Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I turned 39 (2014)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

On Bill Weld - aka "Big Red" - & the Big Dig. Also see William Floyd Weld, Andrea Nuciforo, Carmen Massimiano, Denis Guyer, Daniel Bosl


Former Massachusetts Governor William Weld stood with Scott Brown in Quincy. (1/17/2010).


Bill Weld - "Big Red"

Former $80 Million Trust Fund Governor of Massachusetts


I was googling: "Bill Weld" "County Governments" -- this afternoon, and I came across a recent news article on the state's decade-old takeovers of abolished Western Massachusetts County Governments in the mid to late 1990's, which was a political issue whereby both my father, Bob, who served as the last Chairman of The Berkshire County Commission, and myself were persecuted by state and local career/machine politicians, including Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., Mary O'Brien, Carmen Massimiano, Stan Rosenberg, Dan Bosley, et al, and now the most mean-spirited, political-insider, of all-time, the bullying, vicious and racist slanderer: Denis "Gold-Digger!" Guyer.

As my dad, Bob, had the foresight that Ann Banash and Pennington Geis now have through their negative experiences with their new voluntary regional public entities, the following statements sum up the state's myopic focus on governance efficiency initiatives (as Governors Weld & then Cellucci coterminously mismanaged "The Big Dig", which is the single most wasteful, expensive and dangerous public works project in the history of the United States of America):

"In hindsight, had we known that the threat of losing the county wasn't really real, we would have stayed a county. I think that we could do the things we're doing now by tweaking what we were doing." -Banash / "I think we are much stronger now than we were then, but the things we're doing now we were thinking about doing then, and I think we could have done them faster had we not gone through the turmoil and the trouble of 'Are we going to survive?" -Pennington Geis / "There's no assurance that this form of government is sustainable...."Nearly every year we have one town or two towns question why they belong to the council." -Banash / In general, it is larger towns which have withdrawn from the new regional public entity. -Geis / Franklin County was the first county in Massachusetts to give up county government and turn to a council of government structure, a process Ms. Banash likened to jumping off a cliff.

As the son of a Berkshire County Commissioner who was trying to advocate for Berkshire County's 32 communities, I watched as Nuciforo wanted the state government to grab as much wealth and power via assets and public monies as possible with no regard for the municipalities of his legislative district. In the Spring of 1998, I watched my dad, Bob, go through a Kafka-esque State Ethics Hearing for practicing his constitutionally protected rights to free speech, while at the same time, Luciforo set up secretive plans with the Pittsfield Police Department to have me arrested based on his false charges that I had threatened him, which was after he had truly threatened me twice in the latter part of 1997.

As my dad could have lost everything (i.e., his state job and his future state pension, his elected seat on the County Commission Board, his good name, and the like), all for his Quixotic love of local/county government, suburban and rural communities like Pittsfield and Becket, and also, I could have been sent to the County Jail -- Carmen Massimiano's Jail -- during the same time period in the Spring of 1998, Nuciforo was heralded by the local media for being a governmental reformer. It was really difficult for me to understand -- as I was only 22-years-old at the time -- why "The Big Dig" was not the focus of efficiency policies instead of rural Berkshire County Government. I also did not understand why the Pittsfield Political Machine put my dad through so much pain through their corrupt and abusive persecutions. I was a graduate student at U Mass at the time, and boy, did Stan Rosenberg's two interns give me hell during my classes. One of my U Mass Professors quipped that Stan Rosenberg is behaving very badly, which surprised her because he is otherwise known as a good person who stands for progressive causes. Anyways, I got to see how inside politics really works. If you are not part of the group-think political machinery, you are an outsider and mistreated as such. Luckily, the pols got their way, and my dad was spared from losing his career, and I was spared from going to jail.

However, I was spared not from Denis E. Guyer's forthcoming hurtful rumors --using the word "Pussy" against me in front of women and children (late-7/2004), telling people that I "stalked a `Jewish' woman from Otis" and that I "belong in a psychiatric institution" for having mental disabilities (State Democratic Party Meeting on 7/23/2005 at Bousquet Ski area in Pittsfield, Massachusetts), and having one of his campaign workers (Pete Marchetti) tell people that my grandmother asked me to leave after I lived with her from the late Fall of 2003 through the early Spring of 2004 (9/2006 during a political event at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Downtown Pittsfield hosted by U.S. Senator John Kerry) -- against me from the Summer of 2004 through the present time. Like his political cohorts, Denis Guyer has never once apologized to me or my family for any of his vicious, anti-semetic, hateful remarks or rumors he spread against me. Because I am a good person, people look out for me, and that I why I know everything Denis Guyer has said against me since moving from the Berkshires to Southern New Hampshire. I am the opposite of Denis Guyer! Thank God.

By the way, Denis Guyer was a poor working class Pittsfield resident who married one of the richest woman -- Allison Crane of Crane & Company, Founded 1805 -- not only in the Pittsfield area, but the World. Denis Guyer then used his wife's money to start a career in politics. Mark my words, I will help end Denis Guyer's racist and violent political legacy!

Nearly 10 years ago, I remember the way in which Western Massachusetts Counties were abolished by Governors Bill Weld & the Paul Cellucci. They used secretive riders on the FY98 and FY99 Massachusetts State Budgets. There were no public hearings, input from towns, and/or voices of dissent under the almighty Golden Dome on Beacon Hill. The state wrote the legislation to abolish county governments without the local taxpayers having any say on the matter.

As I now hold a Master of Public Administration from U Mass, I asked my then Economics Professor who was at the time a Ph.D. graduate student from U Conn, what rational argument Gov. Bill Weld used to centralize government. She told me that it was the Corporate Elite's big business argument for taking over smaller business units. "Build the economy of scale, consolidate operations and services, eliminate inefficiencies, find new efficiencies (ways to grow one's earnings or profits)."

Gov. Bill Weld is a Patrician. He was born with an $80 Million Trust Fund from his family. The Weld family is part of the Boston Brahmans legacy. His ancestors made their money many centuries ago, even before the United States of America as founded and formed. Many generations of his family went to Harvard University where there is a building named "Weld Hall." Bill Weld's money is from old-wealth, yet he holds all of the inequitable tenets of the Corporate Elite that the have-nots must earn their living through merit via working for a living. That is an oxymoron for someone like William Floyd Weld!

I have studied wealth and power as part of my education in political science and public administration. Working for a living is NOT a means to wealth. The way people are wealthy is through there access to institutions that the have-nots are mostly turned away from. The problem with wealth and power is that these institutions: Family and Education (Ivy League), and now The Corporate Elite, are NOT at all built on systems of merit and they certainly are NOT meritricious. For minorities, such as Women, Jewish People, Black People, and the like, wealth and power put them at great disadvantages due to the way institutions were built and still operate for the most part today. The way to wealth and power is through the Family one marries into, such as what Denis Guyer did by marrying Allison Crane, after the young man attends his Ivy League School, which is something Denis Guyer could never do. No one ever attained wealth and power in a 9 to 5 job!

Gov. Bill Weld used his ascribed wealth and power against local/county governments in a hypocritical Corporate Elite way that always screws over the working class families. He had the state government takeover county governments and thereby weakened rural local governments throughout Western Massachusetts where wealth and power only exists in small pockets, not on a community level, such as some of the rich suburbs 20-minutes outside of Boston. By centralizing county operations into the fold of the state, Bill Weld fulfilled his function of giving only the wealthy and powerful access to an elitist institution, which in this case is the state government.

Gov. Bill Weld's tenure as Massachusetts Government saw cost of "The Big Dig" double from over $5 Billion in the early-1990s to over $11 Billion, (which was the largest cost overrun of any Massachusetts Governor!), in mid-1997 when he resigned his office per "sour grapes" after losing his race for U.S. Senate in the Fall of 1996 to the incumbent --John Forbes Kerry-- who was born into a Trust Fund with even more money in it than Weld was able to claim by birth for himself. The only legacy of efficiency to Gov. Bill Weld's tenure in public office was Bill Weld being born into a lot of money and then acting like he knew how how to run a state.

In Dissent,

Jonathan A. Melle


The Martha's Vineyard Times
Regional councils replace county governments
Hampshire and Franklin counties may be models
By Dan Cabot - July 26, 2007

The Dukes County Charter Study Commission (DCCSC) heard last week from representatives of the former Hampshire and Franklin counties, rural counties in western Massachusetts. Both have given up county government in favor of regional councils of government.

No doubt some members of the audience came expecting to hear that Hampshire and Franklin counties threw off an unpopular form of government for one which better suited the needs of the people. That was not the case, according to their representatives at the DCCSC forum held on Thursday evening at the Tisbury Senior Center. In the 1990s, both Franklin and Hampshire counties were satisfied with county government, they said. However, then governor William Weld proposed in 1995 that all county governments be abolished, and the leaders of Franklin and Hampshire counties scrambled to preserve what they believed was about to be taken away.

In response to a question toward the end of the evening, Ann Banash, chairman of the executive committee of the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG), summed up the history: "In hindsight, had we known that the threat of losing the county wasn't really real, we would have stayed a county. I think that we could do the things we're doing now by tweaking what we were doing."

Pennington Geis, council administrator of the Hampshire Council of Governments (HCOG), agreed and added, "I think we are much stronger now than we were then, but the things we're doing now we were thinking about doing then, and I think we could have done them faster had we not gone through the turmoil and the trouble of 'Are we going to survive?'"
Counties and councils

The chief difference between the former county governments and the FRCOG and the HCOG is that membership in the councils is voluntary. Assessments for county government (including Dukes County) are subtracted from each town's state revenues on its so-called "cherry sheet," a compendium of fees collected by the state on behalf of the towns, state aid to towns and schools, and payments for rent or other services provided to the state by the town. Towns in the counties controlled their county budget only through county advisory boards and the election, from time to time, of county commissioners. By contrast, the regional councils of government bill their assessments directly to the towns, which include them in their budgets and vote on them in their town meetings.

The councils of government are more connected to the towns, but there is always the possibility of a rash of defections. Ms. Banash commented, "There's no assurance that this form of government is sustainable." She reported that although all 26 towns of the former Franklin County are still members of FRCOG, "Nearly every year we have one town or two towns question why they belong to the council." She added that in order to withdraw from FRCOG, a town must pay a year's assessment, which is a deterrent to withdrawal. Ms. Banash regrets the loss of stability that the former county structure offered. "But," she added, "we're also more accountable than we ever were, and I think that's a good thing."

Ms. Geis said that of the original 20 towns in the HCOG, only 12 are members of HCOG. In general, it is larger towns which have withdrawn. She attributed towns' decisions to withdraw from the HGOG more to internal town politics than to any deficiencies in the HCOG.
Franklin Regional Council

Franklin was the first county in Massachusetts to give up county government and turn to a council of government structure, a process Ms. Banash likened to jumping off a cliff. In order to get the FRCOG approved by the state legislature, the leaders had to agree to transfer all county real estate to the Commonwealth, to be prohibited from bonding, and to take on part of the cost of the county retirement and retiree health insurance programs.

The FRCOG consists of a council, which meets quarterly, an executive committee, which meets monthly, and a regional planning board, roughly equivalent to the Martha's Vineyard Commission (but without regulatory powers). The council is made up of a selectmen (or an appointed representative) from each of the 26 towns, plus one member appointed by the planning board and two members elected at large. The executive committee is the two at-large members, the planning board appointee, and two other members of the council elected by the council. Ms. Banash is currently the chairman of the executive committee. The FRCOG is managed by an executive director appointed and supervised by the executive committee.

Funding comes from revenues and from a statutory assessment, which pays for county retirement and retiree health insurance (required of all towns in the former Franklin County), and a voluntary assessment for administration, services, and special projects such as one now underway to provide broadband service to all the towns in the region. Each town's assessment is based 90 percent on its population and 10 percent on its equalized property value. Substantial revenues come from grants and fees for the administration of grants.

Services to FRCOG member towns include a community coalition for teens (paid for by state and federal grants); cooperative building, plumbing, and wiring inspections for 18 participating towns; cooperative purchasing; municipal accounting for six of the smallest towns; a regional nurse; emergency management planning; and a regional health agent and a regional engineer. The FRCOG also facilitates cooperative ventures among member towns for functions such as property assessing services and animal control. Services are billed to the towns according to proportional use of the services in the preceding three years.

The original FRCOG charter (1997) established a separate fee-for-service program for towns that wanted to pay for services such as engineering and purchasing on a pay-as-you-go basis, but fee-for-service has been deemed unworkable and is being abandoned. Member towns that use a service are assessed a proportion of its region-wide cost. (HCOG also finds fee-for-service an unworkable method, according to Ms. Geis.)

Asked if she considered the towns "stockholders" in FRCOG, Ms. Banash replied, "Absolutely. We exist for the towns."

Hampshire Council

The 17 HCOG members are elected to two-year terms by the 12 towns that currently hold membership. Towns have more or fewer councilors according to population, but each town has at least one person on the council. The council elects an executive committee. The chairman of the executive committee appoints committees and committee chairmen. Ms. Geis is the appointed council administrator, the executive director. The council sets policy. Ms. Geis, in her words, is "the boss."

The HCOG is funded by assessed membership dues, program fees, grants, and earned revenues. Because the HCOG has important assets, the earned revenues are substantial. The COG supplies services (including electricity) to more than 80 towns, districts, and regional schools. Membership dues of less than $150,000 support an annual program cash flow of about $38 million. Ms. Geis said that the initially high membership dues have been reduced every year, and now the HCOG dues are lower than when Hampshire was a county.

Services include a group insurance trust, a rehabilitation and skilled nursing facility, an electricity supplying program (Hampshire Power), and a cooperative purchasing program, as well as other regional services, such as building inspection. The registry of deeds, the sheriff's department, and the emergency communications center were taken over by the state.

Ms. Geis was the chief negotiator with the governor and the legislature when Hampshire gave up county government and became a council. Benefiting from observing Franklin's struggles with the state, Ms. Geis was able to negotiate a somewhat better deal, and the HCOG was able to maintain several assets, including the courthouse and the county nursing home, and avoid indebtedness to the county retirement program. It did, however, give up several properties to the state.

Ms. Geis told the DCCSC that she misses the stability of being a county (8 of 20 towns in Hampshire County do not belong to HCOG). She felt that towns have tended to leave the HCOG when the elected representatives to the HCOG were "not on the same page" with the elected selectmen. She advanced that as a possible argument for having the selectmen appoint the HCOG members, although she said that the members of HCOG, all of whom are elected, might not agree with her.

Ms. Geis said that she finds independence from the legislature a large benefit of HCOG. She advised the DCCSC to propose a charter, whether a county or a council, that keeps control on Martha's Vineyard.

Asked about why other counties have given up county government, Ms. Geis implied that the problem may not have been so much flaws in the county government system but failures of county officials in those counties.

"Systems matter," she said, "but no matter what system you get, you have to have good people."


John Forbes Kerry

"Trust Fund turned Gold-Digger" U.S. Senator from Massachusetts


"John Kerry’s $230M fortune richest in Congress"
By Dave Wedge, September 23, 2008,, General Politics

Bay State Sen. John F. Kerry is the richest member of Congress with a conservatively estimated net worth of more than $230 million, according to an analysis by a Washington, D.C.-based publication.

Kerry topped Roll Call’s list of Congress’ most wealthy while fellow Bay State Sen. Edward M. Kennedy checked in at No. 9 on the list with an estimated net worth of $47.62 million.

The Capitol Hill political publication based its rankings on financial disclosures that all members of Congress are required to file. Roll Call acknowledged, however, that its math is fuzzy due to vague reporting requirements.

For example, Kerry lists many assets in the category “over $1 million” rather than more specific ranges, such as “$1 million to $5 million,” making it difficult to determine his actual worth. In all, Kerry lists 180 assets, including many in the name of his ketchup heiress wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry.

Kerry, whose net worth was estimated at $1 billion in April by Forbes magazine, declined comment. Christine Hunsiger, spokeswoman for Kerry’s Republican opponent in November, Jeff Beatty, said of the report: “As usual, Senator ‘Cash and Kerry’ sits at the top of all the lists. Massachusetts voters? As usual, we’re at the bottom of Kerry’s list.”

Following Kerry in the wealth rankings are Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) at $225 million; Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) at $160 million; Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) at $80.4 million; and Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.) at $79 million.

Kennedy, meanwhile, listed the bulk of his money in a family trust valued at between $25 million and $50 million, in addition to several other multimillion dollar trusts, a $1 million Hyannisport rental property and a piece of Louisiana land.

June 09, 2005

In 3 weeks from today’s date (June 9, 2005), Berkshire County Government will have been abolished for 5 years, and the legislation to abolish this regional body will be 7 years old. Indeed, this news article, enclosed below, interests me greatly.

I never fully understood how State Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., D—Pittsfield, made it his mission in life to take the state’s wrecking ball to his district’s county government. From the beginning, I communicated with this delegate to Beacon Hill, and he never wavered in his commitment to destroy the county’s long-standing government. Also, there was deep-rooted support by the third-rate Editors of the Eagle for the state to takeover the functions of county government. Then, almost out of insolence against my outspokenness in local government, state Rep. Dan Bosley of North Adams, where I was residing with my paternal grandparents at the time (July 01, 1997 to August 31, 1998), joined Nuciforo in the fight to abolish Berkshire County Government. However, to Bosley’s credit, he has recently become my friend and I think he is a human being first before a state government official. I now admire Dan Bosley’s commitment to the people he serves in the State House.

My dad, Bob, who is a former-Berkshire County Commissioner from Becket, receives the Eagle in the U.S. Mail in Amherst, N.H. and then I receive his old copies of the Eagle by hand several weeks later. I did not get to read this news article until this week. My thoughts about the past, current and future issues concerning Berkshire County Government contrast around one major issue in Boston, Massachusetts: THE BIG DIG. (See the enclosed news article in today’s Boston Globe, below).

From the beginning of the Nuciforo campaign, when I first met him in May of 1996, local, county, state and federal candidates spoke out about the mess in Boston that was and still is THE BIG DIG. An impressive group had assembled at the Central Berkshire Democratic Candidate’s Forum in Dalton on that Spring day, from then-Pittsfield Mayor Ed Reilly, who gave me a mean-spirited look as sat subdued in the audience; Reilly was running for the open state Senate Seat that Republican Jane Swift had left to run against John Olver for U.S. Congress. Reilly had later dropped out of the race, leaving Nuciforo to face either Peter Abair or Paul Babeu on the Republican side. Peter Abair later would lose to Paul Babeu, whom he would later tell me was “the Prince of Darkness.” Abair would later challenge and lose to John Olver in the 2000 1st District Massachusetts Congressional race. Abair remains a political machine hack for the state Republican Party. However, I think Abair is a good guy. He has my acquaintance. My dad spoke, as did Lee’s Patricia Carlino, who challenged him in the primary that year. I thought Pat Carlino’s speech was the best of this refreshing Spring Day 9-years ago. She really advocated for local government. Ms. Carlino has my respect. John Olver also spoke that lovely Spring day to the crowd of Democratic Party supporters.

THE BIG DIG was back then and still is the most expensive and wasteful public works project in the history of the United States of America. In the near decade that has passed from the aforementioned candidate’s forum, THE BIG DIG has only gotten worse and worse. During the last full year of the Weld Administration, 1996, the price of the Big Dig had shot up to over $11 Billion, up from $5 Billion when he took office in 1991—a double in cost! Now, Bill Weld wants to run for the Governorship of the State of New York. He doesn’t exactly have a stellar record. What interested me back in the mid-1990s was the Berkshire Democratic Machine Support for Weld, including then Mayor Ed Reilly and always Mayor John Barrett III, and even the always-nefarious Berkshire Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr., who seems to be my enemy in the political world and probably would like nothing more than for me to be his tenant in his house of pain otherwise known as the county jail. Of course, that was not the first time Massimiano backed a Republican governor for political reasons. I view Carmen as the biggest machine politician in the entire Berkshires! He has no principles or integrity. I guess I am really alienated by this machine politician’s insolence towards me.

The focus of the Weld Administration and the state Legislature was NOT on THE BIG DIG, where it should have been, but on county governments. The reform measures from on high under the Golden Dome were to make local governments more efficient. This was absurdly ironic given the state’s own mess. Nuciforo, who I view in much similarity with Massimiano and other machine Pittsfield Politicians who dislike my outspokenness on local issues, took up the cause of the Weld Administration and worked to abolish Berkshire County Government both in 1997 (the first year he was in political office) and 1998, where he successfully abolished Berkshire County Government with Rep. Bosley’s help via a post-midnight rider the FY1999 state budget. As county governments are unmentioned in the state’s constitution, the Legislature was able to repeal them via any legal method, including a budget rider.

Given the methods and tactics employed by Nuciforo & Bosley, the state did not have a plan to comprehensively take care of the duties and functions of county governments. That is why there was a gap of 2-years between the act of abolition and the implementation of the state’s takeover of Berkshire County Government. As always, politicians say more than they do, which leads to the Eagle news article enclosed below.


Jonathan Melle


By Erik Arvidson, Eagle Statehouse Bureau
Wednesday, May 25, 2005

BOSTON—Nearly 5 years after (Berkshire) county government was dismantled (by State Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., D—Pittsfield), it is still not clear who is in charge of many of the county-owned properties such as Hoosac Lake(/Reservoir) in Cheshire and Pontoosuc Lake in Pittsfield.

On Pontoosuc Lake, the city of Pittsfield has been responsible for eradicating the weeds that have plagued the lake for years, while the state has been responsible for operating the Hancock Road dam, which fell into disrepair.


State Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., D—Pittsfield, is sponsoring legislation that would put Pontoosuc and Hoosac lakes and several other properties in the Berkshires under the control of the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). The bill, which is the subject of a hearing by the Legislature’s Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government today, would also make it clear that the DCR would assume control of 3 access roads to the Mount Greylock reservation.

A handful of other Berkshire County properties would be placed under the control of the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Environmental Law Enforcement.

