Big Dig firm takes responsibility for leaks, apologizes

Executives from the construction firm Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff officially apologized and assumed fault for massive leaks in the Interstate 93 northbound tunnel of Boston’s Big Dig project. The company gave the apology during a Massachusetts House of Representatives hearing on Dec. 2.

The hearing was the first time in the Big Dig’s two-decade history that Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff admitted a mistake. The company’s chairman, John MacDonald, said the firm, along with some of its subcontractors, would pay to repair a wall damaged by an 8-inch leak that occurred in September and would also pay for wall panels to be inspected for possible leaks. State Sen. Steven A. Baddour, co-chairman of the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Transportation Committee, proposed the creation of an escrow account to fund future leak repairs. MacDonald, in response, said his firm would seriously consider such an account.

When the I-93 tunnel was built in 1999, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff engineers reportedly knew it was structurally flawed. Prior to the state House hearing, the company insisted the design of the tunnel was not flawed, and that it had met the demands of its contract.

MacDonald was asked about whether his firm was responsible for other leaks, unrelated to the Sept. 15 leak. He did not accept the blame for at least 700 other leaks in the I-93 corridor.