Big Dig memo labeled fake

News AASHTO Journal August 07, 2006
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A memo widely reported recently to have been written by a safety officer on Boston's "Big Dig" highway renovation project that allegedly warned higher-ups of potential safety problems with tunnel ceiling panels was labeled a fabrication this week, the Boston Globe reported.

A passenger in a car en route to Logan Airport died July 10 when concrete ceiling panels in the tunnel in which she was riding fell, crushing the vehicle. The tunnel in question has been closed for work and reinspection, and other work related to the multi-year, multi-billion-dollar project is currently being reinspected.

The statement that the 1999 memo warning of potential safety problems was a fabrication came from the Modern Continental Construction Co., which had employed the safety officer who was reported to have penned the memo. It was the firm's first public comment on the memo by John H. Keaveney, who had said he expressed grave concern through the memo about the epoxy-and-bolt ceiling system.

"Based on an extensive review of documents, including invoices for delivery of materials, commencement-of-work records and safety reports signed by Mr. Keaveney, Modern Continental believes the memo he allegedly prepared in May 1999 was fabricated," Modern Continental officials said.

Keaveney could not be reached by the Globe for an interview, but his lawyer told the newspaper that Keaveney maintains the memo is authentic.

This week, Modern Continental also gave investigators documents that company officials say contradict specifics in Keaveney's account--notably that installation of the ceiling in question did not occur until after the date of the alleged memo questioning the method of installation.

A Globe reporter received a copy of the memo in the mail on July 25 and brought it to Keaveney, who is now a safety officer for Shawmut Design and Construction in Boston. It was unclear who sent the item to the newspaper, and the return address was not Keaveney's. But a handwriting expert commissioned by Modern Continental concluded that Keaveney likely wrote the address on the envelope.

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