While the state has owned all of the properties since (July 01,) 2000, control of the properties was given to the Division of Capital Asset Management, an obscure state agency that is the real estate manager for many state buildings.

State Representative William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox, a former (Berkshire) county commissioner who was critical (but also complicit with Tom McCann) of the state’s takeover of former county (government) properties, said that what is needed is a commitment from DCR that lakes would be adequately maintained.

“I had reservations about just turning a great pond over to a state agency without a real clear lake management plan. I still share those concerns today, not only for the lake but also for several of the boat ramps,” Pignatelli said.

He added, “If we’re going to convey that property over to the state, we need to make a concerted effort to make some investments toward a lake management plan for all the lakes to control the weeds and any infiltration that is going on with the sewer.”

Pignatelli said he thinks that the state has done “a great job” in keeping weeds under control on other lakes in Massachusetts. He added that the DCR should have more funding for its Lakes and Ponds program, particularly to repair boat ramps that are in “deplorable shape.”


The existing bill will also have to be amended because it gives control of the properties to the Department of Environmental Management, which has been replaced by the DCR.

Michelle Rivers Murphy of Pittsfield, vice president of the Friends of Pontoosuc Lake, said her group has been lobbying for years to obtain clarification as to who controlled the 480-acre lake.

“When Berkshire County Government was dismantled, it was like Pontoosuc Lake was orphaned on Paper,” she said. “On paper, nobody has ownership. We want the paperwork to say the state has ownership. It is just been in limbo.”

Neither the city of Pittsfield nor the town of Lanesborough has expressed interest in taking custody of the lake. Murphy’s association could not assume the cost and liability of maintaining the dam (lake) (?).

Murphy agreed it was a good idea for the DCR to take over, despite the fact that the agency’s overall staffing has been reduced in recent years.

Hoosac Lake is also owned by the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, but the weed harvesting is the responsibility of the state. Berkshire County government took responsibility for controlling the weeds after the lake was purchased from a private (and negligent) owner in 2000 (thanks to then Berkshire County Commissioners Tom Stokes, Bob Melle and Ron Kitternman!).

State Representative Daniel E. Bosley, D—North Adams, (who pushed for this mess by helping state Senator Nuciforo II abolish county government in the state House chamber), said he supported the DCR taking control of the 3 access roads on the Mount Greylock Reservation: Notch Road, Summit Access Road & Rockwell Road.

“I don’t think it is fair for the town of Adams or North Adams to repair these roads, which that state has always done,” Bosley said.

The bill would also give the DCR authority over a .92-acre access road to Geese Pond in Lee & Tyringham.

In addition, the legislation gives the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife & Environmental Law Enforcement control over a handful of access roads leading to several ponds.

Those access roads to be taken over include Simons Pond in Sandisfield, Stockbridge Bowl, Center Pond in Becket, Richmond Pond, the Great Lake & Parish Pond in Otis, & Goodrich Pond in Pittsfield.


$37m OK'd for Big Dig repairs
Final price tag for fixing leaks undetermined
By Sean P. Murphy and Raphael Lewis, (The Boston) Globe Staff | June 9, 2005

Big Dig officials have already authorized $37 million to repair and prevent leaks in the Interstate 93 tunnels, an audit has found, according to two government officials and a construction industry official briefed on the report.

The expenditures are more than twice what the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority previously estimated the repairs would cost.

The report, commissioned by the Turnpike and written by Deloitte & Touche, focuses on the money that has been spent or appropriated to address the hundreds of small leaks around the tunnels' roof joints.

It does not include the cost of any future leak-related maintenance of the tunnels.

It also excludes the price of fixing about a dozen seriously flawed sections of tunnel wall that are either leaking or in danger of sprouting leaks, costs that will probably be picked up mainly by project contractors.

The preliminary audit has also found that the $14.625 billion official cost estimate of the Big Dig has not been affected by the leak expenditures because those costs were absorbed in various contingency accounts, one of the government officials said.

That finding is significant because the US Department of Transportation's Inspector General, Kenneth M. Mead, earlier this year questioned whether the $14.6 billion price tag would rise as a result of the leaks and whether the state's financing plan for the project was adequate.

The extensive report details for the first time the specific costs of repair and prevention of leaks by independent auditors who were provided complete access to project records. It was first reported by Fox-25 News Tuesday.

It's not clear what period of time the report covers, but Turnpike Authority officials began discovering the leaks in the late 1990s.

The officials briefed on the report said that $14 million in expenditures that the Deloitte auditors included in the total may not be included in the final audit, because some officials involved in the project argue that that spending was due to design changes that were largely unrelated to the leaks.

Officials at the Turnpike Authority, which oversees the Big Dig, have provided no public estimate of the cost of the leaks. But last April, Mead testified before a congressional committee that Turnpike Authority officials said the cost of repairs would total about $17 million.

A preliminary review in November by State Auditor A. Joseph DeNucci and state Inspector General Gregory W. Sullivan determined that the Turnpike Authority had already authorized $35 million in leak-related payments that they termed ''only the tip of the iceberg."

Turnpike Authority officials declined to be interviewed yesterday, but a spokeswoman released a statement saying ''the final review is not complete, but we expect to have it in the coming weeks, and as we committed to do, once finalized, the report will be made public."

The Turnpike Authority chairman, Matthew J. Amorello commissioned the Deloitte investigation in December at the insistence of Mead, who said he would not sign off on the release of $81 million in federal funds for the Big Dig until he was assured that the Turnpike Authority had a handle on the leaks.

The leaks have at times numbered nearly 1,000 and continue to allow water into the tunnel through fissures in the roof and in some sections of wall.

The $37 million figure cited by the Deloitte audit includes installation of a special hose system that the Turnpike Authority uses to inject grout into the many small fissures at the roof-wall joint, the construction industry official said.

Among the expenditures detailed in the report, according to the construction industry official, are $11 million for construction workers to inject the grout into leaky areas in the walls and roof; $2.8 million for the hose system; around $600,000 for rust and stain removal.

Another $300,000 was authorized for debris removal and cleanup related to water flow; $1.6 million for the repair of water-damaged fireproofing material on the tunnel roof; and another $1.3 million for a special tape that was supposed to keep concrete seams waterproofed but largely failed to do so.

One official who has seen the investigation's findings said there is intense discussion among state and federal officials on how to interpret that data.

''Deloitte has identified everything" that could be construed as leaks-related, the official said.
''Now it comes down to how you count it. That's a matter of interpretation."

No agreement has been reached on how much it will cost to fix all of the flawed tunnel wall sections.

Repairing the breach that sent water gushing into the northbound lanes of the Interstate 93 tunnel on Sept. 15 will probably cost at least $750,000, according to previous estimates by the Turnpike Authority.

Turnpike Authority officials and top representatives of the authority's management consultant, Bechtel Parsons/Brinckerhoff, have repeatedly said the cost of repairing the Sept. 15 breach and the dozen other significant wall defects will be underwritten by Bechtel Parsons/Brinckerhoff or construction contractors, primarily Modern Continental Construction Co. of Cambridge.


Boston's Big Dig DISASTER!

Boston's Big Dig is the single most expensive, wasteful and dangerous public works project in the history of the USA!


The Boston Herald
Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Big Dig is also called The Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel Project. The estimated cost of The Big Dig is approximately $15 Billion, which makes The Big Dig the single most expensive publics works project in the history of the United States of America.

At 11:05 p.m. Monday, July 10th, 2006, a 3-ton slab of concrete broke loose and slammed onto a car, instantly killing 38-year-old passenger Milena Del Valle, who was a Jamaica Plain mother of three, while she and her husband, Angel, were riding eastbound on Interstate 90 through the new tunnel.

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which oversees The Big Dig.

Bechtel Parsons/Brinckerhoff was the company responsible for the public works project’s consulting, design and construction.

Modern Continental was the company in charge of installing the ceiling panels. They also employed subcontractors. Modern Continental is The Big Dig’s largest contractor.

The ceiling designer, Gannett Fleming Inc., received much of the blame for the 7/10/2006 ceiling collapse because they did NOT specify the use of epoxy strong enough to keep bolts from gradually coming loose. (Boston Globe, 7/11/2007).

The following is a brief history of Boston’s notorious Big Dig project:

1987 – Federal money approved for the Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel project, aka The Big Dig, at an estimated cost of $2.5 Billion.

1991 – Work begins on The Big Dig, which now has a $5 Billion price tag

12/1995 – Grand opening of the Ted Williams Tunnel

1/12/1996 – Toll collectors in the Ted Williams Tunnel forced to wear respirators because of sickening fumes.

1/1996 – Officials pump 400,000 gallons of water out of Ted Williams Tunnel air ducts because of persistent leaks.

5/1997 – Big Dig price tag now $7.78 Billion.

6/1998 – Internal memo circulated by managers at Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff raises concern about potential leaks. The memo was NOT made public until 2004! Big Dig estimated at $10.4 Billion.

4/11/2000 – Federal audit reveals The Big Dig managers deliberately misled federal officials about COST OVERRUNS for the now $13 Billion project.

9/2001 – Leaks discovered in I-93 tunnel, pushing back the project’s completion date.

February 2002 – Acting-Governor Jane Swift appointed Matthew Amorello to administer The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which oversees The Big Dig.

3/2003 – I-93 northbound Big Dig tunnel opens to traffic.

12/2003 – I-93 southbound Big Dig tunnel opens to traffic.

1/11/2004 – Ice buildup in I-93 tunnel causes lane shutdown, resulting in sporadic traffic jams.

9/15/2004 – Gusher bursts in the I-93 tunnel.

11/2004 – The Boston Herald reports that despite explicit warnings in 1997, contractors failed to correct ineffective waterproofing practices that threatened to undermine construction in some of the most sensitive areas of the project.

3/2005 – Inspections reveal 189 wall panels are defective and there are more than 2,000 leaks in the I-93 tunnels.

3/13/2005 – Chunks of ice fall from the Zakim Bridge and land on at least one car, forcing closure of all but two lanes on the bridge.

4/4/2005 – Federal Highway Administration deems Big Dig tunnels “structurally sound”

4/5/2005 – Three cars and an Ambulance transporting a patient are badly damaged by falling debris in the I-93 tunnel

5/2005 – Attorney General Tom Reilly learns that Big Dig contractors had been secretly patching a leak in the Fort Point Channel tunnel that was spewing 20 gallons of water per minute through cracks.

2005 - The estimated cost of The Big Dig is estimated at $14.6 Billion and counting upwards.

1/2006 – Final Big Dig ramp completed.

7/10/2006, 11:05 p.m., Large concrete slab in the I-90 Seaport connector tunnel crashes down on a car, killing one person and shutting down the tunnel in both directions.


The Boston Globe
July 11, 2007

Wide risk, wide blame: U.S. report finds further peril in 2006, faults all parties
By Sean P. Murphy

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and multiple Big Dig contractors were cited by federal investigators for using the wrong kind of glue to hold up part of the concrete ceiling. Moreover, project oversight was inadequate to detect the problem.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) compiled the report. 26 tons of concrete and steel crashed down on the late night of July 10, 2006. The epoxy glue used was deemed to weak to support the multi-ton concrete ceiling panels.

The NTSB found that Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff and Modern Continental Construction Company, the tunnel builder, FAILED to MONITOR whether bolts continued to come loose, and the Turnpike Authority did not inspect the ceiling after the tunnel opened in 2003.

The NTSB’s policy recommendations included (a) a nationwide moratorium on the overhead use of epoxy bolts in highway construction, (b) for the Federal Highway Administration to develop national standards for testing epoxy bolts – none now exist, and (c) the creation of mandatory tunnel inspection programs similar to the checks now required for bridges.

After the July 10, 2006, late night Big Dig accident, the ceiling at the eastern end of the I-90 connector was removed. Elsewhere, epoxy bolts in the Big Dig tunnels were reinforced with braces and another type of bolt. The NTSB report found that using epoxy bolts to hold up objects overhead “appears…to introduce voids into the adhesive that can reduce” the weight-bearing capacity and reliability of the bolts.

Masssachusetts Governor Deval Patrick had the following to say: “As I understand the report, it confirms the utter disappointment I have, and I think we all should have with Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff. Among the conclusions—the wrong glue and the wrong leadership. The wrong oversight of the project has been confirmed by this report.

Doug Bailey, spokesman for Gannett Fleming, had the balls to say in a written statement: “We are still reviewing the findings of the NTSB report, but it seems to confirm our confidence in the integrity of our design and the accuracy of our calculations.” He then went on to say: “[The company] only approved the use of an epoxy that could have been the standard-set epoxy, [not quick-drying kind]. Only today did we learn that the wrong epoxy was used in the tunnel ceiling.”

Powers Fasteners had the balls to insist that they supplied the standard-set epoxy. Powers Fasteners issued the following statement: “Powers did not know that Fast Set [quick-drying epoxy] was used for the ceiling in place of the Standard Set epoxy. It would be an ABSURD conclusion if the federal investigators were to consider Powers Fastener in any way responsible.”

The NTSB concluded that Gannett Fleming (ceiling designer) did NOT specify an epoxy to use, but rather a performance-based standard for the epoxy—one that performs in a certain way. Gannett Fleming responded that they failed to consider “creep”, the fact that fast-set epoxy, due to its chemistry, breaks down and loses strength, while standard-set epoxy remains stable. There was no “malice” on anyone’s part. The problem derived from managers and engineers not understanding “creep.”

HOWEVER, “creep” had been in their engineering literature! It was just that it was not understood. The contract specifications written by Gannett Fleming and reviewed by Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff OMITTED any consideration of “creep.” Moreover, the NTSB found that Powers Fasteners had, indeed, tested its products for “creep” and found in 1995 that FAST-SET epoxy FAILED under long-term stress, such as the pull of gravity in overhead applications.

Carl Schultheisz, a NTSB material lab analyst, said that when managers discovered within weeks of installing the bolts that they were slipping out, it was Powers Fasteners that was in the best position to have averted the subsequent collapse on the late night of July 10, 2006.

The problem was that THE ANCHORS USED TO FASTEN THE CEILING PANELS in the Interstate 90 connector were vulnerable to “EPOXY CREEP.”


Dan Walsh, an NTSB engineer, said Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff in 2003 produced an inspection manual for the tunnels, but it was NOT IMPLEMENTED by the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority during the 43-MONTHS between its completion and the ceiling collapse on the late night of July 10, 2006.


All parties – The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority (State), Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff (Project Manager), Gannett Fleming (Designer), Modern Continental (Installer of Ceiling Panels), and Powers Fasteners (Fast-Set Epoxy Glue supplier) — involved with The Big Dig incident that killed a motorist on the late night of July 10, 2006, are hiding behind a wall of lawyers instead of taking responsibility for their fatal errors and actions.

On September 22, 2006, The Boston Herald wrote an Editorial entitled, “The tip of the iceberg”. It goes as follows: “The latest infuriating but no-at-all surprising news out of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority is found in a seven-page report by Governor [WILLARD] Mitt Romney’s former budget chief Eric Kriss, who examined the Pike’s books and turned up what you would expect – a big fat financial mess. / Bloated salaries. Burdensome debt. Deferred maintenance. Pitiful management of the millions drivers hand over every day for the privilege to getting to work. Brazen thievery. / `50-years after the Turnpike was created…Massachusetts residents have a roadway in poor condition, burdened with over $2 Billion in debt, and operating at an unsustainable loss,’ Kriss wrote. / (Not to mention the small matter of a $15 Billion tunnel that may or may not be safe, but we digress…) / Some drivers may puzzle over the science of engineering or complex bolt-and-epoxy systems. But they will have no trouble whatsoever grasping the fact that toll collectors earn an average of $66,180 a year in salary and benefits and 6-weeks vacation, and that means something is dreadfully wrong. / It is easy to blame the union for milking the system, especially when the head honcho is whining about toll collectors having to work in the cold, poor babies. But a fish rots from the head down, and if management is willing to give away the store while papering over the Pike’s real money woes – and Matt Amorello & Co. apparently were – why would not the union grab all they could? / Our favorite line in the report refers to the `neglect of top management that failed to establish a positive culture of public service and integrity.’ Gee…ya think?”


The Boston Globe, B2, City & Region, Monday, October 29, 2007
“New England in brief” – Massachusetts – “Turnpike panel to vote on tolls”

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority is scheduled to take a final vote today on toll hikes of 25-cents at the Allston-Brighton and Weston tollbooths and 50-cents at the Ted Williams and Sumner tunnels. The board voted October 4, 2007, to give preliminary approval to the hikes and has since held 5 public hearings. The increases had been scheduled for nearly a decade, as part of the plan for paying off Big Dig debt. The board briefly considered heftier toll hikes because the Authority is running a DEFICIT and cannot afford major repairs to bridges, tunnels, and roads that would cost $250 million over the next 5 years. Tolls are now $3 for cash-paying customers at the tunnels and $1 at the other two tollbooths. Owners of the Fast Lane pass get a 50-cent discount at the tunnels and 25-cent discount at the western tolls.

Board member Mary Connaughton has long contended that toll hikes force residents of the western suburbs to pay a disproportionate share of the Big Dig debt. She said she will propose eliminating the hike at Allston-Brighton and Weston for drivers who have a Fast Lane pass and charge an additional $1.50 at the tunnels for cash customers. Tunnel drivers with a Fast Lane pass would face a $1.25 hike under her plan.


NH Union Leader, 10/30/2007, Page A5
Mass. Pike tolls going up in January (2008)

Boston, Massachusetts (AP) – It is official: Tolls are going up on the Massachusetts Turnpike.

The turnpike board has voted to raise tolls for passenger cars at the Allston-Brighton and Weston interchanges by 25-cents, to $1.25.

Also, one-way tolls for cars in the Ted Williams and Sumner tunnels will rise 50-cents, to $3.50. The toll hikes take effect in January (2008).

The increases apply to Fast Lane users as well.

The vote was 3-2.


Divided turnpike board sets toll hikes
Increases will be effective Jan. 1 [2008]
By Noah Bierman, [BOSTON] Globe Staff | October 30, 2007

A divided Massachusetts Turnpike Authority board approved a series of toll hikes yesterday, effective Jan. 1, after a fractious meeting at which several members tried to delay a decision and find a way to provide relief to commuters from the western suburbs.

The final 3-to-2 vote will pave the way for an increase of 25 cents at the Allston-Brighton and Weston tollbooths, to $1.25, and 50 cents at the Ted Williams and Sumner tunnels, to $3.50, as a way to help cover growing debt payments on the Big Dig.

For two hours of the three-hour meeting, the board seemed certain to delay the vote by a month to give members and authority staff time to study a plan that would spare many western commuters from paying more to use the roads.

But during a break, after several back-room meetings with fellow board members and Turnpike Authority lawyers, Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen, who chairs the board, reopened the public meeting and shifted course. Any delay in approving a hike would risk damaging the authority's bond rating and possibly lead to higher interest rates, authority lawyers said.

"On reflection, I think we all realized, or many of us realized, that the need to get started with stabilizing the authority's finances by raising the toll in January was paramount," Cohen said after the meeting.

Mary Z. Connaughton, one member of the board, was livid. She had sponsored an earlier proposal to shift more of the toll hike to the tunnels and shield customers with a Fast Lane pass from an increase in Allston and Weston. Cohen initially agreed with the rest of the board that the idea merited further study and that a final vote could wait another month. But he seemed blind-sided when authority staff told him after two hours of debate that a delay would make it difficult if not impossible to begin collecting the new tolls by Jan. 1, the deadline set by bondholders.

Connaughton questioned why the board held five public hearings before yesterday's vote if, according to its legal and accounting staff, the board was locked into voting for the original toll plan, tentatively approved in early October.

"What is the point of the public hearing?" Connaughton said. "We go to the public and ask them to rubber-stamp a decision that we already made?"

She has long argued that residents of the western suburbs have paid more than their share of the Big Dig debt, because the turnpike has tolls while Interstate 93 is free.

Fellow board members, including Cohen, said yesterday that they agreed with her. Mary Jane O'Meara, interim executive director of the Turnpike Authority, recommended hiking tolls immediately but promised to form a working group that would evaluate how to shift some of the burden away from western commuters.

"We know it's not fair," Connaughton said, her voice rising in anger as she saw the votes shifting around her.

Board member Michael Angelini interrupted her, saying, "This is not the time for histrionics."

"It's a sad day today for tollpayers," Connaughton said after the toll hike passed.

Three weeks ago, she found a $6 million error in the authority's calculations about how much the toll increase would bring in, prompting O'Meara to fire a consulting firm used by the authority and to issue a sheepish press release acknowledging the error.

Asked if he was frustrated by the advice he was getting from the Turnpike staff, Cohen said, "I would like to see some improvement in that area."



What went wrong at the Big Dig
By Peter Pendergast | November 15, 2004

ONE NEED ONLY consider the Grand Canyon to be reminded of the magnitude of the corrosive effect of water over sand and stone -- and to understand the gravity of the problem we face with over 400 leaks breaching the tunnel walls of the Big Dig.

How could we spend $14.25 billion -- and counting -- and end up with a tunnel gushing millions of gallons of water?

At one level, the answer seems simple: soil and clay deposits in concrete poured to create the (now leaking) tunnel walls. Then add in shoddy work and an unimaginable lack of oversight and quality control by the construction manager, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff. But from a broader governmental and management perspective, the answer is even more troublesome.

On Nov. 16, 2001, then Acting Governor Jane Swift fired then Turnpike Vice Chairman Christy Mihos and Director Jordan Levy. We are now paying for those firings and may for some time.

As the direct result of the firings and her appointment of Matt Amorello as Turnpike chairman, Swift stopped the ongoing management restructuring of the Big Dig, including the cornerstone of the reform, to hire an owner's engineer to oversee the otherwise unsupervised Bechtel/Parsons.

Mihos's restructuring initiative could have mitigated or prevented the leaks, as well as other flaws, during construction, when errors could have been avoided or repaired. The result is tragic and devastating.

