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08-16- 2006

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 4 months ago

August 16, 2006




Governor Mitt Romney today announced the retention of an engineering firm to carry out the “stem to stern” safety review of the Metropolitan Highway System, focused on the Central Artery/Tunnel complex. He also formed a five-member panel of experts on engineering, transportation and construction materials to help guide the effort.


Romney also appointed Stephen Pritchard, a professional engineer, to manage the safety review. Pritchard resigned as secretary of environmental affairs in order to take on the assignment.


The state has retained Wiss, Janney, Elstner (WJE) Associates, headquartered in Northbrook, Illinois, to perform a safety review of the Big Dig project. The objective, Romney said, is to “assess the project’s systems in sufficient detail to express a reliable opinion as to their safety.”


Public attention has been focused on safety following the July 10 ceiling collapse in the I-90 Connector that killed 38-year-old Milena Del Valle. Following the accident, the Legislature passed and Governor Romney signed into law a $20 million appropriations bill giving the executive branch the power to review the project’s safety.


The five members of the advisory panel are Andrew J. Whittle, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Robert E. Skinner, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Transportation Research Board; Francis J. Lombardi, chief engineer of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; Robert B. Pond, Jr., a metallurgist and chairman of the Engineering Science Department at Loyola College; and Charles D. Baker, Sr., a former US Department of Transportation official and management consultant, who will chair the panel.


“We have many challenges ahead, but I’m confident we have the right team in place to conduct a thorough safety review,” said Romney. “Both the firm and the advisory panel are nationally recognized for their experience and background in construction, engineering and transportation, and I look forward to receiving the report and recommendations.”


WJE has significant experience in technical investigations of construction-related problems. They investigated the walkway collapse in the Kansas City Hyatt Regency Hotel in 1981, the collapse of the LA Metro tunnel in 1995 and the September 11, 2001 destruction of the World Trade Center towers. They also were hired by the National Transportation Safety Board to reconstruct the TWA Flight 800 aircraft that crashed off Long Island, New York in 1996.


The firm has budgeted $4.5 million plus expenses and subcontracts to look at all elements of the project using a combination of independent structural analysis, hands-on inspections and field testing, as appropriate.


“We appreciate the opportunity to contribute our extensive experience and capabilities to a thorough review of the structural and life safety systems of the Central Artery/Tunnel project. While we recognize the challenges, we are fully committed to Governor Romney’s objective of ensuring the safety of motorists using the system,” said William Nugent, WJE’s president.


The Governor’s Office released a list of five previous WJE assignments related to the CA/T project, all small. The projects were initiated from 1993 through 2003. All have been completed. Fees on these projects ranged from $330 to $17,949, with total fees of approximately $28,000. WJE has not worked directly for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, and while they have taken on assignments over the years for Bechtel and Parsons Brinckerhoff, none were related to the Big Dig.


WJE has one current assignment related to the Big Dig, although work has not yet begun. The client in that case is the Federal Highway Administration, which has asked the company to assess the quality of aggregates used in some of the concrete.


Should any of the small details or materials that were the focus of WJE’s previous jobs become an issue in the safety audit, Governor Romney said he will have a third party review that portion of the work.


The first phase of the review, due within 90 days, will involve items of the highest priority, which includes elements whose failure is likely to result in partial or complete collapse; or which are potentially unstable or vulnerable to buckling; or currently exhibiting signs of failure or distress; or involve unique or unusual conditions; or any problems associated with life safety systems such as ventilation and fire protection.


In the second phase, work plans will be developed and implemented and lower priority items will be reviewed, such as connections and details whose load is shared by adjacent components such that local failure is not likely to result in collapse.


If required, based on the findings of the investigation, the work will also include development of corrective measures to address any critical deficiencies in the structural or life safety systems.


Stephen Pritchard will become a Special Assistant to the Governor to manage the safety review and act as a liaison between the Governor’s office and both the engineering firm and advisory panel. Pritchard is a registered professional engineer in the state of Maryland and a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Northeastern University and a master’s in business administration from Loyola College.


“I am honored to be part of this important public safety initiative. Our goal will be to conduct a thorough, comprehensive and objective assessment of safety and to report those findings to the Governor in a timely manner,” Pritchard said.





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