Massachusetts inspector General Gregory W. Sullivan says that deficient design work by Central Artery/Tunnel project consultant Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff may have resulted in at least $65 million in claims due to ground movement or "grout heave" during a soil stabilization job. His report charges that cost recovery efforts were not taken against B/PB, which shifted financial responsibility to the state.

B/PB was hired in 1985 to manage CA/T design, construction and administration. By 2005 it will have received $122 million for its services. Work on the $378-million project at issue, part of Interstate 93 that passes near South Station and under a transit tunnel, started in 1995 and now is wrapping up. Change orders have driven costs to about $490 million. Click here to view image

The heave took place in 1997-98 and reportedly caused movement in the subway and station. The contractor, a Perini Corp.-led joint venture, controlled the problem and sought restitution through CA/T dispute resolution boards. So far it has received $17.5 million. "We're still in the closeout phase of the contract," says Robert Band, Perini president.

The IG report finds: B/PB failed to anticipate and plan for grout heave; the resident engineer declared differing site conditions without "adequate evidence;" B/PB failed to investigate the differing conditions claim as required by law; and the whole issue is inadequately documented. The IG also found that CA/T staff did not investigate the cause nor attempt to determine if design errors were to blame. "Although B/PB stated that its actions saved money by maintaining the project schedule, the office concludes that B/PB may have been the cause of these multimillion-dollar claims," the report says.

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority also came under fire for failing to recover costs from B/PB. "The Turnpike Authority should require B/PB to explain cost overruns and any design, management, or other possible errors that occurred under B/PB's watch," the IG report says. "Ultimately we want to recover money for the state," says Neil Cohen, deputy IG.

"We're supportive of the IG's involvement," says Michael Lewis, CA/T project director. "This was a complex 120-ft-deep underpinning design involving a number of parties....We're committed to a fair review of all past decisions."

"We strongly disagree with the IG's conclusion," says Andrew M. Paven, B/PB spokesman. "This issue has been reviewed extensively in the past and we stand behind our work."