Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation Jeffrey Mullan says reports about his resignation this fall are premature, according to an email from a Mass. DOT spokesman today.

“In May, I discussed with the Governor my intention to transition from the administration within the year for personal reasons,” Mullan states in the email. “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. I am fully engaged in the role of Secretary and CEO at MassDOT and look forward to leading the organization in the weeks and months ahead.”

His statement was in response to a news report based on anonymous sources close to Governor Deval Patrick that suggested he was planning to leave the post, The resignation story was published on July 14 in the Boston Globe. Those report said Mullan’s departure was decided before the most recent controversy over the handling of a 110-pound light fixture that fell in a Big Dig tunnel in February. Mullan was not available by press time to comment on the report. But in a statement from the Governor's office, Patrick praised Mullan, while hinting that some kind of departure was expected.

“Jeff Mullan continues to be a creative and effective partner to this Administration,” Patrick said in the 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.”
In the same statement, Lieutenant Governor Murray stated that “Jeff Mullan has and continues to be a great asset to this Administration and I support him as our Secretary of Transportation whole heartedly. Any decision he makes in his family’s best interest is one I will understand and respect.”

MassDOT has been at the center of controversy following the collapse of one of 23,000 light fixtures onto the roadway in the Central Artery Tunnel system on the morning of February 8. There were no injuries nor any property damage.

The incident on I-93 has reignited concerns about safety of the project considered the most expensive highway project in U.S. history. In July 2006, several 4,600-lb ceiling panels broke free in another portion of the tunnel system, crushing a passing car and killing the driver, 38-year-old Boston resident Milena del Valle. The latest estimate of the Central Artery Big Dig project is around $15 billion, after an initial cost estimate of between $2 billion and $3 billion. Completed in 2007, it is considered the most expensive highway project in U.S. History.

Preliminary analysis of the tunnel light unit by West Boylston, Mass.-based Massachusetts Materials Research suggests the fixture showed signs of severe corrosion caused by salt from snow and ice treatment.  MassDOT has also notified the Federal Highway Administration about the problem.

Frank Tramontozzi left his position as acting highway administrator, a post he assumed on March 2, as well as his position as chief engineer for the highway division following a delay in notifying the public about the fixture incident and the agency’s operational procedures are under scrutiny.

MassDOT claims after the incident it immediately began to inspect all of the tunnel light fixtures in an attempt to determine whether this was an isolated incident or a more systemic problem, Hurtubise says. “Our inspectors determined there is corrosion in some areas of the wire rail system.”