Boston's Big Dig project — the most expensive road project in American history — is officially bankrupt.
A federal audit has concluded that Boston's Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel (called the “Big Dig”) project should be viewed as “bankrupt” and the projects managers should be replaced. The chief of the project subsequently submitted his resignation.
The audit also stated that the Big Dig “stands as one of the most flagrant breaches of integrity.in the history of the 85 year old Federal-aid highway program.”
When Congress originally approved construction of the project, it was to cost $2.5 billion and be completed by 1998. According to the audit, the project's total cost could reach a staggering $13.6 billion – $2.8 billion more than projected just six months ago.
When money for the Big Dig was debated on the Senate floor in 1991, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) stated, “There is no intention of repeating or coming back for additional resources.” Taxpayers should hold Congress and the State of Massachusetts to that promise.
Branding the Big Dig “bankrupt” sends a warning about the gravity of the state-financing crisis that has been triggered by the project's repeated cost overruns.
Revelations earlier this year that project officials had withheld information about a $1.4 billion cost overrun sparked congressional condemnation and an investigation by other federal agencies. The announcement came just hours after federal officials had approved the latest finance plan for the project.
Project management has failed to hold contractors to their bids or to penalize them for mistakes, resulting in massive cost increases for the project. Managers also stopped tracking or publicly acknowledging steadily escalating costs ranging from real estate to construction contract overruns.
The project's economic outlook has become so dire that managers delayed budgeting for contracts worth $260 million to a major consulting firm because they had no way to offset such a large cost.
The Big Dig is expected to remain under siege by Congressional critics until the state adopts a financial plan that passes muster with federal oversight officials. If the state fails to devise a plan, it risks losing the $5 billion in federal money that has been allocated for the project but not been spent.
Furthermore, federal taxpayers should say no to any new bailout from Uncle Sam and instead force federal and state officials from Massachusetts to pay for all cost overruns.