July 11, 2006

Part of Boston’s ‘Big Dig’ tunnel collapses, kills 1

BOSTON (Reuters) - A three-tonne chunk of concrete fell
from a tunnel ceiling that is part of Boston's $14.8 billion
"Big Dig" project and killed a woman in a car, authorities said
on Tuesday.

The concrete fell onto the roof of a sedan about 11 p.m.
(0300 GMT) on Monday, instantly killing the woman, said police.
Her husband managed to crawl out of the crushed car through a

The collapse occurred in the Interstate 90 connector
tunnel, which was closed on Tuesday morning, snarling rush hour
traffic. The connector leads to the Ted Williams Tunnel and
Logan International Airport.

Boston's sprawling Big Dig, the biggest public works
project in U.S. history, was designed to replace outdated
elevated highways in downtown Boston with a sleek system of
highway tunnels.

The project, which has been compared to the building of the
Hoover Dam or the Panama Canal, was overseen by the
Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.

"This is something you don't ever want to have happen,"
said MTA chairman Matt Amorello.

The 15-year project was plagued by cost overruns and by
tunnel leaks. The last major piece of the Big Dig was completed
this year, although some construction is still being done.

Amorello said the concrete panel which collapsed was part
of the tunnel's air-ventilation system.

"A portion of the eastern end of the connector tunnel ...
had a particular engineering feature to hold these panels in
place," he told New England Cable News. "One of them let go
which caused several of them to have extra weight put on them
which caused them to also them to let go."

He said about 100 of the panels that line the tunnel
ceiling would be removed and inspected. He expected the
connector tunnel, which opened in January 2003, to re-open to
traffic by midday on Wednesday.

In May, six men who supplied concrete to the Big Dig were
arrested and accused of delivering sub-standard materials to
the project.

In April 2005, one day after federal officials declared the
Big Dig's tunnels safe, debris fell from an overhead vent in a
southbound tunnel in Boston and damaged at least five vehicles.