Construction of Big Dig project was proposed in 1982. The project was an attempt to eliminate traffic problem in Massachusetts. Central Artery had a capacity of supporting 75,000 cars each day. However, in 1990 the number of vehicles increased to 200,000, which made this highway congested. The problem of traffic congestion had several negative effects. It caused wastage of fuel when vehicles idled in traffic jams. In addition, the number of accidents in this highway increased. Estimation of costs of construction of this project was a major problem. In 1982, engineers estimated that this project would cost $ 2.6 billion. However, these costs increased to $ 14.8 billion when the project was completed in 2007 (Venkataraman & Pinto, 2011). Reasons for the significant increase in costs included uncertain events, substandard materials, and frauds by construction companies. This paper focuses on cost estimation of Big Dig.
The topic of cost estimation of Big Dig is interesting. In 1982, engineers claimed that completion of the project would cost $ 2.6 billion. However, they failed to include key important costs in their estimations. Predicted costs did not include costs of uncertainties that could have affected the progress of the project before its completion (Venkataraman & Pinto, 2011). One of the uncertainties associated with this project was the collapse of Big Dig tunnel, which killed one woman. The name of woman who was killed by the collapse of the tunnel was Del Valle. Her family settled a wrongful death lawsuit and won $28 million as damages in court. In 2009, a state trooper crashed his motorcycle into one of the railings of Big Dig and died on the spot. His family sued Big Dig and received $ 9 million for wrongful death settlement. These expenses increased the cost of this project.
Poor services provided by contractors that Big Dig hired to complete the project also caused the increase of costs. The main contractor assigned with the task to complete this project was Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff (B/BP). This contractor failed to perform responsibilities of construction management. An audit done on this company revealed that B/BP auditors failed to address Mass Highway’s concerns on project management (Harris, Pritchard, & Rabins, 2009). In addition, it revealed that B/BP failed to correct construction errors identified by its internal auditors. It also failed to train its personnel, which was necessary to improve their construction skills. The staff of B/BP did not follow proper procedures while constructing Bid Dig. Audits revealed that they did not adhere to resident engineer drawings. Moreover, they failed to carry out claims avoidance reviews. They did not prepare well to staff meetings, which made it hard to keep track of decisions that they decided to implement. In cases when the contract changed because of increasing cost of raw materials, B/BP failed to document these changes.
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Fraud also contributed to the increase of costs of Big Dig project. In 2009, 6 former employees of Aggregate Industries were arrested for engaging in Big Dig concrete fraud. They embezzled funds of Big Dig project by double billing concrete thus increasing construction costs. In addition, they recycled old concrete and poured it on roof slabs and walls of Interstate 93 tunnel and some walls of Fort Point Channel (Harris, Pritchard, & Rabins, 2009). The report presented to the court, where these six men were charged, revealed that Aggregate Industries was paid $ 105 million for transportation of 135,000 trucks filled with concrete. However, 5000 of those trucks were not filled with concrete.
Costs associated with Big Dig also increased because of leaks in its tunnels after they were constructed. The state of Boston spends about $ 12 million each year on repairing leaks in its tunnels. In addition, it spent $ 13 million to replace fireproof materials that were destroyed by leaking tunnels. Leaking tunnels also corroded the lighting of Big Dig increasing costs incurred for repairing them. Engineers argue that if leaks in Central Artery Tunnel continue, the steel holding the tunnel will collapse threatening the stability of Big Dig (Yoon & Miller, 2008). Some sections of I-90 tunnel have also been leaking. Engineers say that a super plug connecting two tunnels at Fort Point channel causes these leaks. Lighting problems in Big Dig also increased costs of this project. Contractors who designed the project used low-quality electronic material. Lighting bulbs that were used to light tunnels also consumed a lot of electricity. High electricity consumption rate inflated costs of the project. Boston plans to spend $ 54 million on replacing about 25,000 light bulbs in this tunnel.
Collapsing walls and ceilings also contributed to the increase of costs of Dig Big. Construction of its tunnels was made with sub-standard materials. In 2007, the Big Dig tunnel collapsed because it had weak epoxy. The weight of panels that collapsed was about 4600 pounds. The roof collapsed after 20 of anchors were pulled away from the tunnel. Engineers also revealed that the bolts used to fasten the roof were of poor quality (Venjkataraman & Pinto, 2011). Researchers revealed that people who were given the task to plan Central Artery project failed to design a strong tunnel ceiling. In addition, they used polymer adhesives that could be easily affected by deformation. Big Dig spent about 1 million on repairing substandard ceilings and walls. In addition, it had to pay damages to a family of a woman, who died because of collapsing walls.
To conclude, the topic of cost estimation of Big Dig is interesting. Before the construction of the project, engineers projected that it would cost $2.6 billion to complete. However, it actually cost 14.8 billion when it was complete in 2007. The reasons for the difference in cost estimations of this project include unpredicted events such as lawsuits. In addition, B/BP contractors did a poor job because they failed to follow recommendations on audits of Big Dig. Fraud committed by employees of concrete industries also increased costs. Use of substandard materials caused leakages and collapsing of roofs, which increased the cost of maintenance. I would recommend to establish a committee for maintaining tunnels of this project. It will help reduce the leaks that increase costs of its maintenance. The committee should also consider creep testing to ensure that all anchor adhesives are strong.
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