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Thursday, November 11, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Boston's Big Dig full of leaks, engineers say

By The Associated Press

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BOSTON — The Big Dig — Boston's newly opened $14.6 billion highway tunnel project — has a seriously flawed wall that contractors knew about as early as 1999, and is riddled with smaller leaks, consultants reported.

Repairing the wall alone could take months and probably will require the closing of some traffic lanes overnight, officials said yesterday. They had no immediate estimate of how much the repairs might cost.

The problems were identified by a team of outside engineers hired by the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority to investigate a major breach that caused a flood in September.

Turnpike Authority Chairman Matthew Amorello said the tunnels remain structurally sound, a certain amount of leakage is inevitable, and the drainage system is keeping water off the roadways.

"There is no public-safety issue," he said.

The Big Dig was completed less than a year ago, five years late and billions of dollars over cost amid allegations of fraud, waste and mismanagement.

The project replaced the elevated Central Artery of Interstate 93 with underground tunnels through downtown Boston. It also connected Interstate 90 — the Massachusetts Turnpike — to Logan Airport, and added the Ted Williams Tunnel beneath Boston Harbor.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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