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Big Dig hires quality manager

Officials had left job unfilled for three years

By Raphael Lewis, Globe Staff, 04/27/2002


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

fter operating for three years without someone to coordinate the Big Dig's all-important quality assurance program, which holds contractors accountable for poor work, the Central Artery project filled the position last week.

Ron Sacco, a Boston native who spent more than a decade doing similar work on the Trans-Alaska pipeline and at nuclear power plant construction sites, arrives three years after the position was eliminated for cost reasons, and as failures in the Big Dig's quality assurance program called into question the project's commitment to such work.

In January and February, the Globe reported that lapses in the program may have allowed a faulty ventilation system in the Ted Williams Tunnel, a flawed road surface overlay in South Boston, and substandard road sealant in East Boston to go unrepaired for several years. As a result, state taxpayers could end up footing the bill for the work, which will total at least $4 million.

Told of the new Central Artery hiring, state Representative Joseph Sullivan, the Braintree Democrat who as co-chairman of the Legislature's Transportation Committee slammed the Big Dig for not filling the position sooner, said he was "cautiously optimistic" that flawed construction work will get caught in a timely manner.

"This looks to be a step in the right direction, but I think it's important that this individual have an independent mindset to make adjustments and to operate in a style that's going to be aggressive about monitoring public dollars," Sullivan said. "The only way in which to give this position the juice that it needs and create the appropriate incentive is to allow a serious evaluation, separate and distinct from the current management structure."

Until Sacco's arrival, the project's joint-venture management consultant, Bechtel /Parsons Brinckerhoff, had controlled most of the Big Dig's quality assurance work. Each construction firm holding a major contract also must hire a quality assurance manager.

The contractors' commitment to that obligation has also been called into question, however. A whistleblower lawsuit resolved earlier this year revealed that one major contractor had hired someone with no prior experience monitoring heavy construction as the contract's quality assurance manager. His only experience, it turned out, was at a shrimp processing plant.

Sacco, interviewed yesterday, promised to scrutinize the contractors' quality assurance programs, as well as the Big Dig's as a whole. Sacco said he was arriving "with no preconceived notions" about the viability of the Big Dig's program, but said that he will "come to my own conclusion about the adequacy of this program. If I have to revise it, I'll revise it. If I don't, I won't." He added that he was prepared to find a certain degree of complacency, since the Central Artery work has been going on for more than a decade.

"In the dozen years so far, there must be some set ways of doing things," Sacco said.

This story ran on page B1 in the Metro/Region section of the Boston Globe on 04/27/2002.
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