The state of Massachusetts has decided to take charge without any Authority.
As officials continued to sort through the investigation of how ceiling panels fell from the Central Artery/Tunnel (CA/T) system in early July, Gov. Mitt Romney essentially stripped the powers of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which was the driving force behind the $14.6 billion “Big Dig” project. At press time, the Massachusetts Highway Department’s Executive Office of Transportation and Construction was handling any further inspection and design work for the tunnel system.
A woman was killed on July 10 when approximately 12 tons of concrete fell on the car she was driving. Milena Del Valle was traveling with her husband north in the I-93 connector tunnel toward the Ted Williams Tunnel when a portion of the ceiling panel took the fatal plunge. The underground interstate was closed, reopened and then closed again when it was discovered that two epoxy bolts, thought to be the cause of the ceiling collapse, slipped 11?2 in. from their foundation.
The Massachusetts Highway Department was conducting a comprehensive set of pull tests on the bolts that support the ceiling system of the Ted Williams Tunnel.
“We needed to test the application of an undercut anchor bolt within the tunnel, so the pull test just involved us installing a new kind of bolt and pulling on it to make sure it had sufficient strength to support those panels should we need to employ them,” Jonathan Carlisle, spokesman for the Executive Office of Transportation and Construction, told Roads & Bridges.
The I-90 connector, Ramp A and Ramp D remained closed during testing. Ramp A moves traffic eastbound from south Boston into the I-90 connector and the Ted Williams Tunnel, while Ramp D connects I-93 going westbound into the tube that leads to the Boston-Logan International Airport. Bus and airport transit lines were able to travel eastbound through the Ted Williams Tunnel, as were all traffic moving westbound, according to Carlisle.
The Massachusetts Highway Department also was ready to submit a design proposal for Ramp A to the Federal Highway Administration. The blueprint called for using steel-to-steel connections and undercut anchor bolts where appropriate.
“That design, once approved by FHWA, will be the protocol to be employed not just on Ramp D but on the I-90 connector itself,” said Carlisle. “Once we get that design approved we will be over a pretty significant hurdle.”
Carlisle could not put a timetable on when the revisions would take place, but was firm on the commitment to safety in the tunnel system.
“The Turnpike Authority speculated that the day after [the slipping bolt incident] happened that the tunnel would be reopened the following day. We do not know what engineering that was based on, but when we say it is safe it will be safe,” he said. “We understand it is difficult for the people to put up with the detours, but we are going to put public safety over expediency.”
In the midst of the disaster Romney won authority from legislators to take over safety oversight of the CA/T from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and was pushing hard for the removal of Chairman Matthew Amorello.
Lawmakers also were proposing a bill that would create a new panel with subpoena powers to probe “unsafe and corrupt practices by contractors and government officials” regarding the Big Dig.
Three Turnpike Authority board members also filed suit against Amorello, claiming he attempted to place himself in control of the agency’s daily operations without seeking approval from the board.
Funding questions cloud Wis. roads
Wisconsin will need an extra $698 million per year to meet its road construction needs from 2000 to 2020, according to a recent report by the state’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the Madison, Wis., Capital Times reported.
The state’s transportation needs were determined by a Wisconsin Department of Transportation plan. The 20-year plan assumed a funding level that would substantially reduce but not eliminate needs in the areas of pavements, roads, bridges, safety concerns, highway construction and maintenance and traffic flow.
Just to catch up with its road needs, the state would need $316.4 million per year more than the current $1.08 billion. When adjusted for the 5.1% per year inflation in construction costs, the total reaches $698 million per year.
The report was presented on July 25 to a joint legislative committee meeting.
Roll and be counted
Drivers in the Pittsburgh area are unknowingly participating in an experiment. The Pennsylvania DOT, the University of Pittsburgh and the Federal Highway Administration have embedded hundreds of sensors in the pavement of Rte. 22 through Murrysville, the Pittsburgh Tribune Review reported.
The small devices record how the temperature, precipitation and loads from passing vehicles affect the concrete pavement. They transfer the data to a nearby computer, which relays them to a central computer at the University of Pittsburgh, where the data are combined into a database.
The goal of the $300,000 project is to collect enough data to develop a new design model—a mechanistic-empirical design—for creating pavement with longer life.
“We would expect that we would be able to get information that validates current practices or gives us recommendations on what we need to change with our concrete design and placement practices that would ensure that we could get even more wear out of the pavement,” said Joe Szczur, PennDOT District 12 executive.
Longer-lived pavement means more effective use of taxpayers’ money. “Nobody else has ever done anything of this kind to this magnitude,” said Julie Vandenbossche, a civil engineering professor at Pitt who oversees the project for PennDOT, Pitt and FHWA. Pitt is under contract for the study until 2007.
“It is a national design being developed through the National Academy of Science,” Dan Dawood, PennDOT’s chief pavement engineer, told the Tribune Review. “When it comes out, data from projects like this will help map out specific designs for different locations. We will have the best-calibrated model for our pavement. It also gives us a good forensic tool. This will measure the stresses a pavement is going through and will give us a good idea for what works.”
Dangerous Fourth on Va. highways
Decreasing state highway construction results in proportionally increasing driver frustration and bad behavior, hypothesizes a report in the Hampton Roads, Va., Daily Press.
Over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, which the state counted as five days for statistical purposes, eight drivers, eight passengers and five pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents in Virginia. There were 16 deaths on the state’s highways over the holiday last year. For the year to date, there were 451 deaths last year and 493 this year.
“This was the worst Fourth of July weekend for traffic fatalities in Virginia since we lost 22 persons back in 1997,” said Col. Steven Flaherty, superintendent of the Virginia State Police.
Alcohol and the failure to use seatbelts account for some of the accidents, but many are simply the result of careless driving. The majority of the crashes over this Fourth of July involved a vehicle running off the road and colliding with something.
The state police stopped 10,909 drivers for speeding over the holiday weekend and charged another 3,642 drivers with reckless driving.
The state police staged a four-day operation, beginning on July 7, with the help of a federal grant to increase the police presence on I-81 and I-95. A total of 9,316 summonses and arrests were filed by the police during the operation. Ten drunken drivers were pulled off the interstates.
Groups vow to be drug-free
The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) and other industry organizations joined the Drug-Free Workplace Alliance in July.
Established in October 2004, the alliance is the Department of Labor’s (DOL) first-ever cooperative agreement focusing exclusively on improving worker safety in the construction industry through drug-free workplace programs.
“Unions, employers and associations who have joined in this alliance are committed to preventing on-the-job drug or alcohol use and making safety a core value at the worksite,” DOL Secretary Elaine Chao said.
Joining the alliance were ARTBA, AGC, NAPA, NEA, The Association of Union Constructors and the Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association.
Leaders from the International Union of Operating Engineers, the Laborers’ International Union of North America, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, the United Association of Journeyman and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the U.S. and Canada and the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers also participated in the event.
First U.S. asphalt rubber conference set to take off
Asphalt Rubber 2006, an international asphalt rubber conference, will be held Oct. 24-27 at the Doral Desert Princess Resort in Cathedral City, Calif.
Hosted for the first time in the U.S., the program will feature a two-track format for in-depth training and education using the latest developments in asphalt rubber research and technology.
The technical program will feature over 60 peer-reviewed papers, and technology tours will be provided to see the asphalt rubber process from start to finish.
For more information on the conference, go to www.ar2006.net or call 877/517-9944.