The leading candidate at the time to become the owner's engineer supervising Bechtel/Parsons was legendary "Chunnel" construction manager Jack Lemley. In the mid-1990s, Lemley had written a report critical of Big Dig construction management. Ironically, Lemley is now leading the investigation of the leaks he might have prevented.

But as the new Turnpike chairman, Amorello refused to implement the board's resolution to hire an owner's engineer. Indeed, Bechtel/Parsons remains unsupervised today.

Instead, Amorello forced out the entire legal staff of the Office of the General Counsel. The staff had played an important role in investigating Bechtel/Parsons and in restructuring management of the firm, including taking over its authority to make decisions to pay contractor's claims for extra work. The general counsel had also interviewed the candidates for owner's engineer as well as other construction management firms capable of replacing the Bechtel hierarchy.

A month before Swift's firings, her office had asked about purported plans by the Turnpike Board to terminate Bechtel/Parsons for mismanagement. Just after 7 a.m. on Oct. 9, Turnpike CEO Richard Capka called me at home. Capka said he had just spoken to Steve Crosby, Swift's secretary of administration and finance, who had told him that Bechtel had contacted Swift at her home in North Adams and voiced concerns that the Turnpike Board would terminate the company at the board's meeting two days later. As general counsel, I informed Capka that I had no knowledge of such a plan.

One day later, Swift again intervened on behalf of Bechtel/Parsons and undermined the Turnpike Authority's ongoing negotiations with the company. The negotiations included issues of restructuring of Big Dig management, and a demand for reparations from Bechtel/Parsons in the amount of $250 million.

Prior to the morning session of the negotiations, a Turnpike employee received a phone call from a friend who was an aide to the acting governor. The aide stated that the Bechtel/Parsons team participating in the negotiations had a meeting scheduled in Swift's office prior to the afternoon negotiating session.

In the morning meeting, Bechtel made an offer of payment to the Turnpike of $50 million, with contingencies. That afternoon, within minutes of returning from the meeting in Swift's office, Bechtel/Parsons walked away from the negotiations.

One month later, Swift announced the firings and left the Commonwealth with the problems that have now come to light. She cited as her reasons "micromanagement" and "financial irresponsibility" for delaying toll increases for six months.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court saw through Swift's pretense and declared her terminations unlawful. The court reinstated the board members. It was too late, however, to save the reforms that could have avoided the disaster we now face. In the meantime, the Legislature expanded the Turnpike Board by two members to be able to vote out the management reform at the Big Dig.

It did not have to happen.

Peter Pendergast was the general counsel of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority from August 2000 to July 2002.

Former Massachusetts Acting Governor Jane Swift

Jane Swift was brought to Court and every page of her "Big Dig" meetings notes had doodles in them. She was like a kid in school!

The Boston Globe
Letters to the Editor
Another view of what went wrong at the Big Dig
November 17, 2004

PETER PENDERGAST'S take on the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority's problems is replete with serious factual errors ("What went wrong at the Big Dig," op ed, Nov. 15).

I'm surprised that the Globe would run a piece without any regard for the validity of the assertions it contains, or without any apparent effort to verify them. Specifically: I do not live in North Adams, and did not live in North Adams in 2001.

I never had any conversation with any Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff employee on any matter, including the company's work as construction manager for the Big Dig.

I never informed Steve Crosby or any other individual that I had such a conversation.

I never intervened on behalf of Bechtel/Parsons in any negotiations with the Turnpike Authority.

I never instructed or directed in any way any member of the governor's staff or any other individual to intervene on behalf of Bechtel/Parsons in any Turnpike Authority negotiations. Indeed, my instructions to my staff were to the contrary.



A Handy Guide to the Big Dig Screw-Up
The (Boston) Phoenix
July 27, 2007
~In Part~

Featuring Jane Swift's "Leadership" public record

Massachusetts Turnpike:

Matthew J. Amorello, chairman and CEO (2002–2006) Swift appointee; former state representative

John Moscardelli (2002– ) Swift appointee; ally of former attorney general Frank Bellotti; friend of Weld fundraiser Peter Berlandi

Richard K. Anderson, former director (2002–2005) Swift appointee; major GOP donor

Bechtel (B/PB) - Lobbyists, lawyers, and public relations:

Cheryl Cronin, lobbyist; worked for Jane Swift and Tom Finneran; also represented Christy Mihos

State inspectors general:

Gregory W. Sullivan (2001–) appointed simultaneously by Reilly, Swift, and DeNucci; deputy to Cerasoli 1992–2001, eight-term state representative


Jane Swift move gives state legal bill: Passed law to bypa$$ Pike suit
By Dave Wedge
Boston Herald Chief Enterprise Reporter

Tuesday, January 30, 2007 -

The taxpayer tab for the bitter battle between former acting Gov. Jane Swift and gubernatorial washout Christy Mihos has gone up again as the state footed the bill for a large chunk of Swift’s legal expenses, thanks to a law she passed during her final days in office.

Taxpayers had already shelled out $197,000 to Mihos to settle his claim that Swift illegally fired him from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority in 2001 after he blocked a toll hike.

Now the state has reimbursed Swift $188,000 to help with her $471,000 legal tab, which she paid out of her campaign funds.

A Swift spokesman said the state cut a $275,000 check Nov. 7 to the law firm of Brown Rudnick, which defended Swift in Mihos’ suit. Roughly $87,000 was used to pay off Swift’s outstanding legal bill, while the rest was deposited into her campaign account.

The door was opened for the taxpayer-funded reimbursement thanks to a law Swift signed as one of her final duties in December 2002. The legislation, passed while the suit was pending, requires taxpayers to pick up legal tabs up to $1 million for top state officials, even if they intentionally violate someone’s civil rights.

Before the law was passed, officials had to pay their own legal bills for intentional civil rights violations.

“That law should never have passed,” said Barbara Anderson, spokeswoman for the taxpayer watchdog group Citizens for Limited Taxation. “There was something really seedy that this was one of her last acts in office and there’s something wrong with the legislators who passed it.”

But Swift spokesman Jason Kauppi said the law protects governors from personal attacks connected to official acts.

“All governors run the risk of being personally targeted by frivolous lawsuits filed by disgruntled appointees,” Kauppi said. “Indemnification will stand to protect all future governors, who will be free to make important decisions without fear of personal retribution.”

Mihos, who did not return calls seeking comment, claimed Swift violated his civil rights because she did not have the authority to remove him from the Pike board. In addition to the settlement, Mihos was reinstated to the board.

Mihos, who was not reappointed to the Pike board by former Gov. Mitt Romney, mounted a failed campaign for governor last year.

Swift, meanwhile, has $287,858 in her campaign war chest, in addition to $150,000 she recently transferred into savings. State law permits campaign accounts to remain open as long as the person hasn’t ruled out a future political run.

Jane Swift was unavailable for comment, Kauppi said.


"Kerry’s continued mincing just proves he’s not so Swift" (By Howie Carr, Boston Herald Columnist, Wednesday, January 31, 2007): "On the other hand, we have Jane Swift. It comes out this week that on Nov. 7 - Election Day - she grabbed another $275,000 from the commonwealth to pay her legal bills (nearly four years after her involuntary retirement from politics) in the suit filed by her archnemesis, Christy Mihos. The only reason she got this reimbursement is because of a bill that she herself signed in the final moments of her squalid term as acting governor in late 2002. ...If she hadn’t been obsessing over that bill to cover her legal expenses, how else might she have been spending her time? Maybe appointing more cronies of Billy Bulger to judgeships, not to mention lawyers of Stevie Flemmi."


Holding officials accountable
By Boston Herald editorial staff
Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Well, it looks like former acting Gov. Jane. Swift can kiss whatever was left of her political future goodbye. Yes, there’s nothing like having the taxpayers cut you a big fat check - in this case one for $275,000 - to make them remember you, shall we say, less than fondly.

The check was to reimburse Swift for legal expenses incurred as a result of Christy Mihos’ successful suit charging the then acting governor had illegally fired him from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority Board. (Mihos walked off with $197,000 in state money, but the voters have already told him what they think of him.)

In the waning days of her administration Swift signed into law a bill designed to hold her (and future elected officials) harmless for what amounted to intentional civil rights violations. And while it is surely a closing-the-barn-door move, the law needs to be repealed. Not just because it’s a burden to the taxpayers, but even more importantly because it sends the message to public officials that they are not responsible for their own wrongdoing.

Swift is history - and likely to remain so. But this sorry part of her legacy needs to be undone.

Massachusetts Democratic Party Politician SHANNON O'BRIEN

Shannon O'Brien is one of my favorite politicians of all time. She is a true leader! Shannon O'Brien chose to stand up for the People instead of play the insider's game. Although she paid the price of political defeat, she is a hero in my book!

State Treasurer Shannon O’Brien (1999–2003) was one of the few who ever stood up to the GLOB*, refusing to sign off on a financing plan until she got some answers about cost overruns. Nevertheless, in the 2002 race for governor, Mitt Romney painted her as too weak to take control of the Big Dig. She lost to WILLARD Mitt Romney in the race for Massachusetts Governor in 2002; husband lobbied for Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff.

*The GLOB:
The project originally fell under the Department of Public Works, which became the Massachusetts Highway Department in 1991. In 1997, Beacon Hill gave the independent Massachusetts Turnpike Authority responsibility over the Big Dig; many MassHighway staffers followed the Big Dig to MTA. At the same time, the “integrated project organization” melded the MTA and B/PB’s staff.


The Massachusetts State Legislature

In contrast to the pro-business governors, the state legislature has been led largely by pro-labor representatives. The most important committees with Big Dig–oversight functions are Joint Transportation, Joint Post Audit and Oversight, and the Ways and Means Committees of both houses. Post Audit and Oversight, led by labor-friendly State Senator Marc Pacheco, has generated the most criticism of project management.


Panel hits ex-Pike chief over sick pay: Amorello could face fine at ethics hearing
Amorello’s change to sick leave policy violated law, ethics authority says
By Andrea Estes, Globe Staff | November 6, 2007

The state Ethics Commission charged yesterday that the former Massachusetts Turnpike Authority chairman, Matthew J. Amorello, violated state law last year by sweetening the agency's sick leave policy just before he was forced to resign, potentially enriching himself and other departing aides with tens of thousands of dollars in added benefits.

Matthew J. Amorello violated the state's conflict of interest law by making a policy change that would personally benefit him and his close associates, the commission said in a five-page order.

Amorello also used his position to secure "an unwarranted privilege . . . of substantial value," the order said.

Under the policy the chairman put in place the day before he agreed to resign on July 27, 2006, he is entitled to about $75,000 for more than 600 hours of unused sick leave, the ethics commission said. He has not requested the money.

Amorello was unavailable for comment yesterday because he is out of the country. His lawyer, Thomas Kiley, said Amorello had ordered a revision of the sick-leave policy that reduced his potential payout. Even then, he said, Amorello has "not received one penny as a result of this policy change." The former chairman will be ordered to appear at a public hearing before a single member of the five-person panel, who could impose fines of up to $2,000 for each of three violations and force him to forfeit the $75,000.

Seven other employees, including three senior staff members, also took advantage of the generous policy. The policy was rescinded by John Cogliano, who was former governor Mitt Romney's choice to succeed Amorello as head of the troubled transportation agency.

It was unclear whether the other employees might be forced to return the money they received under the short-lived policy.

"I'm thankful there will be a day of public reckoning," said Mary Connaughton, a board member and Romney appointee, who is a vocal critic of Amorello.

The Ethics Commission began its review after the Globe reported in August 2006 that the Turnpike Authority's sick leave policy was changed twice in July 2006. The Ethics Commission charges that Amorello first asked the authority's human resources director earlier in the year to look at improving the benefits.

As a result, in early July, the policy that had been in place for a decade was dramatically enhanced, the commission reported. Before the change, retiring workers were entitled to cash in 20 percent of their unused sick days. The new policy allowed all exiting employees to collect 100 percent of their sick leave, in cash, whether they retired, resigned, or were fired.

On July 26, the day before Amorello quit, he directed his staff to scale back the benefits, the Ethics Commission said. The policy was revised so that employees could cash in only half of their unused sick leave, instead of 100 percent. Employees with 10 or more years of government service, including Amorello, who was previously a state legislator, could use the other half to pay their share of their health insurance when they retired.

Under the terms of his severance agreement, Amorello agreed to step down Aug. 15, 2006, but continued to receive his full salary of $226,348 a year, plus benefits for six months. He also received $53,977 in unused vacation when he left.

Kiley said Amorello's actions had the effect of slashing his potential benefits, from 100 percent of the value of his unused sick days to 50 percent.

"The only participation that Matt Amorello had in this instance would have been to reduce his theoretical benefit, and I emphasize theoretical because he didn't receive a penny," said Kiley. In addition, he said, Amorello's severance benefits were determined through negotiations with the governor's office and "weren't dependent on this policy. On the 27th of July 2006, what was going to happen to him was a function of one-on-one negotiations," Kiley said.

The Ethics Commission offered to settle the case without a public hearing, but the sides could not reach agreement during talks over the last several months. Kiley said talks failed because "Matt would never and will never agree to something that is not true."

Amorello did not inform Turnpike Authority board members that the sick-leave policy had been changed. It was revealed after Romney took over the agency and discovered that seven of Amorello's top staffers had left with $238,818, representing payments for unused sick time.

Marie Hayman, Amorello's chief of staff, received $58,746 in unused sick pay. Mariellen Burns, a spokeswoman who had worked at the Turnpike Authority for only a year and a half, received $4,312 in unused sick leave. Keith Shirley, Amorello's deputy chief of staff, received in $12,567 in sick time.

Only the Massachusetts Port Authority continues to pay its departing employees more than other state agencies. Last year the Massport board reaffirmed its policy of paying retiring workers 100 percent of their unused sick days. The policy has resulted in several payouts of more than $100,000.


Paul Cellucci and Jane Swift were both wrong to allow the Massachusetts Port Authority to be vulnerable to the 9/11 terrorist attacks by leaving Logan Airport in such inexperienced, incompentent hands!

9/11/2001 - We will never forget...Paul Cellucci & Jane Swift's poor leadership!

The 2 airplanes that hit the WTC Twin Towers in NYC on 9/11/2001 left from the very Boston airport that Paul Cellucci and Jane Swift oversaw!


By Martin Finucane, Associated Press, 09/14/99

BOSTON- Gov. Paul Cellucci traded barbs Tuesday with U.S. Rep. Joseph Moakley over his decision to appoint chief of staff to head the Massachusetts Port Authority.

Moakley, D-Mass., had criticized Cellucci’s nomination of 34-year-old Virginia Buckingham, QUESTIONING HER ABILITY TO RUN THE AGENCY THAT OVERSEES LOGAN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT and the Port of Boston.

“I’m surprised at Congressman Moakley,” said Cellucci. “It sounds like Joe Moakley might be one of those men I was referring to a couple of weeks ago who are threatened by powerful women.”

Cellucci, at a recent news conference, had defended Buckingham by suggesting her detractors were threatened by powerful women and they should “get a life.”


He also told the Herald on Tuesday that Cellucci had taken “some girl sitting in the next office” and put her in charge.

Moakley quickly apologized, the newspaper reported, and amended his statement to say “woman.”

But the Republican governor and LT. GOV. JANE SWIFT pounced on Moakley’s initial use of the word “girl.”

“Ginny Buckingham is a professional woman. She’s not the girl in the room next door,” said Cellucci.

SWIFT said: “I just think it’s unacceptable for the dean of our congressional delegation to call an accomplished 34-year-old woman a ‘girl’.”

Moakley spokeswoman Karin Walser emphasized Tuesday that “Mr. Moakley apologized the minute the word left his lips. It was a misstatement pure and simple.” She had no further comment.

Moakley and Cellucci are currently at odds over a controversial proposal by Massport to add a runway to Logan. Moakley is leading the opposition to the plan.

The powerful South Boston politician also has clashed with Cellucci over the governor’s criticism of the all-Democratic federal delegation for failing to secure enough money for the Central Artery-third harbor tunnel project in Boston (the “Big Dig”).

Buckingham, who has been on maternity leave, is expected to be approved by the Massport board on Thursday and begin her new job next week. She has told the board she wants to make $150,000, $10,000 more than her predecessor Peter Blute was scheduled to make. Her home phone number in Marblehead is unlisted.

Moakley had also criticized the Buckingham appointment as part of Cellucci’s pattern of naming close political allies to key jobs.

“You look at a couple of (Cellucci’s) appointments, he didn’t have to walk two feet to make three of them. I know the world is getting smaller, but I don’t think it’s that small,” Moakley said.

Cellucci defended his appointments by pointing to Administration and Finance Secretary Andrew Natsios, a former state representative who left Massachusetts to work for the U.S. Agency for International Development and a private relief agency in Washington.

“It’s a remarkable life experience. … We’ve brought in people. … We’ve also promoted people who have demonstrated they can get the job done,” Cellucci said.

Natsios was a close friend of Cellucci’s when the served in the House of Representatives together in the 1970s.


The Boston Globe - Letters
November 10, 2007

"A case of tunnel vision on cellphones"

IT SEEMS odd to me that Massachusetts is going out of its way to make cellphone use possible by drivers in Big Dig tunnels ("Tunnel cellphone service expected within months," Page A1, Nov. 7), while California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Washington, and the District of Columbia, collectively representing 25 percent of the US population, and including two states that border Massachusetts, have banned all cellphone use while driving.

more stories like thisIt's even odder that wiring the Big Dig for cellphones is being justified on safety grounds. Whether this makes any sense is one issue, but Senator Michael Morrissey, a proponent of the measure, does not even seem to know how to use a modern cellphone. He worries that redialing upon emerging from a tunnel is a safety hazard. Does he realize that he can redial any cellphone manufactured today simply by pressing the send key twice or employing some equally convenient method, with the legislatively required one hand still firmly on the wheel?

DAVID J. LEWIS, Arlington


SO, AS you write, "motorists driving through Big Dig tunnels will, at long last, be able to chat on their cellphones uninterrupted." Is this supposed to be good news? It would be a lot better for motorists not to be chatting on their cellphones, in the tunnels or anywhere else.

Since when does safe driving require only one hand and a fraction of the driver's attention?

RACHEL HYDE, Arlington


News Article:
Tunnel cellphone service expected within months
Federal agency deems work safe
By Andrea Estes, (Boston) Globe Staff | November 8, 2007

Motorists driving through Big Dig tunnels will, at long last, be able to chat on their cellphones uninterrupted.

A frustrating dead zone for Boston cellular users since they opened four years ago, the tunnels will be fitted with wireless antennas within months, following approval last week by federal highway officials. The Federal Highway Administration said it is satisfied that attaching cables to tunnel walls that are held in place with epoxy anchors will not pose any danger.

The failure of epoxy anchors caused the Interstate 90 tunnel ceiling collapse that killed 38-year-old Milena Del Valle of Jamaica Plain in July 2006. Federal authorities said state engineering reports convinced them the wiring would not cause a similar collapse, because the wireless antenna cables will be lightweight and hung on walls instead of ceilings.

The approval could mean the end of one of the biggest aggravations for Boston commuters - the lack of cellphone service in the $15 billion tunnel system. The problem has been all the more annoying to motorists and politicians because it was not the result of a difficult engineering question.

"This is something that's long past due," said John Walsh, the Massachusetts Democratic Party chairman, who talks nonstop during his drive from Abington to the party's Charlestown headquarters.

"I've learned to adapt to reality. As I come around the gas tanks in Dorchester I start evaluating the conversation, trying to figure out whether I'll make it through the tunnel. Sometimes I'll get off in South Station, which adds about 10 or 15 minutes to my commute. About one in six times, I keep talking until I get cut off."

Now, with the federal clearance, four large wireless companies have told officials with the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority that they will install the equipment in stages, beginning in about two weeks.

The project, which could cost up to $7.6 million, will be paid for by the carriers and be completed within three to six months, the companies said.

Service in the city's other tunnels, including the Sumner, Callahan, Ted Williams, and in most major tunnels in other cities, has been available for years.

Since 2001, the Turnpike Authority has promised that wireless would also be available in the 10 miles of roadway that make up the Interstate 93 tunnel, named for former US House speaker Thomas P. O'Neill Jr., and the I-90 tunnel linking the Mass. Pike and the Ted Williams Tunnel.

But the plan has been beset with delays.

For three years the companies haggled with the Turnpike Authority over how much they would pay to lease the tunnel space and install the equipment.

The Turnpike Authority wanted to charge the companies the same rent they were paying in the other tunnels; the companies wanted to pay less.

In June 2006, fed up lawmakers ordered the Turnpike Authority to sign a lease with the companies within six months, or the state Department of Telecommunications and Energy would step in and set the rent.

In November 2006, ATT Wireless, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless finally reached agreement, offering to split the cost of installing the network and to pay the Turnpike Authority $140,000 each in rent each year. The four carriers also paid an upfront fee of $1.6 million.

(The delays and legislative action worked in the carriers' favor: The rent is substantially less than the $400,000 a year each company pays for service in the other tunnels).

Officials said they do not foresee any special tunnel-related hazard of talking on cellphones while driving.

"Distracted driving is an important issue not only in the tunnels, but on roads throughout the Commonwealth," said Turnpike Authority spokesman Mac Daniel. "Though we have had no major safety issues in the tunnels that currently have cellphone service, we'll be closely monitoring the introduction of the service to the main tunnels and the I-90 connector and will act accordingly if we spot a trend."

State Senator Michael Morrissey, who also multitasks during his commute from Quincy to Boston, said the lack of service in the tunnels is a more serious public safety concern.

"I'm surprised more people haven't been in accidents because they have to redial," he said.

"It's a safety issue when people are stranded in the tunnel and can't call for help. And it hasn't exactly helped commerce or business in the Commonwealth when you have to say: 'Wait, I'll call you back. I'm going into the tunnel,' " he said.


