Sunday, February 16, 2003

Urban Issues Watch from
The Boston Globe

A CITY IS CONSIDERABLY more than the sum of its parts. This is especially so of Boston, a place largely defined by its abundance of history and lack of space. Yet make no mistake: The parts do matter. Perhaps the single most remarkable aspect of the Big Digeven more than the expense incurred, the upheaval caused, or the prodigies of engineering requiredis the spectacle of a city afforded the chance to reimagine a not-insignificant swathe of itself. A forest springing up on the edge of the Financial District? An enormous boardwalk hard by the Aquarium? Moving the Chinatown gate? When the Central Artery finally does go underground (now set for the end of 2004), these are some of the answers offered to the question of what we want the reclaimed land to look like.

A yearlong Globe investigation found hundreds of ... errors committed by the Big Dig's management company, which is led by one of the world's largest engineering firms, Bechtel Corp. of San Francisco, and includes another industry titan, Parsons Brinckerhoff of New York. ... The Globe investigation included scrutiny of 12,000 changes to more than 150 construction and design contracts, review of 20,000 pages of project documents, and more than 100 interviews with current and former Big Dig officials, construction specialists, and contractors. The chief findings: During the 17 years it has managed the Big Dig, Bechtel has neglected to perform basic work called for in its contracts, such as conducting crucial field surveys of the elevated Artery, and verifying the locations of utility lines and buildings such as the FleetCenter. ...

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