The Tunnel Connector linking South Boston to Logan Airport, a vital section of the $14 billion, 15-year project known as the Big Dig, is now a crime scene — following the death of a woman who was killed Monday after 12 tons of concrete came crashing down on the car she was riding in.
"It just shouldn't be," says Robert Cerasoli.
He should know. For 10 years, until 2001, Cerasoli was the Massachusetts Inspector General. In late 1998 he issued a scathing report, zeroing in then on what could well now be the cause of the collapse — "poor design specs," "unclear testing procedures," and "improperly installed anchor bolts" in the roof of the nearby Ted Williams Tunnel.
"They must have done the same work, used the same epoxy, the same anchor bolts in the Connector as they did in the Ted Williams (Tunnel)," he says.
Bechtel, the lead contractor, says the bolts are used industrywide. The state agency holding the contracts that describe the work completed in the Connector Tunnel won't release any information, citing an ongoing criminal investigation.
Cerasoli cites a flawed construction scenario, beginning with the concrete drop ceiling inside the tunnel that was attached with thousands of anchor bolts that were too short, poorly mixed epoxy, ending with longer bolts being drilled into the very bars used to reinforce the tunnel itself.
"We maintain that would affect the structural integrity of the tunnel," Cerasoli says, "because the rebars are in the cement roof that is part of the tunnel."
But was anyone listening to him?
"I know they weren't listening to me," he says. "In fact, I had people saying to me, 'anchor bolts, what the hell are you doing a report on anchor bolts for?' Well, I thought it was a serious issue."
And now, so does the state of Massachusetts — after inspectors found 240 more bolt defects in the Connector tunnel alone. On Friday, Gov. Mitt Romney took control over a Dig that has already cost U.S. taxpayers more than $8 billion … and a mother of three her life.