"Big Dig victim's kin may settle suit: Close to accepting $6m from maker of epoxy, lawyers say"
By Andrea Estes, The Boston Globe Staff, December 12, 2007

The family of Milena Del Valle, the Jamaica Plain woman killed in the Big Dig tunnel ceiling collapse, is close to accepting a settlement of approximately $6 million in its civil suit against the company that supplied the ceiling bolt epoxy believed to have caused the accident, according to lawyers involved in the case.

A settlement with Powers Fasteners - the only company currently facing criminal charges - would be the first in the multimillion dollar lawsuit brought by the 38-year-old woman's family against 15 defendants, including Big Dig project manager Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, and several contractors.

Efforts to settle with the other companies have so far been unsuccessful, said the lawyers, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the negotiations.

As of late yesterday, a basic agreement had been reached but a few details remained unresolved, according to the lawyers. For example, part of the settlement called the release, which protects the company from further claims by the family, had not been finalized, according to one lawyer.

Powers Fasteners of Brewster, N.Y., would not comment on the settlement. But lawyers involved in the case speculated that the company's willingness to accept responsibility and compensate Del Valle's husband and three children could help the company fight a manslaughter charge brought by Attorney General Martha Coakley. The charge is pending in Suffolk Superior Court.

"When any party who is indicted works hard to make peace and find some measure of justice for the victim's family, it may not resolve the criminal matter, but it can hardly hurt it," said one lawyer involved in the case.

Emily LaGrassa, Coakley's spokeswoman, would not comment on the reported imminent settlement or how it might affect the criminal case.

It was also unclear how the settlement might affect the civil case against the remaining defendants. Originally described by plaintiffs' lawyers as having the potential to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars, a $6 million settlement with Powers may mean the ultimate payout will be much smaller than originally envisioned.

The lawsuit and subsequent criminal charges were filed after concrete ceiling panels in the Interstate 90 connector tunnel crashed down onto the car Del Valle was riding in on July 10, 2006. Federal investigators concluded that workers used the wrong epoxy when securing the ceiling.

Powers Fasteners was accused of failing to warn construction contractors and project managers of the potentially deadly consequences of using the wrong, fastdrying glue.

Powers offered $8 million to the state to avoid criminal charges, but Coakley was not satisfied and in August secured a grand jury indictment against the firm on one count of involuntary manslaughter. If convicted, the firm would face a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine.

The Big Dig managers, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, have also been negotiating with the attorney general's office to avoid criminal prosecution. They have offered more than $300 million, but so far no settlement has been reached. The US attorney's office, which is also investigating the tunnel ceiling collapse, would have to sign off on any settlement.

During depositions in the family's civil case this week, a Bechtel engineer who oversaw the installation of the ceiling in the I-90 tunnel refused to answer questions, according to two lawyers involved in the case. The engineer took the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination, the lawyers said.

According to one person who was briefed on the contents of his deposition, the engineer refused to answer questions in the civil case because his testimony could be used against him in the ongoing criminal probe by Coakley. Employees of other Big Dig contractors, the person said, have also taken the Fifth Amendment in depositions. The engineer could not be reached for comment.

Last June secret mediation talks between Del Valle's family and the companies and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority fell apart after the defendants made settlement offers the family's lawyers considered too low.

In a report prepared for the mediation talks, lawyers for the family made the case for a payout in the hundreds of millions of dollars for "outrageously egregious" acts that led to Del Valle's death.


"Number of Big Dig leaks drops from thousands to hundreds"
December 17, 2007, 1:34 PM
By Noah Bierman, Globe Staff

Leaks in Big Dig tunnel have been reduced from a few thousand to 650, according to a study presented today at the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority board meeting.

The remaining leaks should be plugged by next summer, said Robert R. Rooney, deputy secretary for public works, who headed a review of the tunnels initiated after a fatal ceiling collapse in July 2006.

"It's an ongoing, evolutionary thing, where you just keep peeling down the onion," Rooney said.

New leaks may emerge or be detected over time, but the number is expected to be in the dozens, not the hundreds, said Andrew E.N. Osborn, an engineer with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc., the Illinois-based engineering and architectural firm that conducted the leak study.

The consultants said the tunnel system is safe in the short term, but warned that leaks would cause significant erosion if not plugged. The amount of water now being pumped out of the Big Dig is 25 percent of the accepted standard for leaks in tunnels. The contract with Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff to build the Big Dig required that the tunnels have no leaks.

The Globe reported in July that nearly 2 million gallons of water was flowing each month through the Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. Tunnel, an 18 percent increase from last year. The leaks were mainly in the seam between the 1.5-mile tunnel's wall and roof.

The problem became public after a breach opened in the tunnel walls in September 2004, sending water gushing into the northbound lanes. The Turnpike Authority spends nearly $5 million a year for construction crews to plug leaks in the tunnel roof and walls.


"Manslaughter case to continue against Big Dig epoxy company"
December 18, 2007, 01:55 PM
By John R. Ellement, (Boston) Globe Staff

The manslaughter case will continue against the New York epoxy company that allegedly played a role in the Big Dig ceiling collapse that killed a woman last year.

A Superior Court judge, in a decision filed today, rejected a bid by Powers Fasteners Inc. to get the charges dismissed.

Powers is facing the only criminal charges brought in the accident that killed 38-year-old Milena Del Valle. The company had argued that Attorney General Martha Coakley should not have gotten involved in the prosecution because her office had previously launched a civil case seeking millions in damages for the ceiling cave-in from Powers and other companies.

But Suffolk Superior Court Judge Patrick F. Brady said the attorney general's office was acting properly and was "authorized to conduct the civil and criminal cases at the same time."

"Powers has not shown that there is any conflict or other reason to disqualify the office. ... When the attorney general represents the Commonwealth in parallel criminal and civil cases, she represents the same public interest in both, without the dangers that come with the concurrent representation of a private party," the judge wrote in the eight-page decision.

Del Valle was killed in July 2006 when the concrete ceiling in an Interstate 90 connector tunnel fell and crushed the car she riding in. Federal investigators concluded the accident was caused by faulty ceiling bolt epoxy that was used to hold ceiling panels in place. Powers is one of more than a dozen companies and agencies involved in the design, construction, and inspection of the ceiling.

Powers allegedly failed to warn construction contractors and project managers of the potentially fatal consequences of using a fast-drying glue to secure the ceiling.


"(Boston) Herald wrong on (Massachusetts) Turnpike policy"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Friday, December 21, 2007

That's it! I am done reading the Boston Herald. Once again they distort the facts to sell newspapers. The Wednesday, Dec. 19 article entitled, "Attorneys: Pike ticket target illegal" was misleading and plain lousy journalism.

The article claims that the Turnpike Authority has stepped up speeding enforcement on the Pike as a way to raise $1.2 million in much needed revenue. I objected to that motivation on my radio show Wednesday morning saying that public safety should be the one and only reason for speed enforcement on our roads in Massachusetts. A lot of my listeners agreed and e-mailed me.

Accordingly I called and spoke with Mac Daniel at the Turnpike Authority and he said that they were very angry at the Herald for publishing a lie such as this without even bothering to check the facts. Mr. Daniel explained that as a result of the majority of the "Big Dig" projects being completed and the now infamous ceiling tiles in the tunnels having been repaired, many more state troopers would be available to perform their normal duties, which include speed enforcement on our highways. As a result, revenues would necessarily go up because of the increased presence of freed-up state troopers. Budget meetings and projections only reflected that more troopers enforcing the speed limit equals more revenues.

It is time to put down the Herald for good. I'll stick to The Eagle and The Transcript, thank you.

Pittsfield, Massachusetts
~The writer hosts the Whoopee in the Morning Show~


A rust-covered overpass at Charles Circle, observed in March, is just one project among hundreds on the state's work list. (George Rizer/Globe Staff/file)

"US denies matching funds for highways: Letter withholding $1b says state plan falls short"
By Noah Bierman, Globe Staff, December 21, 2007

The federal government has placed a hold on more than $1 billion in matching money for new transportation projects in Massachusetts, in a strong signal that the state has failed to put enough funds aside to pay for repairs on crumbling roads and bridges.

The federal action may be a temporary measure; the money probably will be released if the Legislature passes a $2.9 billion borrowing bill, according to federal and state officials.

But the unusual rebuke of the state's four-year transportation plan highlights a larger issue that is not going away: The state does not have enough money to cover its vast transportation needs. In the meantime, as a result of the Dec. 6 letter from US highway officials, the state cannot solicit construction bids for any new 2008 projects.

"It's like a family with a very limited budget," said Marc Draisen, executive director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the planning agency for 101 cities and towns in the Boston area. "You look OK from day to day, but you really only have like a week's worth in your savings account."

Transportation maintenance is expected to cost $15 billion to $19 billion over the next 20 years. Activists and government officials say the recent federal action shows the problem is even more immediate than that.

"They seem to have two problems, which is the worst of all worlds," said Stephen Silveira, a lobbyist who headed the state's influential Transportation Finance Commission. "You don't have enough money to execute what you say you're going to execute over the next two years, and you're failing to plan adequately for what you should be executing."

A spokeswoman for the US Department of Transportation, Nancy Singer, said such rejections of matching funds requests are rare but that federal officials plan to work with the state and expect to release additional money eventually.

In a series of letters leading to the December rejection, two federal officials lay out a number of issues, including concerns that Massachusetts has not set aside enough money to repair crumbling bridges, a problem that has become more urgent nationally since an eight-lane bridge in Minneapolis collapsed in August, killing 13 people. The letter also cautioned state officials that they have not set aside enough money to keep interstate highways well paved for the next four years.

The letter, signed by Richard H. Doyle and Lucy Garliauskas, local administrators for the Federal Transit Administration and the Federal Highway Administration, strongly recommends that the state reexamine its priorities to "better reflect the increasingly pressing concerns and needs in the bridge and safety areas that we have been recently discussing with you."

The office of the state secretary of transportation, Bernard Cohen, said he was unavailable for an interview yesterday. An unsigned statement from his office said the administration had already decided not to put new road construction projects out for bid until the Legislature passes Governor Deval Patrick's borrowing bill, which was submitted three weeks ago. Projects approved last year can continue as planned.

The "denial letter is not causing any delays," the statement said. "It does, however, reinforce the need to pass this bond bill."

Regardless of what prompted the decision to halt new projects, the US government's action will slow repairs on bridges and roads. Every month of delay cuts into next year's construction season, because it takes several months for bids and contract preparation, said John Pourbaix, executive director of the trade group Construction Industries of Massachusetts.

Patrick's borrowing bill could be passed within two months, said Representative Joseph F. Wagner, a Chicopee Democrat who chairs the Joint Committee on Transportation. Wagner said the problem that led to the federal action dates to 2006, when Mitt Romney in his final year as governor did not introduce a borrowing bill and left Massachusetts without money to match federal spending on transportation.


"US attorney's office faulted on Big Dig"
By Jonathan Saltzman, Globe Staff, December 21, 2007

A US District Court judge said yesterday that federal prosecutors failed to thoroughly investigate a scheme in which a Big Dig contractor overcharged the government.

Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf then used the court hearing to criticize the US attorney's office in Boston for not serving as a more aggressive watchdog on the massive project.

In sharply critical remarks from the bench, Wolf said federal prosecutors never pursued allegations that Steven M. Bowers, a senior project manager for Mass. Electric Construction Co., had routinely inflated bills for his employer on numerous public and private construction projects in and outside the state since 1989.

As a result, Wolf said, the judge's options were limited when he sentenced Bowers yesterday to 15 months in federal prison for his role in a scheme to defraud the government of more than $80,000.

When Assistant US Attorney Anthony E. Fuller said it would have taken extraordinary resources to pursue the allegations made by one of two co-workers charged with Bowers in the scheme, Wolf snapped: "You've got two cooperating witnesses. I don't know how much more it would take to ask them obvious questions."

Wolf later said he had not seen the US attorney's office prosecute many cases stemming "out of the Big Dig that the newspapers say went from about $3 billion to $15 billion."

Wolf added, "When a public works project soars from $3 billion to $15 billion, it breeds a sense in the community - in this case, the country - that government is incompetent."

A spokeswoman for US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan declined to comment.

Wolf, who served as chief of the public corruption unit of the US attorney's office from 1981 to 1985, has criticized the office sharply before. In a Globe story in 2004, Wolf said that under Sullivan the office was spending too much time on drug and gun cases that belong in state court, instead of focusing on public corruption and white-collar offenses that he said would have a greater impact on society.

Wolf focused his criticism yesterday on prosecutors' handling of a specific case, one that stemmed from the $15 billion public works project whose 16 years of detours, leaks, lawsuits, and construction bills have frustrated many in Massachusetts.

Bowers, a Fairhaven resident, pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy to defraud the government and making false statements in connection with the Interstate 93 tunnel finishing contract. He and two other employees of the company defrauded the federal government from January 2003 through June 2005 by submitting bills falsely asserting that work done by apprentice electricians was completed by higher-paid journeymen, prosecutors said.

The two other employees, Brian Di Re of Winchester and Richard Joyce of Norwood, pleaded guilty to charges of submitting false claims and were each sentenced to probation in exchange for their cooperation.

In a presentencing report that Wolf examined, he noticed that Joyce had told prosecutors that he and Bowers had charged public and private customers more than they should have for apprentice electricians routinely since 1989. If prosecutors had confirmed that, Wolf said, Bowers could have received a considerably harsher punishment than the 12 to 18 months in prison recommended by sentencing guidelines.

But, Fuller said, "it was a remark that wasn't followed up on."

Wolf also grilled Fuller about whether the work carried out by apprentices rather than more experienced journeymen might pose a hazard to the public.

Fuller said prosecutors had no evidence that the billing fraud had any bearing on public safety, but Wolf did not seem satisfied with that response either.

Prosecutors had recommended that Bowers spend about 10 months in prison. The defendant's lawyer, John J. Ruby Jr., recommended that Bowers be sentenced to home confinement, saying that Bowers and his wife had six adopted children and that Bowers was the sole breadwinner.

After Bowers apologized to the court and his family for what he characterized as a lapse in paperwork, Wolf sentenced him to 15 months and ordered him or Mass. Electric to pay restitution. Wolf said the sentence was more than prosecutors recommended in part because Bowers had failed to admit that he committed fraud and because the judge wanted to send a message that "it's not only wrong, it's dumb to try to cheat the people of the United States."

Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at


THE BOSTON GLOBE: Editorial "Short Fuse", 12/24/2007

Transportation: The cost of dithering

When states apply for federal matching money for certain highway work, the approval process is all but a rubber stamp. So when the feds hold back $1 billion for new projects in Massachusetts, residents should be alarmed. The US Department of Transportation says the state isn't setting aside enough to fix crumbling bridges and repave interstate highways. Surprise, surprise. Hardly anyone quibbled this year when a commission said the state needs $15 billion more over 20 years to tend to transportation needs. But when the panel recommended a hike in the gas tax, neither Governor Patrick nor the Legislature wanted any part of it. Unless lawmakers commit more money, the flow of federal dollars and the pace of repairs will slow, and the state's roads will keep getting worse.


Less than two months after her death, Milena Del Valle's family filed a lawsuit against Powers Fasteners and many others, including the Turnpike Authority and Bechtel/Parsons. (George Rizer/File/The Boston Globe)

"Many at fault in Big Dig collapse, lawyers say: Other firms could offer settlement deals"
By Eric Moskowitz, (Boston) Globe Staff, December 26, 2007

Lawyers involved in a $6 million award to the family of the Jamaica Plain woman killed in the 2006 Big Dig ceiling collapse said yesterday that the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and some other companies involved were more responsible for the accident than the firm that made the first settlement.

Powers Fasteners, the maker of the epoxy that held up heavy ceiling panels, this week reached the first settlement with the family but is not the most responsible party in the death of Milena Del Valle, lawyers for the family and Powers said. The firm's $6 million settlement could be followed by further substantial monetary awards from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority or a dozen-plus other companies, they said.

Some companies named in lawsuits in the case were less responsible for the accident than Powers, and some were more, the lawyers alleged. "We certainly believe that there are others who are more responsible and more culpable" than Powers Fasteners, said Jeffrey A. Denner, a lawyer for Del Valle's husband, Angel Del Valle. "There's a lot of responsibility to go around."

Del Valle was killed and her husband was injured when concrete panels crashed from the ceiling of the Interstate 90 connector tunnel onto her car in July 2006.

Powers is the only company that has faced criminal charges in Del Valle's death.

In August, a Suffolk County grand jury indicted the firm on one count of involuntary manslaughter. Powers offered the state $8 million to avoid criminal charges, lawyers told the Globe at the time, but, according to one lawyer familiar with the case, Attorney General Martha Coakley was not satisfied and secured the indictment. If convicted, the firm could face a maximum fine of $1,000.

Also in August, lawyers familiar with the investigation said, Coakley said that the state considered only two other companies to be criminally negligent, Bechtel Corp. and Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas. Those two private companies formed the joint venture hired by the state to manage design and construction of the highway and tunnel project.

Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff has also attempted to negotiate with the state, by offering more than $300 million to settle, one lawyer told the Globe at the time. No settlement has been reached. The US attorney's office, which is also investigating the collapse of the tunnel ceiling, would have to sign off on any settlement.

A spokeswoman for Coakley said yesterday that the attorney general's office had no comment on the ongoing civil and criminal matters.

Less than two months after her July 10, 2006 death, Del Valle's family filed a lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court against Powers Fasteners and more than a dozen other parties, including the Turnpike Authority and Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff.

Andrew C. Meyer Jr., a Boston malpractice lawyer who is not involved in the case, said the eventual award could hit tens of millions or more, following the Powers agreement to settle. "One would have to assume that [Powers] is a lower-tiered defendant who would not be one of the primary targets," Meyer said yesterday.

But a lawyer for Bechtel/Parsons disagreed, saying the Powers settlement did not mean a chain of million-dollar settlements or judgments would follow.

"Powers was in a unique situation, and I don't think that would indicate any type of trend or any reason to think that others would follow suit," said William J. Dailey Jr., who represents Bechtel Corp., Parsons Brinckerhoff, and the joint Bechtel/Parsons venture that oversaw the Big Dig project.

It's too early to say whether Bechtel/Parsons or other defendants will settle or go to trial in the lawsuit, Dailey said. The decision will depend on discovery as the case proceeds. "Everyone will have to decide what they think is best as to their position," he said.

Two lawyers who represent multiple other defendants declined to comment yesterday. Lawyers for other defendants in the case could not be reached for comment last night.

Anthony Tarricone, a lawyer who specializes in sorting out responsibility for major disasters, said Powers Fasteners and Del Valle's family each benefited from the settlement. Tarricone, who is not involved in the Big Dig case, said he also believes the Powers settlement will prompt other defendants to agree to settlements. "I think some of the other defendants will be uncomfortable being in the case without being able to put the blame on Powers or spread the liability to Powers," he said.

Bradley M. Henry, a lawyer for Del Valle's children, said the Turnpike Authority is among the most responsible parties because it operates the Massachusetts Turnpike and was responsible for overseeing construction of the $15 billion, 16-year Big Dig highway and tunnel project.

A spokesman for the Turnpike Authority declined to comment.

The most compelling piece of evidence in the case, Henry said, is a tunnel photo that shows unchecked deterioration: a series of ceiling-panel anchor plates strained and pulled askew instead of lying flat, which he compared to "a badly built LEGO construction."

"It brings together, all in this one image, this egregious lack of care," Henry said. "And whatever else happened during the design and construction phases of this tunnel, when the tunnel was turned over to the Turnpike it had an affirmative duty to make certain that it was inspected regularly. And as best we can tell, the Turnpike did nothing."

Agreeing with the lawyers for Del Valle's family, a lawyer for Powers said the epoxy manufacturer was less responsible for the accident than other companies.

"It's not only a question of what epoxy was used, but how this was installed and whether they ever inspected it," said Max D. Stern, a lawyer for Powers. "This ceiling assembly was up for seven years before it fell down."

The Del Valle suit names more than two dozen defendants. Because some are related firms, the list shrinks to just over a dozen distinct companies.

The family's main goals are to gain an understanding of how the accident happened and who is responsible, its lawyers said. Receiving compensation for the death of Del Valle, a 38-year-old wife and mother of three, is a secondary goal, they said.

Del Valle's family hopes to see the other defendants in the civil case settle, said Mario Garcia, a Miami-based lawyer for Del Valle's children, although it is prepared to go to trial.

Lawyers for the family said they appreciated that Powers Fasteners, a family-owned company based in Brewster, N.Y., was the only company willing to meet with the family to discuss the accident informally outside of legal proceedings.

"We appreciate the Powers family doing the right thing," Garcia said.

"We just hope for the sake of these children the others will follow."


Traffic enters the Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. Tunnel, the major component of the Big Dig, Saturday Dec. 8, 2007, in Boston. The Big Dig, the nation's most complex and costliest highway project, will officially come to an end when the clock runs out on 2007. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

"Boston's $14.8B Big Dig finally complete"
By Steve LeBlanc, Associated Press Writer, December 26, 2007

BOSTON --When the clock runs out on 2007, Boston will quietly mark the end of one of the most tumultuous eras in the city's history: The Big Dig, the nation's most complex and costliest highway project, will officially come to an end.

Don't expect any champagne toasts.

After a history marked by engineering triumphs, tunnels leaks, epic traffic jams, last year's death of a motorist crushed by falling concrete panels and a price tag that soared from $2.6 billion to a staggering $14.8 billion, there's little appetite for celebration.

Civil and criminal cases stemming from the July 2006 tunnel ceiling collapse continue, though on Monday the family of Milena Del Valle announced a $6 million settlement with Powers Fasteners, the company that manufactured the epoxy blamed by investigators for the accident. Lawsuits are pending against other Big Dig contractors, and Powers Fasteners still faces a manslaughter indictment.

