Holding the Government Accountable

Mass. politics right back in the Big Dig

On the campaign trail, candidate for the Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick stated that he wanted to remove politics from the Big Dig and have a special investigator review the billion dollar project that has cost one automobile passenger her life.

On November 22, 2006, Massachusetts Governor-elect Deval Patrick announced the creation of his transition working groups. His transportation working group includes many industry heavy hitters, especially people who are heavily invested in the highway system. A few transportation transition team members who raise a red flag:

Richard A. Dimino serves as the president and CEO of the Artery Business Committee (ABC), a group involved with the oversight and development of the Big Dig.

Jane Garvey is the executive vice president and chairman of APCO's transportation practice (APCO Worldwide is a global communication consultancy). Ms. Garvey is the former head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the former acting administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), which has conducted little, or no, federal oversight of the Big Dig. Prior to her work for the federal government, Ms. Garvey was the director of Logan International Airport and the commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Works. (She was in charge of the FAA during the 9/11 attacks and, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, ''She was unaware of a great amount of hijacking threat information from her own intelligence unit, which, in turn, was not deeply involved in the agency's policymaking process.")

Fred Salvucci is a senior lecturer and research associate at MIT. His legacy, however, will be his work as a former Massachusetts secretary of transportation, with particular emphasis on the development of the financial and political support for the Central Artery/Tunnel Project. Some critics blame Mr. Salvucci for the Big Dig's runaway costs and the lack of proper oversight, which resulted in privately hired consultants overseeing the project—a move that isolated many Massachusetts state engineers.

Recently, Massachusetts filed a lawsuit against the project's primary contractor Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, as well as other contractors, manufacturers, designers, and distributors that are linked to the tragic death that occurred in July.

It remains to be seen, however, if Governor Patrick will do the right thing and conduct a comprehensive investigation into the Big Dig's quality, safety, and finances. Based on some of the appointments to his transportation work group, there is doubt that the citizens of Massachusetts and Interstate travelers will receive genuine accountability. Hopefully Governor Patrick will obtain the advice that he needs to terminate over 20 years of government acquiescence to irresponsible contractors and political cronies.