BOSTON'S MASSIVE Central Artery/Tunnel project is facing a freeze on funding. Following disclosure of a massive cost increase, the US Department of Transportation is considering halting aid to the project until a new financial plan has been put in place.
Project officials issued a warning on 1 February that the final cost of the project could rise from the projected $10.8bn to $12.2bn. At that time the Transportation Department's Inspector General was drafting a report on the project which estimated a rise in cost, but to a comparatively modest $11.8bn.
This figure has since been revised and less than two weeks later the report was finally issued with a projected final figure of more than $13bn.
Work on the project started in 1991 and it is due for completion in 2004. The aim is to reduce traffic congestion in Boston's city centre where the I-93 carries some 190,000 vehicles each day and boasts an accident rate four times the US national average. It involves major interchanges, tunnels and bridges, many of them in very difficult ground conditions.
Some $600M of work is still to be let and spending is currently running at about $4M to $5M a day. Work on a major soil mixing contract designed to stabilise soft clay has overrun and this has caused schedule slippage at one point of the contract where a number of major tunnels converge. Bids for the remaining work are coming in at prices higher than anticipated, and Boston's booming property market means that right of way costs are increasing.
Despite the threat of the funding freeze, work is unlikely to stop as there is reportedly enough cash available to keep going until July. It is expected that a solution will be in place long before then.