Officially, Dec. 31 marks the end of the joint venture that teamed megaproject contractor Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff with the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority to build the dizzying array of underground highways, bridges, ramps and a new tunnel under Boston Harbor -- all while the city remained open for business.

The project was so complex it's been likened to performing open heart surgery on a patient while the patient is wide awake.

Some didn't know if they'd live to see it end.

Enza Merola had a front row seat on the Big Dig from the front window of her pastry shop -- stacked neatly with tiramisu, sfogliatelle and brightly colored Italian cookies -- in Boston's North End.

During the toughest days of the project, the facade of Marie's Pastry Shop, named after her sister, was obscured from view. The only way customers could find the front door was along a treacherous path through heavy construction.

"For a while we thought we weren't going to make it," Merola said. "But you know, we hung in there."

The Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel Project -- as the Big Dig is officially known -- has its roots in the construction of the hulking 1950's era elevated Central Artery that cut a swath through the center of Boston, lopping off the waterfront from downtown and casting a shadow over some of the city's oldest neighborhoods.

Almost as soon as the ribbon was cut on the elevated highway in 1959, many were already wishing it away.

One was Frederick Salvucci, a city kid for whom the demolition of the old Central Artery became a lifelong quest.

"It was always a beautiful city, but it had this ugly scar through it," said Salvucci, state transportation secretary during the project's planning stages.

Rather than build a new elevated highway, Salvucci and others pushed a far more radical solution -- burying it.

Easier said than done.

Those who built the Big Dig would have to undertake the massive highway project in the cramped confines of Boston's narrow, winding streets, some dating to pre-Colonial days.

Of all the project's Rubik's Cube-like engineering challenges, none was more daunting than the first -- how to build a wider tunnel directly underneath a narrower existing elevated highway while preventing the overhead highway from collapsing.

To solve the problem, engineers created horizontal braces as wide as the new tunnel, then cut away the elevated highway's original metal struts and gently lowered them onto the braces -- even as cars crawled along overhead, their drivers oblivious to the work below.

It was the just one of what would be referred to as the Big Dig's "engineering marvels."

The Big Dig's long history is also littered with wrong turns -- some unavoidable, others self-inflicted.

One of the biggest occurred in 2004 when water started pouring through a wall of the recently opened I-93 tunnel under downtown Boston. An investigation found the leak was caused by the failure to clear debris that became caught in the concrete in the wall during construction. Hundreds of smaller drips, most near the ceiling, were also found.

Some delays were unrelated to construction.

The Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge -- the project's signature element -- went through dozens of revisions as designers labored to come up with the most practical and elegant way to cross the Charles River.

But the project's darkest day came near the end of construction in 2006 when suspended concrete ceiling panels in a tunnel leading to Logan Airport collapsed, crushing a car and killing Del Valle, 39, a passenger in the vehicle driven by her husband.

The tunnel was shut down for months as each of the remaining panels was inspected and a new fastening system installed. A federal investigation blamed the use of the wrong kind of epoxy and the Massachusetts attorney general indicted the epoxy manufacturer.

Four workers also were killed working on the project. During peak construction, more than 5,000 workers labored daily on the project.

The project's escalating budget also became an unwanted part of its legacy.

In 2000, former Big Dig head James Kerasiotes resigned after failing to disclose $1.4 billion in overruns. A frustrated Congress capped the federal contribution.

"It never should have taken so long. It never should have been so expensive," said former Gov. Michael Dukakis, who left office just as major construction was to begin.

For those who grew up with the noise and clutter of the old Central Artery, the transformation of downtown Boston is still a wonder to behold.

The darkened parking lots under the old elevated highway have been replaced by parks, dubbed the Rose Kennedy Fitzgerald Greenway after the mother of Sen. Edward Kennedy, who grew up in the North End. Buildings that once turned their backs to the old Central Artery are finding ways to open their doors to the parkway.

Mayor Thomas Menino, who presided over the city during most of the construction, said that for the first time in half a century, residents can walk from City Hall to the waterfront without trudging under a major highway.

"When I came into office in 1993, people said your city isn't going to survive," he said. "Now we have a beautiful open space in the heart of the city. It knits the downtown with the waterfront. All those dire predictions by the experts didn't come true."

Drivers also give the Big Dig a big thumbs up.

A study by the Turnpike Authority found the Big Dig cut the average trip through Boston from 19.5 minutes to 2.8 minutes.

"Before we drive bumper to bumper, but now they are moving very well," said Gamal Ahmed, 38, who has been driving a cab in Boston for seven years. "Sometimes we are stuck, but not like before."

For Salvucci, who warns gridlock could soon return without a major commitment to public transportation, the Big Dig -- for all its whiz-bang engineering -- was always second to the city itself.

"The Big Dig is not a highway with an incidental city adjacent to it. It is a living city that happens to have some major highway infrastructure within it and that highway infrastructure had to be rebuilt," he said. "This was not elective surgery. It had to be done."

Associated Press writer Rodrique Ngowi contributed to this report.


"Lane in Storrow Drive Tunnel closes for construction"
December 26, 2007, 09:34 AM, By Boston Globe Staff

One eastbound lane inside the Storrow Drive Tunnel will be closed for the next several weeks as construction begins today to repair drains that prevent flooding and ice.

The $400,000 project by the Department of Conservation and Recreation will start at the entrance of the tunnel, with work running from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. While jackhammers will be used, work crews will install a temporary noise barrier to minimize the impact on residents.

"We are trying very hard to be mindful of the neighbor's interests, especially their need for sleep," DCR Commissioner Richard K. Sullivan Jr. said in a statement. "When the noise is loudest, we will work during the day. To minimize traffic disruptions, however, we'll move the work to nighttime hours when the crews will be further inside the tunnel and the noise outside will be greatly reduced."

No work will be done on Dec. 31 or Jan. 1.

Beginning Jan. 2, construction will begin inside the tunnel, with crews working from at night from 9 to 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday for several weeks. The nighttime schedule is designed to minimize the impact on traffic. While crews are inside the tunnel, the noise is expected to be considerably less.


"List of tunnel troubles grows longer: More leaks, damage found"
By Raphael Lewis and Sean P. Murphy, (Boston) Globe Staff, November 17, 2004

The Big Dig's tunnel leak problem is far more costly and extensive than Massachusetts Turnpike officials and private contractors have acknowledged, involving thousands of ceiling and wall fissures, water damage to steel supports and fireproofing systems, and overloaded drainage equipment, according to documents obtained by the Globe.

Turnpike officials and private-sector managers Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff have together signed off on at least $10 million in cost overruns to repair the leaks and water damage since early 2001, the records show, and the problem persists.

Turnpike officials did not acknowledge the leak problem until it was revealed in the Globe last week.

All this occurred while engineers worked frantically to come up with a permanent solution for waterproofing the tunnels, an effort that continues today, according to project documents.

The problem stems in part from an apparent projectwide failure in the original design of the waterproofing system, a critical feature of a tunnel that sits almost entirely beneath the salty water table of downtown Boston. In a confidential report commissioned by the Turnpike in 2001 by the auditing firm Deloitte & Touche, project officials acknowledged that ''the original design provided insufficient protection against leaking" at the top of tunnel walls.

With construction of the tunnels well underway and with water seeping in through joints between the roof and tunnel walls and between panels, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff abandoned its initial waterproofing system, a membrane applied to the roof and walls that had proved incapable of stopping water. Contractors were ordered to apply a spray-on application instead.

Doug Hanchett -- spokesman for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which oversees the Big Dig -- said that the agency has made progress in controlling the leak problem and that the authority is working to recoup costs from contractors.

''This issue is something that will resolve itself through the construction process, and we fully expect that the contractors will perform the waterproofing work, as required in their contracts," Hanchett said.

Earlier this month, a team of independent engineers hired to investigate a massive leak that erupted in September said the project was riddled with more than 400 leaks throughout the tunnel system.

However, the documents obtained by the Globe show nearly 700 leaks in just one 1,000-foot section of the Interstate 93 tunnels beneath South Station. The documents include memorandums, diagrams, photographs, and correspondence pertaining to the Central Artery tunnels.

According to documents detailing modification to tunnel finishing contracts, which were obtained by the Globe, the Turnpike Authority and Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff established a Leak Task Force in early 2001 and are now allocating $250,000 a month for the firm McCourt/Obiyashi to send repair teams into virtually all sections of the I-93 tunnels. McCourt/Obiyashi's initial contract, which began in 1999, had no such provisions for leak repair, but by mid-2001 the firm was extensively engaged in that effort, the documents show.

For example, in August 2003, tunnel officials, approved a $205,000 plan to replace 300 wall panel connectors in the downtown tunnels because ''excessive tunnel leakage with high salt content has caused unacceptable corrosion."

In another instance in March 2001, McCourt/Obiyashi was told to extend tubes that contained liquid concrete grout for leak repairs throughout the tunnels. That work cost $300,000.

George J. Tamaro, an independent engineer hired by the Turnpike Authority to investigate the source of the massive tunnel leak that erupted in September, said that the roof's waterproofing membrane didn't work as intended and that engineers have used concrete grout for several years to try to plug the leaks. He said problems with leaks seemed to occur when the weather becomes colder.

Tamaro and another engineer hired to investigate the situation, Jack K. Lemley, said a permanent solution is needed, or workers will spend years, perhaps even a decade, patching and repatching the leaks.

Anthony Lancellotti, a Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff design executive, said that ''there are a lot of theories" on the cause of the leaks and that he is not allowed to discuss them because of ongoing investigations by Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, the Turnpike Authority, the state attorney general's office, and the US Department of Transportation's inspector general.

But Lancellotti insisted that there has been a dramatic drop in the number of leaks due to ongoing repairs. He said that using grout to close leaks is a hit-or-miss proposition. Workers drilling into the concrete to inject the grout are never sure the holes they have drilled intersect with the path of the leak.

''Drilling is exploratory," he said. ''You chase leaks; that's the nature of the business. But we have seen a dramatic improvement."

Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, who said his office is meeting regularly with engineers trying to get refunds for shoddy work, predicted that the cost of fixing the roof leaks will be much more than the $10 million already spent by the Turnpike Authority, and he called on the contractors involved, including Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, to cover those costs.

In addition to the $10 million allocated so far, project contractors who built the tunnels have on their own spent at least $6 million plugging leaks, according to construction industry officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Some of the contractors are now pressing hard to be compensated by the state for those expenses.

One firm, Modern Continental, has submitted a bill of roughly $4 million for leak repair work, and is asserting that the leakage problem is the result of a flawed design by Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff.

But the Turnpike Authority and Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff have insisted that the design was appropriate.

Raphael Lewis can be reached at Sean Murphy can be reached at


"'97 report warned of tunnel problems: Engineers found fault with waterproofing"
By Sean P. Murphy and Raphael Lewis, (Boston) Globe Staff, November 18, 2004

A group of state, federal, and Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff engineers issued a confidential report in 1997 that concluded that miles of Big Dig tunnel walls were waterproofed with products that didn't work and were often applied incorrectly by poorly trained contractors.

The report's existence shows that alarms were being sounded at the highest levels of the management of the Big Dig about the potential for a pervasive leaking problem in the tunnel seven years ago. But the problem was never made public until a Globe story last week and has yet to be solved.

The report was released yesterday by the office of State Auditor A. Joseph DeNucci as DeNucci and state Inspector General Gregory Sullivan called on the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority to seek at least $35 million in damages from Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff and contractors for the waterproofing failures, which they said are at the heart of the hundreds of leaks in the $14.6 billion project.

The massive scope of the leak problem and the failures of the tunnels' waterproofing systems have set off anger and calls for congressional hearings. Yesterday, Michael P. Lewis, the Turnpike's Big Dig project director, told reporters at a press conference that efforts to close fissures in the walls have succeeded in reducing the number of leaks in the tunnels from about 1,000 in January to about 500 now.

But the report released yesterday, as well as hundreds of contract documents and memorandums obtained by the Globe this week, point to a problem that has existed for the better part of a decade and still has engineers searching for a permanent fix.

The major finding of the 1997 report was that contractors were not devoting the necessary time and energy required to prepare tunnel walls and roofs for the delicate waterproofing sprays and membranes, resulting in the frequent failure of the materials and leaving the tunnels prone to leaks.

But the report also states that it was "next to impossible" for contractors to properly apply a so-called bentonite waterproofing system chosen by Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff for many sections of the tunnels because the wall surfaces were frequently wet. The Interstate 93 project was built using just one wall in the tunnels. Usually tunnels have two walls, an outer slurry wall and an inner wall that provides an extra layer of protection against water infiltration. Because the slurry walls allow seepage, the waterproofing did not always adhere to them.

DeNucci said Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff or the contractors should have reviewed the manufacturer's instructions and realized that the waterproofing system would not work on these walls.

Yesterday, the Globe reported that one firm hired to provide finishes on the downtown I-93 tunnels, McCourt/Obiyashi, has been paid roughly $10 million over the past five years to plug leaks and repair damage caused by water and corrosion.

But in a letter they issued yesterday, DeNucci and Sullivan estimate a far higher sum, when additional costs for leak repair from general tunnel contractors are included. DeNucci and Sullivan state that, between the McCourt/Obiyashi contract and another held by Big Dig megacontractor Modern Continental, $35 million has already gone to such leak repair and damage control.

Andrew Paven, a spokesman for Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, said in response to the auditor's and inspector general's report, "We take this issue seriously, and we will review any information the inspector general has, but in this case he is flat out wrong."

Paven declined to elaborate.

Matthew J. Amorello, chairman of the Turnpike Authority, has insisted that the contractors and Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff will have to foot the bill for leak repairs and that taxpayers will not have to pay.

But the 1997 report, as well as other memos, bear the signatures of state and federal officials who have been aware for nearly a decade of the problems with waterproofing system that Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff chose and the government accepted.

DeNucci also released a letter dated Feb. 2, 2004 that his office sent to the Turnpike's cost recovery legal team highlighting the waterproofing problem.

Yet the head of that team, retired probate court judge Edward M. Ginsburg, told the Globe earlier this month that he had been unaware of widespread leak problems until this fall, when a large breach occurred.

The performance of the Ginsburg-led team has been criticized by some state legislators, who fear that the panel is not acting rapidly or aggressively enough.

Ginsburg did not return a telephone call from the Globe yesterday. But his deputy, William Horne, issued a statement defending the cost recovery team's work, saying that the $3.5 million it has recouped since forming in late 2002 represents 100 times more than all that collected since the project's inception in the late 1980s.

"The Cost Recovery team welcomes the input from the State Auditor and Inspector General and will review all issues referred by them," Horne said. "Where appropriate, demand notices will be sent to the responsible parties."

The leak scandal has begun to take on national proportions.

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who chairs the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, has tentatively scheduled a hearing for next Tuesday in which the committee will grill Amorello, Ginsburg, and other project personnel. Federal funds paid for most of the project.

At a press conference yesterday, Amorello announced he has named engineer John Christian, who had performed previous consulting work for the Big Dig, to a new position of technical adviser for the Turnpike Authority.

Amorello said Christian's role "will be to monitor current issues . . . and report to the Board of Directors so we can keep the public informed of where things stand."

He promised to hold weekly press conferences to update the public on the progress of plugging leaks and other issues.

Raphael Lewis can be reached at, Sean Murphy at


Pike was told about faulty wall section
Letter sent in 2001 outlined leak problem
By Sean P. Murphy and Raphael Lewis, Globe Staff | November 12, 2004

A senior Massachusetts Turnpike Authority engineer was infomed in 2001 that the Big Dig wall section that sprang a massive leak this fall was substandard and leaking, but Turnpike officials apparently took no action to make sure it was properly repaired, documents obtained by the Globe show.

A letter from Modern Continental Construction Co. -- copied to the Turnpike Authority's John J. "Jack" Wright, who oversaw construction of the northbound tunnel and now serves as deputy project director -- described the leak when it was discovered during excavation in December 2001 and sought advice for repairing it.

The memo, addressed to Edmond F. Hunter, engineer for the private firm overseeing the project, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, included a drawing showing the area affected by the leak as about 4 feet in height and a foot deep.

The document is significant because Turnpike Authority chairman Matthew J. Amorello has said that the agency's top officials did not learn of the leak until this September, and that the private contractors, rather than taxpayers and tollpayers, would be forced to foot the bill for the blowout.

But if senior Turnpike engineers were aware that the wall was compromised and did not make sure it was fixed, the state may bear some responsibility for the repairs and may be hampered in its legal efforts to obtain compensation for poor workmanship from the private contractors.

The issue is key because, as the Globe reported this week, independent engineers say they have found evidence that more than 400 other leaks exist in the tunnel system and that there are as many as 12 other tunnel wall sections that could potentially sprout leaks as large as the September breach.

In the case of the September leak, the independent engineers said this week that debris had been left in the section of wall when it was first constructed in 1999, making it vulnerable to a blow-out later. Such debris -- clay, bricks, and sand -- creates pockets of weakness in the walls through which groundwater can seep.

Two years later, when the wall was first found to be leaking, the documents show that Modern Continental merely covered it over with a concrete patch, rather than pursuing the more expensive and effective course of excavating the debris from the wall and refilling it with solid concrete.

"We do not find in the records any report that that contractor was stopped when problems occurred during his panel excavation, nor that the contractor took corrective work to perform the work in accordance with the contract specification," states the report from the lead consulting engineer, George Tamaro.

The Turnpike Authority issued a statement last night insisting that, even though a senior agency official was notified of the leaks, the private-sector managers and contractors were still responsible for the problems that ensued.

"Project policy required that, as area manager at the time, Jack be cc'd on all memos from the contractor to the joint venture [of Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff]. However, it's the resident engineers and the field offices [of Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff] that are responsible for tracking and closing out all deficiencies discovered during construction. The bottom line is that the repair that was performed on this slurry wall was insufficient."

Wright, reached by telephone last night, acknowledged in a brief conversation that the letter appeared to be copied to him, but declined to be interviewed.

As the top state overseer of the I-93 northbound tunnel construction, Wright would have received thousands of memos, raising the possibility that he simply did not pay close attention to the correspondence regarding the wall.

The purpose of the Modern Continental memo, a so-called non-conformance report dated Dec. 7, 2001, was to alert Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff and the Turnpike Authority that "a leak has developed on the east slurry wall at station 104.5303," and asks for their "review and comment."

On Dec. 13, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff engineer Paul C. Bergquist replied to Modern Continental that a Bechtel engineer had examined the leak and concluded: "The concrete blow out has been plugged; there are clay pockets in the panel; and water is leaking at this blow out."

Bergquist, however, did not copy that response to the Turnpike Authority's Wright, raising the possibility that state officials were not kept informed about the response to the leaking wall.

That same memo from Bergquist ordered Modern Continental to run tests on the concrete in that section of wall, but said to take no action to repair it until Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff gave its approval.

Tamaro told the Globe that a search of project records has unearthed no further communications regarding the leaking wall, and, given that the debris remained in the wall, it appears nothing further was done.

There is also no further correspondence from Wright or anyone else from the turnpike about the matter.

In addition to the 2001 correspondence, construction records compiled in 1999, as the wall was first being built, show that both Modern Continental and Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff were aware of the flaw at that time.

Yesterday, Governor Mitt Romney, though unaware of the memos obtained by the Globe, told reporters that he fears taxpayers may ultimately get stuck with the tab for the tunnel repairs.

"I could sit here and say the taxpayers should not pay, but that presumes that no one with the taxpayers' paycheck, if you will, is responsible for this," Romney told reporters.

"That presumes that the contractors and the engineers are responsible. Well, we don't really know who's responsible, so we'd like to find out who the responsible party is. If it's the Turnpike Authority, for instance, that was aware of this, then it's an open question who should pay."

A spokesman for Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly said that his office is investigating the situation and poring through documents to determine who should he held financially responsible for the leaks. Reilly said he wants to learn "who knew what, when."

However, Romney suggested yesterday that it is the Turnpike as an institution that should be reined in, and he called the leaks in the Big Dig's tunnels an "embarrassment to the Commonwealth" that "suggests mismanagement" by the Turnpike Authority.

Amorello, a fellow Republican but a political enemy of the governor's ever since he became a target of Romney's overhaul efforts, has insisted that he is very much in charge of the situation, hiring world-renowned engineering and tunnel experts and an indepedent legal team.

Sean Murphy's e-mail address is Raphael Lewis's is Globe correspondent Elise Castelli contributed to this report.


"Turnpike tolls to increase in 2008"
The Associated Press
Monday, December 31, 2007

BOSTON (AP) — When the clock strikes midnight, expect to pay more to drive through parts of Boston.

Tolls on the Massachusetts Turnpike are increasing tomorrow at the Route 128 interchange in Weston, the Allston-Brighton interchange and the Ted Williams and Sumner tunnels.

Tolls at the interchanges will grow from $1 to $1.25, while the tolls at the two tunnels will rise fifty cents to $3.50.

Larger buses and commercial vehicles will pay more, depending on their size and number of axles.

Drivers with Fast Lane transponders will get a discount, paying $1 at the interchanges and $3 at the tunnels.

The Turnpike Authority board, which also oversees the Big Dig, voted in October to increase the tolls.


Speeding frenzy
Turnpike Authority ready to ring 'em up in 2008
By Sam Allis, December 30, 2007

The Observer steadfastly refuses to make resolutions or predictions about the new year. Resolutions are a joke and predictions a fool's game.

That said, there is one issue in the coming year that already gives me agita. The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority announced before Christmas that it is looking for another $1.2 million in speeding tickets on the Pike in 2008.

What's breathtaking about this news is the bald admission that it's all about money. There's no pretense of safety. I've never heard of anything like this in my life. To be fair, Turnpike people maintain the first priority is always about safety, but that's risible in this case.

This is about money, pure and simple. It's in the budget, for God's sake. How you budget $1.2 million without creating quotas is beyond me, but Turnpike spokesman Mac Daniel contends there will be no such thing.

