector general's office, and federal agencies also carry out reviews of the project's finances on a periodic basis.
Turnpike Authority chairman Matthew Amorello recently hired a team of legal professionals to determine culpability for the project's enormous cost growth, and has pledged that the process would also be credible and independent. On Thursday, Amorello appointed the agency's most outspoken Bechtel critic, vice chairman Jordan Levy, as the authority's chief negotiator with the management firm.
But Romney's budget plans have included dismantling the Turnpike Authority and handing Big Dig oversight to his Cabinet. His budget also includes provisions to do away with the inspector general's office.
Romney said his plans for an independent review would include input from those agencies until they no longer exist, assuming he gets the Legislature to back his agenda.
''The inspector general's effort would be put within the Office of the Comptroller,'' Romney said. As for the Turnpike, he said, ''We have begun discussions with the Turnpike Authority and with other agencies that are independent of my office to see if we can't all pool all our resources.''
Romney's proposal met with a variety of responses by Turnpike officials, signaling that confusion over the cost-recovery process would likely continue in the near future.
Christy Mihos, a board member who has repeatedly sparred with the Turnpike's chairman over dealings with Bechtel, praised Romney's initiative. The Turnpike's inaction over the past several years, he said, devalued the agency's reinvigorated cost-recovery efforts.
Levy, the Turnpike vice chairman, said he would work with the governor, but strongly disagreed with the notion that ''we will once again study this thing to death.''
''We don't need any more studies; we need resolution,'' Levy said. ''What is really important is that . . . money is returned to the taxpayers of Massachusetts, who I feel have been ripped off.''
Levy said he is scheduled to meet with Bechtel officials for a negotiating session Wednesday, and fears that Romney may have unintentionally undermined that process by vowing to create an independent review and by dismantling the Turnpike Authority.
''If they don't think I've got the power and the hammer to negotiate, these guys are smart and they won't play,'' Levy said of Bechtel.