Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation Jeffrey Mullan is planning to step down from his post, according to the governor's office.

Although the exact date of his transition is not yet clear, the news of his departure comes amid a string of executive exits from the agency over its handling of safety and structural problems in Boston's $14- billion “Big Dig” central artery project.

The Boston Globe, citing anonymous sources, reported that Mullan's departure was decided before the most recent controversy over MassDOT's handling of a 110-lb light fixture that fell in a Big Dig tunnel in February.

Mullan was not available to comment on the report but released his own statement to counter the report.

“In May, I discussed with the Governor [Deval Patrick] my intention to transition from the administration within the year for personal reasons,” Mullan's statement says. “However, we made no final decisions regarding my future at that time. While I still intend to transition out this year, I have made no final plans.”

A statement from the governor's office hinted that a departure is expected.



MassDOT has been at the center of controversy since the collapse of one of 23,000 light fixtures onto the roadway in the Central Artery Tunnel system on the morning of February 8. The incident also put the agency's handling of its public response under fire.

On July 13, Mullan announced at a MassDOT board meeting that he has placed Helmut Ernst, District 6 highway director, on unpaid administrative leave pending a review of how Ernst handled the disclosure of the fixture collapse.

Ernst's suspension follows the departure in April of Frank Tramontozzi, MassDOT acting highway administrator and former chief engineer for the division.

“Jeff Mullan continues to be a creative and effective partner to this Administration,” Patrick said in a July 14 statement. “Whenever he leaves, we will all feel that loss, and his leadership at MassDOT will be missed. I will continue to support Jeff and his family in whatever he decides to do next.”