The Turnpike is, if nothing else, brave by going public with this shocker. Still, this is a bit like saying because Boston is short on dough, the city will start enforcing jaywalking laws to close the gap. In the name of public safety.

Daniel maintains half of the money is to make up for the revenue lost when upwards of 20 State Police troopers were transferred last year from the highways to police work around the Big Dig.

"We're a cash-starved agency," maintains Daniel. "We're not out to buff our coffers."

We get the $600,000 in lost revenue. But what about the other $600,000 to come from the rest of the Pike? That sure looks like a coffer buffer to me. And, while we're at it, is this really the best way to increase revenues? There's a capricious quality to this whole thing that gives me the willies.

We've always known that local police write tickets to help meet local budgets. We accept it. Streets need to be plowed. Fires need to be put out. Anyone old enough to get behind the wheel knows that ticket quotas are as integral a part of our culture as Fenway Franks. But this Turnpike play crosses the line.

The Authority, quite simply, is creating one long speed trap from West Stockbridge to Boston, which, to twist the words of James Taylor, may no longer seem dreamlike on account of that frosting.

Half of the dough is to come from the 12-mile stretch of the Mass Pike from the Weston tolls to Boston. That's six hundred grand in tickets. Fifty grand a mile. I wouldn't want to run that gantlet twice a day. Why not terrorize commuters from other points of the compass as well?

No one comes out for speeding, but everyone knows the whole speeding thing is off its runners. A ticket for driving 5 miles per hour over the posted limit on the Mass Pike gets you an annual spike in your auto insurance, already a root canal of a thing, for six years before you return to a clean bill of vehicular health.

This is wildly excessive. You used to address the arresting officer "Kind Sir," pay your fine, and drive slower. But this surcharge scheme, to the great benefit of those warm and fuzzy folks in the insurance biz, metes out punishment that simply does not fit the crime. In the name of safety.

I called the State Police to see if they'd throw me any crumbs about their new tactics. What are we walking about here? More unmarked cars? More speed traps. More tickets for driving 68 on the Pike? We've always traveled with the traffic flow just below 75 mph without getting nailed. Is this practice gone with the wind?

Sergeant Robert Bousquet referred me to Chapter 90: Section 17 of Massachusetts General Laws, which states that any speed over the posted limit shall be prima facie evidence that such speed is greater than is reasonable and proper.

So if I go 66 in a 65 mph zone, I can be stopped? Absolutely. Will I be stopped? Maybe.

Consider this: Since you can never go over the posted speed limit, ipso facto you can never top 65 on the Pike to pass another vehicle. It is impossible to overtake an 18-wheeler going 50 without busting the speed limit for a few seconds. So now you stay at 50, mile after mile.

Section 17 goes on to say that you can also get a speeding ticket for driving under the speed limit, say in bad weather, if a cop decides your speed is unreasonable under the circumstances. You could be going 50 on the Pike and still get nailed. That's a lot of discretion for a trooper charged with helping hit the $1.2 million ticket target.

Bousquet adds that you can even get a ticket for exceeding 15 mph within one-tenth of a mile of a vehicle used in hawking or peddling merchandise with amber lights flashing.

Like what? Like an ice cream truck. But if it's stopped, why limit me to 15 mph as I pass it? It might not be fully stopped. But how can you sell ice cream from a moving vehicle? It could be going very slowly as it comes to a stop.

It is at this point that I'm reminded of the Dirty Harry line: "You've got to ask yourself a question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?"

We don't know how bad it will be on the Pike next year. But how good could it be with a $1.2 million ticket mandate in the budget?

Sam Allis can be reached at


Owners of buildings such as Shaw's Supermarket in Newton are responsible for maintaining tunnels. (David Kamerman/Globe Staff)

"Little oversight of tunnels under private buildings: Turnpike seeks more inspections"
By Andrea Estes and Thomas C. Palmer Jr., (Boston) Globe Staff, January 2, 2008

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority has no legal responsibility for aging tunnels beneath private buildings through which thousands of turnpike commuters drive every day - a lack of oversight that has infuriated some state legislators and other officials.

Long-term leases leave inspections, maintenance, and repairs up to the owners of the office buildings, hotels, or other commercial projects over the turnpike - including the Prudential Center and Copley Place in Boston, and the Sheraton Hotel and Shaw's Supermarket in Newton. The Turnpike Authority, which controls only the roadways, has done little to guarantee that these private owners are keeping the infrastructure in good shape.

Owners of some of the properties said they inspect the tunnels and make repairs. And Turnpike Authority officials insisted last week that the tunnels are safe. But they acknowledged they don't know how often they have been inspected or by whom. They said they have collected inspection reports from private owners, but the Turnpike Authority has not responded to a public records request for the reports submitted by the Globe Dec. 14.

Last month, the Turnpike Authority's new executive director, Alan LeBovidge, issued a policy directive that seeks to give the agency more control over the tunnels and other private infrastructure. Under the new policy, private owners will be asked to conduct regular inspections and state engineers will perform their own.

"In the past, the Authority relied on the private entities to inspect and maintain their structures under the lease terms," said Mac Daniel, Turnpike Authority spokesman. "Turnpike engineers and maintenance crews did perform spot checks on the tunnels, but they were informal."

Under leases negotiated in some cases decades ago, the private businesses are required to maintain their tunnels, decks, and other supporting structures. But the leases do not specify who should inspect the infrastructure or how often inspections should be done. At least one major property owner, of the Hancock garage, told the Globe that no inspections were required under the lease.

Lawmakers yesterday said they were stunned to learn that the Turnpike Authority has no legal or financial obligation for the tunnels under private developments.

"It's outrageous," said state Senator Steven A. Baddour, a Methuen Democrat who is chairman of the Joint Committee on Transportation. "With all the problems in just the last 20 years, you'd think the Turnpike Authority would have had protocols for every tunnel, every road, and every bridge. It's unacceptable."

Senator Mark C. Montigny, Democrat of New Bedford, a member of the Transportation Committee and former Ways and Means chairman, said he was "horrified" that even after the Interstate 90 connector tunnel ceiling collapse that killed a motorist in July 2006, the Turnpike Authority continued to leave maintenance and repairs of the heavily traveled tunnels in the hands of private businesses.

"In most other states when there is a disaster, government reacts and makes changes," he said. "We're all shocked and horrified, and nothing changes."

There has been at least one incident in a turnpike tunnel since the I-90 ceiling collapse that killed Milena del Valle.

Joanne Caliguri of Waltham, a Department of Defense analyst, was returning home from the office Oct. 12, 2006, when chunks of material fell in the Prudential Tunnel, shattering her sunroof and the trunk of her new car. "It was the scariest day of my life," said Caliguri, who is still afraid to drive to work and has panic attacks when she enters the tunnel.

She doesn't know exactly what happened. When she contacted the Turnpike Authority, she was referred to the owner of the Prudential Tower, Boston Properties, which sent her complaint to its insurance company, where the case remains unresolved. Daniel said maintenance crews were dispatched immediately after the incident but found no dislodged material. A spokeswoman for Boston Properties did not return phone calls seeking comment. Daniel said there have been no other private tunnel incidents that turnpike officials are aware of.

Under the new policy issued this month, development owners will be asked to hire experienced structural engineers to inspect the ceilings of the tunnels and overhead systems once a year and the rest of the tunnel every three years. They cannot be ordered to inspect because their 99-year leases do not contain such rigorous standards. State engineers will also inspect the private tunnels, at the tenants' expense, under the policy. Last January, the Turnpike Authority issued a similar policy mandating regular inspections of all of the tunnels it owns, including the I-90 tunnel in which del Valle was killed, and the Sumner and Callahan tunnels.

All future inspection reports, according to the new policy, will be made public. If a private owner refuses to follow the policy or make any requested repairs, Turnpike Authority officials say they will use whatever leverage they have under the lease to force compliance. But it is unclear what the Turnpike Authority could do to force owners to make repairs.

Officials of several companies with developments over the Mass. Pike said they had not yet seen the new policy and did not want to comment. They said, however, that they have kept up with their legal obligation to maintain and repair their tunnels.

"Since the Star Market was built in 1962, as part of the air rights agreement, regular inspections were required," said Judy Chong, spokeswoman for Shaw's Supermarkets, which took over the store. "This is nothing new," she said, adding that the most recent inspection was done last spring.

"We spent about a year repairing the retaining walls on the side of the tunnel. We also have additional repairs scheduled for next year to the overhead part," she said.

James E. Rooney, executive director of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, which operates the Hynes convention center facility over the turnpike, said his Authority has an obligation to inspect and maintain the deck and roof, which it owns. The Authority earmarks a budget for such costs, regularly does maintenance, and in 2006 made substantial repairs on the tunnel roof after a bus fire on the turnpike caused major damage, he said.

Broadway Partners Fund Manager LLC owns the John Hancock Tower and a large parking garage over the turnpike. Under its lease with the Turnpike Authority, Broadway must maintain and repair columns and walls and pay for lighting. "Right now we're undergoing a project of re-fireproofing some steel," said Alan G. Rubenstein, director of asset management for Broadway Partners, based in New York.

State Inspector General Gregory Sullivan, who first raised questions about the conditions of the aging structures last spring, praised the Turnpike Authority for finally trying to fix a problem that could have had tragic consequences.

"Long ago the turnpike entered into these 99-year leases," he said. "It was a huge mistake. They left it up to supermarkets, department stores, and condo associations to inspect and maintain tunnels. Finally, the state will take responsibility to make sure the inspections are done - no matter what. "

He said he was stunned that the Turnpike Authority took no action after Caliguri's car was struck - especially because it happened so soon after concrete panels fell from the I-90 tunnel.


Turnpike chief Alan LeBovidge said yesterday he is reviewing cost-cutting measures.

"Turnpike director ponders cutbacks: Some overnight toll-takers eyed"
By Noah Bierman, (Boston) Globe Staff, January 4, 2008

The new head of the Massachusetts Turnpike is considering getting rid of emergency roadside assistance help and eliminating overnight toll takers on the western Turnpike, who collect less money than it costs to employ them, he said yesterday.

Alan LeBovidge, selected to lead the financially troubled agency in November, said he is trying to set a tone of austerity wherever he can. That started with last month's board meeting, where the coffee and fruit salad normally laid out for employees and board members were replaced by pitchers of water.

Yesterday, LeBovidge fired two employees, whom he declined to name publicly, because he said their jobs are no longer central to the Turnpike Authority's mission.

The Authority raised tolls, effective this week, and may confront another toll increase next year as it struggles to balance a budget, pay escalating bridge and tunnel repair costs, and pay off Big Dig loans.

Board members recently decided they would forgo $50 million in annual bridge and road repairs that Turnpike staff had said were necessary. At the same time, the board had to dip into reserves to cover operating costs.

LeBovidge said he is still analyzing several of his cost-cutting ideas and does not yet know how much money they will save or which ones ultimately will be approved by the board. He said he expects to have more complete answers in the next month or two.

The Authority's many consulting contracts are a top priority, he said, because he suspects much of the work can be done more cheaply, either by Authority staff or with leaner contracts.

"We're the full employment agency for the consultants of America," he said.

Other ideas, like getting rid of roadside assistance, may meet some resistance from drivers who appreciate the security of roving helpers.

"There's an element of safety, but there's also an element of just convenience," LeBovidge said.

The program costs the state $1 million a year. For that, employees help drivers who run out of gas by filling tanks or by calling towing services when cars break down, LeBovidge said.

In the era of cellphones, it may be a luxury the state cannot afford, he said.

LeBovidge said he is still analyzing the cost of employing workers overnight to take tolls on some quiet booths in Western Massachusetts, but he said he believes it would probably save money to eliminate those shifts. The question for the board would then be one of fairness, because motorists who have to pay when they drive may feel slighted when others get a free ride.

"Those are the kinds of ideas that certainly make good sense, and I'm glad he's looking in that direction," said board member Mary Z. Connaughton.

Board members have been urging LeBovidge to replace as many human toll takers as he can with electronic booths and encourage more people to buy a Fast Lane pass.

Noah Bierman can be reached at


"Big Dig tunnels spring 237 leaks: Costs climb as state plugs serious spots Engineers say fixes could go on for years
By Sean P. Murphy, (Boston) Globe Staff, January 13, 2008

Despite repeated assurances that it had Big Dig leaks under control, the Turnpike Authority has allowed the number of leaks to explode in the last two years and has been forced to launch a fresh effort to plug hundreds of trouble spots, according to an analysis of Big Dig records.

A massive effort by Big Dig contractor Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff reduced the number of the most serious leaks near the tunnel roof from more than 800 in March 2005 to just three eight months later, according to Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff records posted on the turnpike's website. But the state sharply curtailed efforts to seal leaks when it took over maintenance in 2006, and the number of serious leaks going unchecked rose to 237 last month, according to interviews and turnpike records.

The resurgence suggests that water infiltration could require attention indefinitely on the $15 billion project - and is not the temporary glitch originally asserted by contractors and the state. The new leaks raise serious questions among some officials and engineers about maintenance costs, repair schedules, and premature corrosion of steel reinforcements in the walls.

Edward Ginsburg, a retired judge charged in 2003 with seeking refunds from contractors for shoddy work, recalled the many assurances he received in 2004 from both state and Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff personnel that leaks would be taken care of and quickly cease to be an issue.

"They were furious when we raised it as an issue, and they said it would all be fine," he said. "Well, it isn't fine. It's the same basic situation."

Turnpike officials emphasized the structural integrity of the tunnels is uncompromised, and that a serious breakdown could happen only after 25 years of continuous water damage. The officials said they took over a leak-riddled tunnel and have launched a major effort to get the problem under control. But state officials acknowledged there is already surface rusting on 10 percent of the massive steel girders in the ceiling.

Overall, a recent engineering report shows there are a total of 670 Big Dig leaks, of which the 237 are in a category considered the most serious.

"I don't like to see 670 leaks - that has to be erased," said Robert Rooney, deputy secretary for public works, who assumed his state job in July.

Rooney said his boss, Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen, ordered the Turnpike Authority late last year to assign one engineer to work full time on the leaks. He also ordered the authority to increase the number of contractor crews fighting leaks from just one to five or six.

Rooney said the number of leaks should be reduced to no more than a couple of dozen by the end of 2008.

"We don't want to have to rebuild those tunnels because of damage," he said. "Proper maintenance can extend its life indefinitely."

If girders were degraded and reconstruction required, Big Dig managers - as well as drivers - would face a logistical nightmare. With the old elevated Central Artery torn down, there is no simple alternative route for getting traffic through the city.

In a statement, Alan LeBovidge, the turnpike's new executive director, said the agency "inherited a mega-project riddled with problems" and called Bechtel/Parson Brinckerhoff's accounting of its leak reductions in 2004 and 2005 questionable.

A spokesman for Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff declined to comment. Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff is currently in negotiations with Attorney General Martha Coakley over a settlement that would reimburse taxpayers for leaks and other deficiencies. Coakley's office also declined to comment.

Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff and state managers since 2004 have consistently said water was flowing into the tunnels from multiple entry points, and they have downplayed leaks as a major source. They said the project remained an active construction site even after the tunnels were opened to traffic in 2003, and that water flowing through open construction conduits would be cut off when construction ended.

But a report by the engineering firm Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc. for the Turnpike Authority last month for the first time quantified the amount of water by its source. The firm said the largest source, 40 percent, came from leaks. The second largest was rainwater flowing into the tunnel entrances.

Specifications in the contract with Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff called for dry tunnels, and the turnpike in its application for an environmental permit issued in 2003 anticipated pumping only 36,000 gallons of water monthly used to clean the tunnels. In fact, about 2 millions gallons of water gets pumped out of the tunnels monthly, according to pumping records. That means about 800,000 gallons comes into the tunnels monthly from leaks.

That water, besides rusting steel, is washing away the fireproofing sealant applied to the steel, Rooney said.

George Tamaro, an engineer brought to Boston to assist Ginsburg, has long considered cold weather the culprit. When concrete contracts in cold weather, it cracks, he said. And when it expands in warmer weather, new water paths may open.

In the Big Dig tunnels, the cracks are especially worrisome because the mammoth structure sits under the water table, pressed on all sides by saturated soil.

In November 2004, state officials first acknowledged hundreds of leaks in the tunnels. And in dozens of subsequent reports posted on the turnpike's website, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff said it reduced the number of leaks over a 12-month period to a handful.

That accomplishment required as many as 13 construction crews fanning out almost nightly throughout the tunnel in 2005 to seal leaks, according to the turnpike records. Sealing leaks required lanes in the tunnels - a mile-and-a-half section of busy Interstate 93 - to be temporarily closed for access to the leaks, which are clustered high above the roadway at the seam between the roof and walls. They are sealed by drilling into concrete and injecting chemicals - called grout - that expand in the presence of water and harden to block paths for water intrusion.

Construction crews made more than 1,300 such injections in 2004 and 2005, the records show. Some sealed leaks reopened, requiring a second seal.

Turnpike personnel declined to provide any records detailing the extent of sealing efforts made since 2005, but Rooney acknowledged the number of crews assigned to leaks bottomed out at one. He said he did not believe leak-sealing ever ceased altogether for any period.

Mac Daniel, a spokesman for the turnpike, said $52 million has gone into leak repairs in recent years, a cost shared by contractors and the state. Rooney could not provide costs for implementing the recommended program involving stepped-up repairs, but acknowledged it would cost millions of dollars. Still, there will be no holding back because of expense, Rooney said.

"Yes, there is water in the tunnels, but it is being managed now, and an incredible amount of resources are being used to fix it," he said. "I don't care how much it costs. Come back in a year and see."

Sean Murphy can be reached at
"Serious leaks in roof of the O'Neill tunnel"
March 2005: 832 leaks
June 2005: 176 leaks
October 2005: 3 leaks
December 2007: 237 leaks

"Officials warn of toll increases on Pike"
By Peter J. Howe, (Boston) Globe Staff, January 15, 2008

More toll increases up and down the Massachusetts Turnpike look inevitable, two agency board members said yesterday after the authority warned that its fiscal woes will delay more than $65 million in necessary construction and maintenance work this year.

The comments were made just two weeks after the authority imposed 25-cent toll increases in Weston and Allston and a 50-cent jump at the Boston Harbor tunnels and as the Turnpike Authority's board unanimously approved what officials called a minimal, severely stripped-down 2008 program of maintenance for the 138-mile toll road and harbor tunnels.

From Weston to East Boston, engineers said, $49.8 million worth of maintenance work needs to be done in 2008. But the cash-strapped agency can only afford $4 million of that and will have to defer work such as a $1 million replacement of backup batteries intended to ensure that tunnel ventilation systems in Boston work during an extended power failure.

Likewise, on the 123-mile stretch from Weston to West Stockbridge, the agency can afford only $10.5 million of the $32 million it needs this year, officials said. That will force the authority to wait indefinitely to resurface 22 miles of highway in Central Massachusetts and repair the deck of the bridge over the Quaboag River in Palmer.

Vice chairman Michael Angelini and director Mary Z. Connaughton, two members of the board who regularly clash with each other, both agreed that toll increases must be considered imminently.

"There's a toll increase on the horizon," Connaughton said. "It could be a broad toll increase, or it could be from reinstating tolls" on the West Stockbridge-West Springfield stretch that was made free to cars in the 1990s. Ending tolls for passenger vehicles at the first six exits, Connaughton said, has deprived the authority of $120 million that could have staved off the growing backlog of maintenance work.

Angelini agreed that with such a big and growing maintenance backlog, "you either ignore it or raise revenue."

Bernard Cohen, the state transportation secretary and chairman of the Turnpike Authority board, has repeatedly said that unless legislators overhaul state transportation financing this year to move debts from the $15 billion Big Dig off the turnpike's books, legal obligations to bondholders will force the agency to seek another round of toll increases.

"The longer you delay the capital projects, the more expensive they are," Cohen told the board meeting.

The turnpike's two operations are meant to be financially independent and self-sustaining. They include the stretch from Weston to West Stockbridge and the Metropolitan Highway System, which comprises the Weston-Boston extension, harbor tunnels, and Big Dig tunnels and bridges downtown.

Any further toll increase or reimposing tolls that Governor William F. Weld ended in 1996 when he was seeking Western Massachusetts votes for his US Senate campaign are certain to stir debate on Beacon Hill.

Senator Michael R. Knapik, a Westfield Republican, said reinstating tolls from Exit 1 to Exit 6 would "would not be a popular step at all, to say the least."

"They have got to have a serious dose of heavy reform at the Turnpike Authority before they look at any revenue-raising measures," Knapik said.

"I am adamantly opposed to tolls going up, because I know that over 50 percent of the tolls we're paying now on the Weston-to-Boston extension aren't going to the road we're riding on, but to the Big Dig," said Representative David P. Linsky, a Natick Democrat who chairs a caucus of west suburban legislators.

Linsky said that he thinks the authority under Cohen "is being much more forthright and honest about deferred maintenance than previous administrations," but that the key issue is that the authority's Big Dig debts need a new statewide funding source to replace the Interstate 90 and harbor tunnel tolls.

Helmut Ernst, chief engineer of the authority, stressed that none of the work being deferred poses a safety threat.

"Are there immediate safety issues? No. But you can't continue this process of pushing it to the next budget cycle," Ernst said. "It's nothing that I want to continue for the next five years."

Ernst added that he is especially concerned about delays in fixing the tunnel ventilation fan backup power system, a $6.4 million replacement of the deck of the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge over the Pike near Boston University, and older bridges at the Route 128 interchange in Weston.

Other projects that engineers say are urgent this year but that the authority can't fund include $16 million worth of Sumner Tunnel ceiling repairs, $5 million to resurface the Sumner roadway, and $1.1 million for noise barriers in Newton.

