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Boston Big Dig companies sued for negligence

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FIFTEEN CONSTRUCTION companies involved in design and construction of Boston's Big Dig tunnel are being sued for negligence by the Massachusetts attorney general it was revealed this week.

'We are alleging these companies that designed, installed and had oversight responsibilities for the I-90 Connector Tunnel were negligent and, in some cases, grossly negligent when it came to their first responsibility - keeping drivers safe, ' said attorney general Tom Reilly, ing a civil suit against the rms on Monday.

Ten 3t reinforced-concrete ceiling panels plunged onto a car travelling through the Big Dig's Interstate 90 connector tunnel on 10 July, killing its female passenger (NCE 20 July). The tunnel crosses Boston Harbour en-route to Logan Airport.

Bechtel and Parsons Brinckerhoff (B/PB), which project managed construction of the Big Dig in joint venture, top Reilly's hit list.

'The suit alleges negligence and breach of contract against the companies and is led on behalf of the Commonwealth [of Massachusetts], the Massachusetts Highway Department and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, ' said the attorney general's ofce in a statement.

'The suit also alleges that B/ PB was grossly negligent.' A spokesman for the joint venture said that the company stood by their work on the project.

An investigation following the incident, which is still under way, has found that epoxygrouted steel anchors from which the ceiling panels were suspended had pulled from their sockets.

The 16mm diameter anchor bolts had been grouted into holes cored from the tunnel's reinforced concrete roof. Steel hanger rods connected to the bolts supported the panels.

Further investigation showed that more than 250 additional epoxy-grouted anchors had moved.

Epoxy grouting was used even though in August 1998 client for the project, the Massachusetts Highway Department, recommended the use of mechanical anchors after encountering problems with epoxy xings in the adjoining Ted Williams Tunnel.

The suit was led on Tuesday in Suffolk Superior Court, Massachusetts. It alleges gross negligence against B/PB, breach of contract against B/PB, contractor Modern Continental Construction and designer Gannett Fleming, and negligence against all of these, as well as 11 other companies.

They are epoxy manufacturer Sika, epoxy wholesaler Powers Fasteners, epoxy distributors Newman Renner Colony, Newman Associates and Renner Colony, Sigma Engineering International, which provided engineering services to Modern Continental Construction, pull test contractor Conam, and the main contractor's three insurers, Fireman's Fund, United States Fidelity & Guaranty Company and National Surety Corporation.

'The suit focuses on each company's role in the design, installation and oversight of the epoxy anchor bolt system that failed inside the 1-90 connector tunnel.' Reilly is seeking compensation to make good as yet unquantified defective work on the Big Dig tunnels, as well as loss of use of the tunnel, including lost toll revenue.

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