Big Dig safety manager warned contractor that tunnel ceiling would not hold

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In 1999, a Big Dig highway tunnel on-site safety manager, John Keaveney, wrote a two-page memo to a senior project manager for Big Dig contractor Modern Continental Construction Co. In the memo, Keaveney said that he could not “comprehend how this structure can withhold the test of time.”

Should any innocent state worker or member of the public be seriously injured or even worse killed as a result, I feel that this would be something that would reflect mentally and emotionally upon me, and all who are trying to construct a quality project.

Keaveney was then told by both the contractor and Big Dig project manager Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff that the system had been adequately tested and would hold up. A woman was recently killed when concrete fell from the tunnel ceiling and crushed her. Keaveney’s specific warning–that the bolts could not hold the ceiling panels–proved to be true.

Bolts in the ceiling were inserted with epoxy, which caused Keaveney to doubt whether the ceiling would hold together. He also expressed doubts that–once the state took control of the project–there would be adequate vigilance. The state of Massachusetts, he wrote in his memo, had “a record of poor maintenance.”

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