Peter J. Howe can be reached at


"Costly turnpike stunt"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Thursday, January 17, 2008

Twelve years ago, Governor William Weld, looking to win over some Western Massachusetts voters in his hotly contested Senate race with Democratic incumbent John Kerry, ended tolls for passenger vehicles on the first six exits of the Massachusetts Turnpike. Mr. Weld lost the election and is now a corporate attorney in New York City after abandoning a bid for governor of New York last year. The price tag of his politically motivated stunt of 12 years ago stands at $120 million.

That is the cost of removing the tolls from West Stockbridge to West Springfield, according to Turnpike Authority board member Mary Z. Connaughton. Ms. Connaughton floated to The Boston Globe the idea of restoring the western-most tolls as the agency explores ways of paying for maintenance and construction deferrals caused by budget shortfalls that can be largely attributed to the boondoggle that is Boston's Big Dig.

Western drivers may be reluctant to pay tolls to finance projects in the Boston vicinity, but Massachusetts is called a "commonwealth" for a reason, as taxpayer funds collected in the populous eastern end of the state are used to finance projects in the Berkshires. There was no populist clamor 12 years ago for removal of the tolls, and had not Mr. Weld decided to run for Senate, drivers would have continued paying them as they had for years.

The turnpike, even with its maintenance backlog, is in far better shape than most major state highways, which is an argument for merging the authority with the highway department. If pike revenues, including those from the restored western tolls, were tossed into the general highway fund, there could be enough revenue available to make major repairs to the state's neglected roads and bridges. At any rate, Massachusetts has paid long enough for Mr. Weld's failed political stunt.


"The speeding scam in Massachusetts"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Friday, January 18, 2008

I'd like to respond to a Jan. 2 column by Sam Allis about the Mass Pike becoming one big speed trap in 2008. Mr. Allis states that in 2008 there is at least the appearance that traffic tickets issued on the Mass Pike will be used more to raise money to pad state coffers than to promote public safety. While he bemoans this fact he seems to think, though rather tongue in check, that this is an acceptable practice at the local level. As someone who drives over 100 miles of country roads each day I tend to disagree.

It's a rare day that I don't cross the path of a radar gun being used by either state or local police. My one day record was three speed traps on only 40 miles of road. These are country roads with little traffic and it raises the question about the allocation of police resources and maybe sheds some light on the state's never-ending need to raise more revenue. More importantly, it raises important questions about fairness and as strange as it may sound, about public safety.

On one particular road I drive there are no less than a dozen speed zone changes on only four miles of road. I defy anyone to drive that stretch of road and not be over the posted speed limit at some point. On top of the speed zone changes, many of the speed limits are set at unreasonably low speeds.

After being hit by three radar guns I understandably started feeling a little paranoid. I spent the next several weeks trying to drive exactly at or below the posted limits. Following these constantly changing speeds was mentally taxing and took a lot of concentration off my driving and off the changing road conditions. It also became apparent to me after a lot of angry stares that I was impeding normal traffic flow and putting myself at risk.

Local municipalities, insurance companies and the state have a vested interest in keeping speed limits unreasonably low, while creating the illusion of speeding where there is none taking place. Besides the big money to be made, I believe there is also another reason that has nothing to do with public safety. An off duty officer once confided to me that being able to pull a lot of people over is a really important weapon to help fight the war on drugs.

This is all hypocritical and leaves one with the uneasy feeling of living in a police state. It also leaves one with a disdain for a rigged system and a disregard for the rule of law.

To be fair, most officers are not going to give you a ticket for driving a few miles over the posted limit and I do drive plenty of roads that seem to have reasonable speed limits. There are a lot of rude drivers out there, but in my opinion the majority of drivers are sane and courteous and unfortunately it is these average Joes who end up getting hit with big fines and six years of hefty insurance premiums for driving at safe speeds on improperly posted roads.

Becket, Massachusetts


"More turnpike hikes coming?"
The Associated Press
Saturday, January 19, 2008

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts Turnpike motorists still are adjusting to a toll increase that took effect this month, but it may only be the start.

When the turnpike board voted back in October to raise tolls, lawmakers and motorists were warned that more toll increases are likely unless the Legislature approves the Patrick administration's transportation reform package.

State Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen, who is chairman of the turnpike board, issued the salvo. But more than three months later, no bill has been filed. His spokesman said yesterday that the measure will be filed early this year.

Time moving forward

"The clock is ticking," said Rep. Joseph Wagner, House chairman of the Transportation Committee. "We're already into 2008. This has been talked about over the course of the last year. We anxiously await their submission of it to us."

And this week, two board members grumbled about the inevitability of future toll hikes when the board was forced to delay construction work on 30 projects, including Sumner Tunnel ceiling repairs, because of a lack of funds.

Gov. Deval Patrick in October outlined his plan to create a single, massive transportation agency — dubbed MassTrans — saying it would save hundreds of millions of dollars and speed improvements to neglected roads and bridges. The Turnpike Authority, which is saddled with overseeing the Big Dig, would be merged with the state Highway Department.
Another raise

Days later, the turnpike board voted to increase tolls at the Allston-Brighton and Weston toll booths by 25 cents to $1.25, and tolls for the Ted Williams and Sumner tunnels in Boston by 50 cents to $3.50. The board considered greater increases, but decided to raise tolls only enough to satisfy legal requirements related to turnpike bond agreements.

Cohen warned that the toll hike was only a short-term solution in anticipation of Patrick's proposed reforms. He said: "If a comprehensive reform of transportation does not occur within the next year that refinances the Big Dig debt, the bond covenant that we inherited will force us to come back and seek additional toll revenues."

Patrick, in a radio interview this month, said he won't include the MassTrans proposal in his budget, which will be filed next week, because it's not "baked enough... We'll certainly finish the homework this year, and I hope early in the year."


"$458m Big Dig settlement exempts firms from criminal charges in tunnel collapse"
January 23, 2008, 02:47 PM, By Boston Globe Staff

State and federal authorities announced a settlement of $458.2 million with the firms that designed and managed the Big Dig to avoid criminal charges and civil liability stemming from leaks, the fatal ceiling collapse, and other flaws that have plagued the project.

Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, the consortium that oversaw the Big Dig design and construction, will pay $407 million, and 24 other companies will pay about $51 million, US Attorney Michael Sullivan said this afternoon at a press conference.

"Massachusetts Highway and the citizens of Massachusetts entrusted Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff to act as their eyes and ears on the Central Artery Project," Sullivan said. "They grossly failed to meet their obligations and responsibilities to the citizens of Massachusetts and the United States."

Approximately $415 million of the settlement money will be placed in a special trust fund and used to pay for future Big Dig costs and repairs. The settlement allows authorities to seek additional damages from Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff in the event of a major failure in the project in the future causes more than $50 million in damage.

The agreement, which the Globe first reported in today’s paper, will allow Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff to avoid state criminal charges in the Interstate 90 connector tunnel collapse that killed Milena Del Valle. She died on July 10, 2006, after concrete panels weighing 26 tons fell and partially crushed the car she and her husband were riding to Logan Airport.

A lawsuit filed by the family of Del Valle against Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff and other companies is still pending. Brad Henry, one of the lawyers who represents the Del Valle family, told the Globe Tuesday that Bechtel's payment "certainly seems to be a substantial admission of liability.”

State Attorney General Martha Coakley said at the press conference that when she spoke to the Del Valle family this morning they were wanted to make sure that this settlement would make the Big Dig safer.

“We believe and we and hope that we have accomplished something and that no other family will have to go through what the family of Milena Del Valle went through,” Coakley said.

Only one of more than a dozen defendants has settled with the family. In December, Powers Fasteners Inc. of Brewster, N.Y., agreed to pay the family $6 million. Powers, which provided the epoxy blamed in the collapse, is also the only company facing criminal charges after the attorney general's office charged it with one count of involuntary manslaughter in August. If convicted, Powers faces a fine of $1,000. The company, which pleaded not guilty, has denied responsibility for the fatal accident.

Because the maximum penalty for manslaughter is only $1,000, Coakley decided to seek a financial settlement from Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff rather than prosecute, though she held open the possibility of criminal charges if settlement talks broke down, legal sources have previously said.

Department of Justice Attorney General & Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley
United States Attorney Michael J. Sullivan
District of Massachusetts
PHONE: (617) 748-3356 PHONE: (617) 727-2543
For Immediate Release January 23, 2008


BRINCKERHOFF”), the management consultant to the Central Artery/Tunnel Project (“the Big Dig”) has agreed to pay over $407 million to resolve its criminal and civil liabilities in connection with the collapse of part of the I-90 Connector Tunnel ceiling and defects in the slurry walls of the Tip O’Neil tunnel. In addition, 24 Section Design Consultants—other contractors who worked on various parts of the project--have agreed to pay an additional $51 million to resolve certain cost recovery issues associated with the design of the Big Dig. In total, the United States and the Commonwealth will recover $458 million, including interest.

United States Attorney Michael J. Sullivan, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, Theodore L. Doherty III, Special Agent in Charge of the New England Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General, Warren T. Bamford, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, New England Field Division and Colonel Mark Delaney, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police, announced today that BECHTEL/PARSONS BRINCKERHOFF has entered into a global agreement with the United States and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to pay $399 million to satisfy the aforementioned criminal and civil claims as well as certain miscellaneous cost recovery items.

The majority of the $458 million will be held in a new state Central Artery/Tunnel Project Repair and Maintenance Trust Fund to provide for future non-routine repairs and maintanence of the Big Dig. It is anticipated that future recoveries from Big Dig contractors will also be deposited into this fund. Special state legislation was signed into law this month establishing the Fund. Including payments made pursuant to a plea agreement with Aggregate Industries in the summer of 2007, total
recoveries related to the Big Dig now exceeds $500 million.

The Agreement includes a statement of facts which details the basis for liability by
BECHTEL/PARSONS BRINCKERHOFF. Additionally, the Agreement does not release
BECHTEL/PARSONS BRINCKERHOFF from liability for any future catastrophic events which
occur within the next ten years. Today’s Agreement provides that if a future catastrophic event relating to the CA/T Project causes more than $50 million in damages, the federal and state governments retain the right to sue Bechtel and PB. For the next 10 years (through October 2017), Bechtel and PB waive their right to statute of limitations and other time-based procedural defenses to a catastrophic event claim. If the government sued based on a future catastrophic event, damages would be capped at $100 million per event and the suit would be resolved by binding arbitration.

In addition, BECHTEL and PARSONS BRINCKERHOFF are also required to enact corporate
compliance programs that are designed to prevent any similar conduct from occurring on future public construction projects. Bechtel and Parsons Brinkerhoff both agree to full reviews of their corporate business ethics and quality assurance programs, in order to strengthen those programs, improve ethics and quality training for employees, and prevent the types of lapses that occurred on the Big Dig from
happening again in future projects.

The Agreement also requires BECHTEL/PARSONS BRINCKERHOFF to conduct an
internal investigation and report to the federal and state governments if that investigation reveals any construction defects that might lead to the type of catastrophe that occurred on July 10, 2006 when part of the ceiling collapsed in the I-90 Connector Tunnel. BECHTEL/PARSONS BRINCKERHOFF has 180 days to submit that report. Finally, as noted above, the global resolution includes $51 million
in payments by SDCs and their insurers to address cost recovery claims.

The Agreement preserves the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) independent decision making authority and allows it to take any appropriate administrative actions against responsible parties. The Agreement precludes additional administrative action by the Commonwealth as long as the parent corporations comply with their respective compliance agreements.

The statement of facts included in the Agreement addresses the conduct of
BRINCKERHOFF has acknowledged serious failures in its obligations to manage construction of the I-93 slurry walls. Particularly, BECHTEL/PARSONS BRINCKERHOFF allowed construction contractors, such as Modern Continental Construction, to place concrete for the slurry walls when construction specifications had not been met. BECHTEL/PARSONS BRINCKERHOFF failed to complete the required documentation noting these construction deficiencies and failed to have the deficiencies corrected. BECHTEL/PARSONS BRINCKERHOFF had knowledge of significant defects in the slurry walls and allowed those defects to go unrepaired or to be inadequately repaired,
even after the I-93 tunnel was open to traffic and BECHTEL/PARSONS BRINCKERHOFF had
certified the tunnel's safety and proper construction. BECHTEL/PARSONS BRINCKERHOFF has acknowledged that documents submitted to the Central Artery/Tunnel Project certifying the safety and substantial completion of the I-93 mainline tunnel were not true and accurate.

Second, BECHTEL/PARSONS BRINCKERHOFF has acknowledged certain failures
regarding its oversight responsibilities concerning the construction of the ceiling in the portal area of the I-90 Connector Tunnel. BECHTEL/PARSONS BRINCKERHOFF observed epoxy bolts that were failing to withstand the load of the ceiling panels and were creeping out of the roof, but failed to adequately investigate the cause of such failures or to correct the problem. Similarly, BECHTEL/PARSONS BRINCKERHOFF has acknowledged that documents submitted to the Central Artery/Tunnel Project certifying the safety and substantial completion of the I-90 Connector Tunnel were not true and accurate.

Third, BECHTEL/PARSONS BRINCKERHOFF also acknowledges its failure to adequately
fulfill its construction management obligations relating to contract modifications. Particularly, BECHTEL/PARSONS BRINCKERHOFF failed to assure the accuracy of contractors' records on time and material slips thereby resulting in overpayments to be made to contractors who misrepresented the classification of apprentice workers as journeymen who were paid at higher rates. Three individuals employed by Massachusetts Electric Construction Company, a Big Dig contractor, have been convicted in federal court for submitting false claims in connection with overbilling apprentice labor at journeymen rates.

Fourth, BECHTEL/PARSONS BRINCKERHOFF has acknowledged its failure to meet its
oversight obligations with respect to the delivery and use of non-specification in concrete Big Dig structures including the I-93 mainline tunnel slurry walls by Aggregate Industries Northeast Region, Inc. BECHTEL/PARSONS BRINCKERHOFF failed to institute concrete testing protocols at the construction site as well as in the materials lab to determine that all concrete delivered to the Project met CA/T specifications and was placed pursuant to CA/T procedures. Aggregate Industries pled
guilty last summer in federal court to a criminal Information charging AGGREGATE with conspiracy to defraud the United States through the submission of false claims for payment. In May 2006, six managers of Aggregate were indicted for their participation in the scheme and are awaiting trial in federal court.

United States Attorney Michael J. Sullivan said, “Today’s settlement with Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff is continuing evidence of our commitment to vigorously investigate and prosecute those who have perpetrated a fraud on American taxpayers. It is critically important that federal and state tax dollars needed to fund important public works projects, like the Big Dig, are safeguarded against waste,
fraud and corruption.” Sullivan concluded, “Our work is not done. As I have said in the past, we will dedicate the resources and time necessary to complete a comprehensive review and investigation of the Big Dig Project. I can assure you that there will be no stone left unturned.”

“We believe that today’s global agreement is the best possible resolution for the
Commonwealth and for the federal government. This investigation was complex and involved a number of complicated issues, and the collaboration among state and federal agencies in order to reach this outcome is unprecedented,” said Attorney General Coakley. “All the while, we have been ever mindful that Milena Del Valle lost her life on July 10, 2006. Today’s landmark agreement with Bechtel, Parsons Brinkerhoff, and other contractors allows us to resolve criminal and civil claims, to
provide for future repairs, and to ensure the future safety of the Big Dig tunnels.”

“It is important to ensure that taxpayers’ investments in the construction and management of large transportation projects are protected from false claims that undermine public confidence in the integrity of our Nation’s transportation system,” said Theodore L. Doherty III, Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General. “This settlement is the
culmination of several investigations involving tireless work by Office of Inspector General agents and our law enforcement colleagues on the Big Dig Task Force, especially the U.S. Attorney’s Office. We will continue to work with the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Department of Justice to promote the detection and prosecution of fraudulent schemes involving Federal transportation funds.”

Warren T. Bamford, Special Agent-in- Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, New England Field Division said, “Those who commit fraud and abuse against government programs will be aggressively investigated. These practices were completely irresponsible and an affront to the American public.”

The investigation which led to today’s Agreement was commenced after there was a breach in a slurry wall panel in the I-93 mainline tunnel in September 2004. At that time, the U.S. Attorney’s Office established The Big Dig Task Force which has been largely staffed by investigators employed by the United States Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Massachusetts State Police, and by prosecutors employed by the Massachusetts
Attorney General’s Office and the United States Attorney’s Office. In February 2005, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office assumed responsibility for cost recovery efforts related to Big Dig matters. Immediately after the July 11, 2006 tunnel ceiling collapse, The Attorney General’s Office commenced a criminal investigation of that fatal incident. The Attorney General’s Office has worked closely with the Big Dig Task Force to reach today’s Agreement with BECHTEL/PARSONS BRINCKERHOFF.

This matter was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Fred M. Wyshak, Jr., Jeffrey M. Cohen, Anthony E. Fuller and Eugenia M. Carris of Sullivan’s Public Corruption Unit as well as by Special Assistant Attorney General Paul Ware and more than a dozen attorneys and other staff from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. The case was investigated by the New England Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, New England Field Division, as well as the Massachusetts State Police assigned to the
Attorney General’s Office.


"House OKs tunnel inspections"
By Andrew Miga, Associated Press, January 23, 2008

WASHINGTON - The US House approved a national highway tunnel inspection program yesterday aimed at preventing tragedies such as the Big Dig's fatal ceiling collapse.

In its report last year on the 2006 Big Dig ceiling collapse, the National Transportation Safety Board called for a mandatory federal tunnel inspection program similar to the one used for the nation's bridges. There are no national standards for tunnel inspections.

US Representative Michael Capuano, a Somerville Democrat who is on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, led the effort on Capitol Hill for the measure, which passed the House on a voice vote.

"Hopefully, we'll be able to get something done without another tragedy happening," Capuano said in a telephone interview yesterday. "It will standardize what the rules are so that every tunnel you pass through, in theory, should be held to the same standard."

The NTSB's report said the use of the wrong glue to secure concrete ceiling slabs probably caused the July 10, 2006, collapse that killed Milena Del Valle.

The collapse caused 26 tons of concrete ceiling panels to crash down on her car as the 39-year-old mother of three and her husband drove through an Interstate 90 connector tunnel.

One of the major findings in the report was that the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority failed to implement a timely tunnel inspection program.


Attorney General Martha Coakley, US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan (right) and State Police Superintendent Mark Delaney announced terms of the Big Dig settlement yesterday. (MICHELE MCDONALD/GLOBE STAFF)

"Big Dig settlement will take quick hit: $100m is needed for immediate fixes"
By Andrea Estes, (Boston) Globe Staff, January 24, 2008

About $100 million of the landmark $458 million Big Dig settlement will be quickly drained to fix a long list of defects, many previously undisclosed, from cracked sidewalks and crosswalks to failing fireproofing, faulty wiring, and deteriorated joints between sections of roadways.

Although state and federal law enforcement officials announced yesterday that the money would primarily be used for "future nonroutine" repairs and maintenance, the state's secretary of transportation, speaking shortly afterward, said a quarter of it would be needed immediately to fix an array of flaws that already mar the system.

"I would say there is $100 million worth of repair work and monitoring and inspection work that needs to be done over the next year," said Bernard Cohen.

"The agreement resolves a big uncertainty that has hovered over us for the last year and a half or more, that is, how are we going to repair the defects in the Central Artery/Tunnel project?" he said.

Cohen's comments make clear that a significant portion of the settlement - portrayed by other state and federal officials as, in large part, a penalty against Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff - will be plowed into existing problems that the state inherited when the consortium ended its involvement in the project last month.

Under the agreement announced yesterday, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, which oversaw the Big Dig design and construction, will pay the bulk of the settlement, $407 million. Two dozen other design firms will pay about $51 million among them.

The settlement amount represented restitution and punishment for Big Dig leaks, poor oversight of billings, improperly constructed slurry walls, and a 2006 ceiling collapse in the Interstate 90 tunnel that killed Milena Del Valle of Jamaica Plain, said authorities.

But Cohen and the Turnpike Authority can use the money, most of which will be placed in a special trust fund, to address immediate Big Dig problems not necessarily related to those issues, as long as the federal government approves.

"We were assured by Bechtel that the tunnels were ready, and when we signed documents that said the tunnels were ready, it was inferred the work was up to speed," said Mac Daniel, spokesman for the Turnpike Authority. "These were promises made by Bechtel when they signed the contract."

The agreement allows Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff to avoid criminal charges in the ceiling collapse. It also allows the consortium to participate in future federal and state government construction work.

"We have always said that we take responsibility for our work," John MacDonald, chairman of Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, said in a written statement. "We understand and acknowledge with this resolution that our performance did not meet our commitment to the public or our own expectations. Above all, we deeply regret the tragic death of Milena Del Valle in the I-90 tunnel.

"Protracted legal proceedings would have served no one well, and we believe that this resolution is in the interests of all concerned," MacDonald said.

State and federal officials who negotiated the settlement with Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff said the agreement was a fair result.

"Massachusetts Highway and the citizens of Massachusetts entrusted Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff to act as their eyes and ears on the Central Artery Project," US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan said at a press conference held yesterday in the office of state Attorney General Martha Coakley. "They grossly failed to meet their obligation and responsibilities to the citizens of Massachusetts and the United States."

According to Sullivan, the consortium's payment of $407 million represents close to three times its actual profits on the project over 20 years.

In addition to $415 million that will be placed in a trust fund, money will go to the federal government ($23.5 million), a state road and bridge repair fund ($17 million), the City of Boston ($1.8 million), the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority ($700,000), the MBTA ($142,000), and a whistleblower ($150,000).

Authorities can seek additional damages from Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff in the event of a major failure in the project that causes more than $50 million in damage.

Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff agreed in the settlement that it failed to adequately monitor the construction of the now-leaking I-93 tunnel, the installation of epoxy ceiling bolts in the I-90 tunnel, and the work of contractors who overbilled the government or provided substandard materials.

If the company publicly contradicts the facts that were contained in the settlement, it is subject to a $1 million fine.

Coakley said she had "sufficient evidence to indict" Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, but chose to seek a financial settlement because the maximum penalty a corporation faces for manslaughter in Massachusetts is a $1,000 fine.

