More mudslinging involving "The Big Dig"

News AASHTO Journal, The Boston Globe March 28, 2001
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New allegations of complicity by managers of "The Big Dig"--and new allegations that Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) offi

New allegations of complicity by managers of "The Big Dig"--and new allegations that Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) officials and employees of the state's management consultant on the project assisted cover-ups of massive cost overruns--have prompted U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta to order a U.S. DOT Inspector General probe into a charge against the project.


Robert Cerasoli, the Massachusetts inspector general, issued a report titled "A History of Central Artery/Tunnel Project Finances 1994-2001". Cerasoli said "the full Big Dig story" has not been told, and called for an independent federal investigation by Congress into FHWA's alleged "role in downsizing The Big Dig cost estimate."


In the 52-page report, Cerasoli alleges that project managers as early as 1994 knew that the price tag of the project--to date the largest single infrastructure undertaking in U.S. history--was going to be $14 billion, but schemed to hide some $6 billion in costs from the public and from bond investors.


Cerasoli said FHWA officials were aware of misleading accounting procedures starting in 1995, but joined in "a cooperative effort to maintain the fiction of an 'on-time' and 'on-budget' $8 billion project."


Because the FHWA was involved, Cerasoli said, the federal government should lift its current $8.5 billion cap on Big Dig funds, which followed criticism of continually rising project costs.


Massachusetts Governor Paul Celluci suggested Cerasoli's report is motivated by "retaliation," terming some of it "pure fiction." In January, the governor's office proposed that the state inspector general's office be eliminated.



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