"The amount of money that has been paid and will be paid over the next several days and months as a means of punishment and restitution to the Commonwealth for the flaws in the system far outweigh what we could have accomplished certainly in a criminal indictment and perhaps even in a complicated and endless appeals in a civil matter."

Under the agreement, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff will be required to conduct its own investigation and report in 180 days on any defects that could lead to another catastrophe like the I-90 tunnel ceiling collapse.

According to Sullivan, only a small fraction of the settlement, about $30 million, will be paid through insurance.

The settlement amount is significantly larger than any amount state and federal authorities had been previously been able to negotiate from Big Dig firms.

Coakley's predecessor, Thomas F. Reilly, had all but finalized a deal to settle for $86 million, but Sullivan rejected the deal.

The agreement does not directly affect a lawsuit against Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff and other companies filed by the family of Del Valle, who was killed when a section of the ceiling fell on July 10, 2006.

But lawyers for the family said they hope that Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff will now step forward and settle the civil claims.

"We're glad Bechtel could have been prosecuted," said Jeffrey Denner of Denner Pellegrino, a Boston law firm, who represents Del Valle's husband, Angel. "We're glad they paid $400 million not to be prosecuted. Now it's important for Bechtel and their umbrella companies to stand up and once and for all take responsibility for the real tragedy of the Big Dig, which is the death of Milena Del Valle."

So far, only Powers Fasteners Inc. of Brewster, N.Y. has settled with the family, agreeing in December to pay $6 million. Powers, which provided the epoxy blamed for the collapse, is the only company facing criminal charges.

Coakley said the settlement brings closure to much of the legal wrangling, but said she doesn't know whether taxpayers got their money's worth on the $15 billion project.

"If you look at the Big Dig today - whether you look at the Zakim Bridge at dusk or in early morning, when you realize there is increased efficiency for traffic in and out of Boston and particularly when you look at the beautification of the Greenway that used to be covered by rusting overpasses that are now gone - we can well ask whether this was a good bargain . . . whether we got what we paid for," she said.

"I do not have that answer for you today, and we may never get it."

Sean P. Murphy of the Globe staff contributed to this report.


"Shoddy work, big settlement"
January 24, 2008

STATE AND federal attorneys have reached a deal to settle a lawsuit against contractors involved in the Big Dig. And at first glance, it might seem as though the defendants got off easy. The agreement is accompanied by a statement of fact that makes a damning case against Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, the consortium that oversaw the project - so damning that the $458 million payment specified in the agreement may look inadequate. But a trial would have been fraught with uncertainty and delay. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and US Attorney Michael Sullivan were right to resolve the issue and secure the money that will help to keep the Central Artery and Logan Airport connector tunnels safe.

In agreeing to the statement of fact, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff acknowledged letting the construction firm Modern Continental get away with defective work in both tunnels. Negligence in the tunnel connecting the airport to the Massachusetts Turnpike took the life of Jamaica Plain resident Milena Del Valle in 2006. Her survivors have a lawsuit pending. The statement of fact bolsters the family's case. Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff would be wise to make a generous settlement there, too.

From its inception in the 1980s, the Central Artery project was beset by delays, engineering difficulties, and cost overruns. But its troubled history does not excuse the negligent work by the consortium as the project was being built. The companies were hired to make sure that contractors did their work with uniform care, and they failed.

The Central Artery tunnel is beset by leaks and will require examination and repairs into the indefinite future. Coakley and Sullivan have wisely segregated $414.9 million into a special fund, to be administered by the state treasurer, the attorney general, and the federal highway administrator. The state can draw on it for special repairs, but the money will not be diverted to ordinary state expenses, as often happens to funds in reserve accounts. Coakley said in a telephone interview that she wanted to make sure there'll be no disaster in the tunnel on the scale of the bridge collapse in Minneapolis, and this fund is just what is needed to keep the tunnels safe.

Just in case, however, another part of the agreement provides a 10-year warranty on the project. In the case of a catastrophic event (one causing more than $50 million in damage), the consortium agrees to waive the statue of limitations and the issue would be settled by arbitration. That shouldn't happen, given careful maintenance, but its inclusion in the settlement shows the lack of trust caused by shoddy work on what should have been the consortium's signature project.


"If you look at the Big Dig today . . . we can well ask whether this was a good bargain . . . whether we got what we paid for. I do not have that answer for you today, and we may never get it."

Attorney General MARTHA COAKLEY, after announcing a $450 million settlement with Big Dig contractors

The Boston Globe's "Quotes of Note", January 26, 2008


"Drops in Big Dig bucket"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Sunday, January 27, 2008

The settlement reached by state and federal authorities with the contractors of Boston's Big Dig provides about as much closure as can be expected from a travesty roughly two decades in the making. It will long stand as a cautionary tale of the disaster that results when contractors and the government officials charged with overseeing them all fail to do their jobs.

Under terms of the agreement, Bechtel/ Parsons/Brinckerhoff, the construction giant that oversaw the design and building of the $15 billion project, will pay roughly $400 million to the state, with 24 smaller companies contributing another $50 million among them. Given the stunning litany of blunders that comprised this project, which continues to leak like the proverbial sieve, Bechtel came away with its wallet largely intact, but a trial could have lasted for years and the state needs this money now. Bechtel and the others still face civil lawsuits from the family of Milena Del Valle, who was killed in a tunnel collapse in 2006, and the admission of poor performance made by Bechtel, and the statement of Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley that she had sufficient evidence to indict Bechtel, should help the family's case.

A relatively quick settlement was needed because, as state Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen pointed out Wednesday, about $100 million is needed this minute to pay for Big Dig defects, among them deteriorating joints, faulty wiring and cracked sidewalks. As the National Transportation Safety Board found last summer, the Big Dig, or Central Artery Project, was riddled with badly built walls and ceilings which went undetected because of poor oversight. Realistically, repair work may be ongoing as long as the artery exists.

The Big Dig is the largest construction project in U.S. history, and it does not speak well for American workmanship. The men who built the Hoosac Tunnel with tools and design equipment primitive by today's standards would be ashamed by the performance of their successors in the building trade. The NTSB found that the ceiling collapsed in one tunnel because the wrong kind of epoxy was used to hold up concrete ceilings weighing tons. To compound the original failure, the companies that installed the ceilings failed to react even when bolts started falling out.

The Big Dig claimed the political careers of two Massachusetts Turnpike Authority chairmen, James Kerasiotes and Matthew Amorello, who did a poor job of monitoring the poor job Bechtel did of monitoring its subcontractors. The reaction of the MTA leadership and of Bechtel to its critics was to attack the critics, when they would have been wiser to address the failings that were obvious to all.

The one part of the settlement that gives us pause is the agreement that the state can seek additional damages in the event of a future major failure in the project, with major defined as an incident causing more than $50 million worth of damage. It is easy to imagine any number of leaks, collapses and cracks causing $10 or $20 million in damage that the taxpayers will have to pay for in the decades ahead.

Ms. Coakley, who led the settlement negotiations with U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan, wondered Wednesday if the question of whether the taxpayers got their money's worth from the Big Dig will ever be answered. From the perspective of Berkshire residents, who received none of the benefits of the project and saw funding for needed highway and bridge projects lost in the gaping maw of the Big Dig, that question can be answered today. No.



Spare us the pious indignation!

It's odd that The [Berkshire] Eagle should now be complaining so loudly about the Big Dig when every single Democrat in federal office to whom the paper has invariably thrown its editorial support come Election Day these past three decades has publicly boosted the Big Boondoggle from Day 1 of its conception.

That sickening list of political hacks includes the regular cast of characters including US Senators Kennedy and Kerry, former US House Speaker Tip O'Neill, and every single Democrat in the State's Congressional delegation.

Isn't the old saying, "You reap what you sow"?



The Boston Globe, Letters to the Editor -
"Unburden the Mass. Pike motorists"
January 27, 2008

YOUR EDITORIAL "An overburdened turnpike" (Jan. 20) ...( leaves nothing for the overburdened motorist.

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority has outlived any credible usefulness to the Commonwealth. A better plan for both the motorists and the state would be to sell the 11 service area plazas and pay off the western turnpike bonds. The plaza properties are encumbered with lucrative rental revenue streams all guaranteed by Fortune 100 companies. No matter the economic uncertainty, the properties would bring in excess of $300 million, leaving the turnpike a balance of $100 million to stabilize the bonds. Thereafter the turnpike can fulfill its promise to take down the tolls and return $130 million to the motorists traveling the western Pike.

The federal government would thereafter provide funds to maintain the road and bridges. That done, stop the attorney general from settling claims against Big Dig contractors for anything less than $1 billion, the cost to solve the systemic leak issues in the tunnels. There are adequate toll and nontoll revenues to make the bond payments.

There is no need to foster a dinosaur authority while water continues to degrade the steel and concrete and renders the electrical systems useless. Get a new editorial writer on this issue while you're at it. And forget the gas tax.

West Yarmouth, Massachusetts


A Boston GLOBE EDITORIAL, "Short Fuse", January 28, 2008

"Big Dig money: Spend it on the artery"

What a temptation it must be - a $414.9 million windfall. This money comes as part of a settlement of federal and state claims of faulty oversight of work on the Central Artery and Massachusetts Turnpike connector tunnels, and is intended to help keep the Central Artery in good repair. But it's troubling that Bernard Cohen, the state secretary of transportation, is thinking of using some of this money to finish sidewalks and crosswalks above the underground artery. Keeping the tunnels safe and drivable is the essential maintenance task at the completed project - and will be a challenge for decades to come. Cohen can't decide single-handedly how the money will be spent; the federal highway administrator also has a say. He ought to make sure it is used on the tunnel system, not for amenities on the surface.


"AP review shows motorists paying for things well off the Pike"
By Ken Maguire, Associated Press Writer, February 1, 2008

BOSTON—There's no Winthrop exit off the Massachusetts Turnpike, but toll payers have still been forced to underwrite that town's plans to create a harbor walk and tourism Web site, even as tolls rise and bridge repairs get delayed for lack of funds.

more stories like thisTurnpike motorists have also paid for everything from maps of historical places in Dorchester to arts festivals in Northampton, according to an Associated Press review of grant applications and awards for legislatively mandated tourism grants.

The turnpike authority, which is struggling to balance its budget even after a toll increase last month, wants to eliminate the $750,000 grant program, and executive director Alan LeBovidge said he plans to ask for legislative approval to do so.

"We need to do bridge inspections, repairs. We have a list of things that need to get done," LeBovidge said.

"Given the financial position of the turnpike, we could use that money for operations and construction," he said.

In the turnpike's budget, approved last month, dozens of projects were delayed. Among them: road resurfacing out west, various bridge deck repairs and a $1.1 million noise barrier in Newton.

The tourism grants were created more than a decade ago, before lawmakers handed control of the over-budget Big Dig to the turnpike authority.

The law states that for the section of turnpike west of Route 128, the authority must spend $500,000 in grants "for the benefit of cities and towns located within the turnpike corridor." For the section east of Route 128, the authority must spend $250,000 for the benefit of the communities through which it runs "and the municipalities contiguous to such cities and towns."

The AP reviewed grant applications and awards for 2005 and 2006, the most recent year grants were awarded.

The town of Winthrop received $50,000 in 2005 and $15,000 more a year later, both for the design and planning of its harbor walk project, as well as creation of a tourism Web site and tourism "planning and coordination."

Town Manager Richard White did not return a call for comment on the status of those projects. The harborwalk is not complete, and a tourism Web site for Winthrop could not be located.

Town councilor Jeanne Maggio said she doesn't have information about the grants, but defended efforts to attract tourists to Winthrop, which is located on a peninsula near East Boston.

"It's a jewel by the sea that nobody's discovered yet," she said.

The Ted Williams tunnel, she said, will help bring people to Winthrop, as will the harbor walk and other coastal development projects in town.

"One way or another we're all attached," she said.

The top tourism grant recipients over the two years were the Worcester Center for Performing Arts, which received $150,000, and the Berkshire Visitors Bureau and the Greater Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau, which both received $145,000.

"We'd be disappointed if it went away," said Mary Kay Wydra, president of Greater Springfield bureau, which represents communities in the Pioneer Valley.

Wydra's organization used the grant money to pay for a tourism branding campaign, which included distribution of 30,000 coupon books to anyone who inquired about visiting. The books were also given out at turnpike toll booths.

"We try to focus on the Boston market so we can help increase traffic on the road," Wydra said. "The turnpike has been a great partner in helping us market the region."

Turnpike board member Mary Connaughton said the grants were "a poor use of tollpayer money."

"Tollpayer money should be used to maintain the roadway," she said. "It's time for the law to be repealed."

Rep. Joseph Wagner, House chairman of the Transportation Committee, agreed that it might be time to do away with the tourism grant mandate.

"Should we fund that program at the same time we're increasing tolls? Probably not," said Wagner, D-Chicopee. "They may not be consistent with the core mission of the authority."


"Pike chief to cut jobs to revive agency: Paints grim picture of finances, aging tunnels and roads"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, February 20, 2008

The new chief of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority offered a bleak assessment of his agency's culture and finances yesterday, saying he will cut back on the number of toll collectors and make other changes as he looks to balance the budget, restore competence, and minimize future toll increases.

Alan LeBovidge, hired as executive director in November, said the authority is like a country cowed by a mix of "dictatorship and an absolute monarchy," where employees are afraid to do anything that will get them noticed and depend on consultants to avoid taking responsibility.

It will take 12 to 18 months to get the agency running efficiently, but, even then, some deeper financial problems would not be solved, he said.

"Unfortunately, when I took this job, I had a sense that there was a simple solution," LeBovidge said.

The Turnpike Authority, like other transportation agencies in the state, has been swimming against a multibillion-dollar tide of debt as its workers attempt to recover from management and financial stumbles, mostly associated with the Big Dig. LeBovidge delivered yesterday's remarks to Turnpike Authority board members as part of his 60-day assessment of the agency at the request of Bernard Cohen, state transportation secretary and chairman of the authority's board.

The meeting demonstrated that problems will hit LeBovidge on many fronts. One group of consultants explained to board members why the authority's investment strategies were causing higher debt loads than expected. Another group said the authority's bridges and tunnels need more repairs than the agency can afford.

LeBovidge is not finished making changes, and one strategy is clear: cut payroll. He has let go a lobbyist, a community relations specialist, and a landscape architect. He said he will convert at least four tollbooths from manual collections to Fast Lane, something board members have been urging. The authority has been discounting tolls and reducing the price of transponders to draw more users to the Fast Lane program.

"We have 204 lanes; 100 of them are manual," LeBovidge said. "We're looking at what's the right balance. . . . How far we go will depend on a gradual analysis of each lane."

After the authority spends about $250,000 to convert the booths, it will save $500,000 a year on those four lanes, LeBovidge said. He could not say how many employees would lose their jobs.

He acknowledged that further job cuts would meet with resistance from unions. Representatives from Teamsters Union Local 127, which represents toll collectors, were not available for comment yesterday, according to a secretary.

LeBovidge has been appointing new managers to lead each department and has asked them to find further cost cuts and to reduce their dependence on consultants, he said.

He will need help from the Legislature for some of his plans, including a bill to pass on maintenance costs of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway to the greenway's conservancy and an effort to halt an annual $750,000 contribution to a state-mandated fund to boost tourism.

He will also need help from the financial sector. The authority is trying to refinance debt worth $127 million. In 2001, the agency took advantage of low interest rates by entering into complex financial agreements known as swaptions with Swiss financial giant UBS AG. The agreement has been costing the authority $300,000 a month since January, up from an earlier estimate of $200,000.

"That is a very significant, significant item," he said. "If we can't solve that, we can't solve anything."

Even as financial issues mount, the authority must find a way to keep roads drivable and safe. That issue came into focus when Gary Klein, an engineering consultant hired to review all the roads, tunnels, and bridges under the authority's purview, said the Sumner Tunnel, which opened in 1934, and the Callahan Tunnel, which opened in 1961, are deteriorating because of their age. And there are some areas in the Ted Williams Tunnel ceiling that engineers cannot gain access to because there is no crawl space.

Workers have spent months removing concrete from the Sumner and Callahan ceilings and others along the turnpike, so chunks will not fall on drivers. The Sumner had to be closed at night for three weeks in the fall so workers could remove larger pieces of the old ceiling.

Klein said that the conditions in the Sumner Tunnel do not pose an immediate risk, but that major work will be required eventually.

"This is a 70-year-old ceiling, and it's probably reached its service life," said Klein, of Wiss, Janney, Elstner and Associates.

Klein has not completed his review. He said turnpike crews are doing a good job fixing emergency items quickly and are about halfway through a list of less urgent repairs. The authority delayed a five-year list of $250 million in needed longer-term repairs late last year because the board lacked the money to pay for them.

Noah Bierman can be reached at

"Safety check on Big Dig hindered by tunnel design"
The Associated Press, Wednesday, February 20, 2008

BOSTON (AP) — The promised "stem to stern" safety review of the Big Dig is being hindered by the design of the Ted Williams Tunnel, which makes access to thousands of bolts impossible.

The Boston Herald reports inspectors can't test the strength of about 4,000 epoxy bolts supporting the tunnel's ceiling because there is no crawl space.

The review was promised by former Gov. Mitt Romney following a ceiling collapse in a connector tunnel in July 2006 that killed a Boston woman.

Gary Klein of Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, which is leading the review, says the bolts do not appear to pose a safety threat because of redundancies built in to the ceiling's design.

Big Dig officials say lighter ceiling panels and the proper epoxy were used in the Ted Williams Tunnel, compared to the tunnel where the collapse occurred.


"Evaluating the turnpike"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Monday, February 25, 2008

The new chief of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority has already shown a refreshingly candid nature. The problems of the authority may defy easily resolution, but if the first step on the road to recovery is an acknowledgment that there are problems, progress has already been made.

Alan LeBovidge, executive director of the authority for nearly three months, drew a parallel in The Boston Globe between the agency and a country that is a combination of "dictatorship and an absolute monarchy." Risk-averse employees rely too heavily on consultants, said the new director, which increases costs while postponing tough decisions. With admirable honesty, Mr. LeBovidge acknowledges that when he took the job he thought there were simple solutions to the authority's problems, a view he no longer holds.

The Turnpike Authority is billions of dollars in debt, largely because of Boston's Big Dig, and while private contractors are primarily to blame for overruns and ceiling collapses in that well-documented fiasco, oversight by the Authority was sadly deficient. There are limits to what the new executive director can do to reduce this mountain of debt, but he is taking on the tough job of reducing payroll that his predecessors had largely postponed.

Mr. LeBovidge has laid off a lobbyist, community relations specialist and a landscape architect, but while helpful, those acts were relatively simple. Toll collectors boast excellent salaries and benefits as compared to much of the private sector, and while no one wants to send workers to the unemployment lines, taxpayers cannot afford that kind of largesse. Mr. LeBovidge plans to convert some toll booths from manual collections to Fast Lanes in the year ahead, and the authority has trimmed the price of transponders to encourage more drivers to sign up for the Fast Lane program. The authority should also make the Fast Lane sign-up procedure on its Web site less intimidating so applicants won't get the impression that the bureaucracy is doing them a big favor by allowing them to sign up.

Its financial difficulties aside, the turnpike is a well-maintained road and certainly a boon to the Berkshires. Roads and bridges elsewhere in the state are in far worse shape. This is the major reason why the day must come when one state highway department pools all highway revenue for the benefit of all.

Reader's Comment:

Ed Dartford, Easthampton, MA, 2/25/2008

"the turnpike is a well-maintained road ". Compared with what?? Eagle editors badly need to take a road trip on the interstate system.

When former Connecticut Governor O'Neill died recently it again brought to mind the matter of highway tolls. Cited as a significant achievement was his elimination of tolls on Interstate 95 in Connecticut. Today, two decades later, there are still no tolls on any road in Connecticut. NONE.

So, why does Massachusetts need to impose tolls? It's said that the tolls are essential to fund road construction and maintenance. Rubbish! I have noted the magnificent highways in Colorado, Arizona, and Utah which are toll-free. Most Massachusetts residents can't travel to the southwest states to experience their roads, but we can observe the less spectacular roads of Connecticut. Are Connecticut roads in any way inferior to those in Massachusetts?

Direct payment of tolls is a very minor part of the total tax burden of the average citizen, but hidden cost is passed along by everyone doing business in Massachusetts. Tolls produce clearly identified revenue (a quick buck) while the adverse impact is slow to develop and hard to measure. The economic impact of tolls is similar to that of tariffs, the elimination of which is generally credited for global prosperity. Most significant, however, is that tolls are highly visible symbols of the commerce-hostile character of the state. Symbols matter. Why can’t our politicians (and the EAGLE) understand this? Toll elimination, if done with appropriate fanfare, would set the tone for an economic renaissance.

We tried a lottery. Now its toll increases and casinos. What's next? Taxed prostitution?


GMHeller, Mc Lean, VA, 2/25/2008

Alan LeBovidge, executive director of the Mass Turnpike Authority, might want to provide an example of cost-savings by taking a voluntary pay cut of 50%.


"Turnpike floats idea of total access transportation pass"

BOSTON (AP) - Massachusetts Turnpike Authority officials are floating the idea of a "one-size-fits-all" device that could pay for everything from MBTA rides to highway tolls and parking at government facilities.

The turnpike's executive director, Alan LeBovidge, says the agency is accepting bids from firms to create those links through through changes to its toll collection system.

LeBovidege tells the Boston Herald he'd like to see one device take care of all of a person's transportation needs.

The Turnpike currently offers Fast Lane transponders for tolls, while the MBTA has the CharlieCard.

Transit and turnpike officials have met to discuss ways to link the systems, but the availability of technology is unknown.

LeBovidge says the turnpike also wants to create pre-paid toll passes similar to a phone card.


A Boston Globe Editorial: "Short Fuse"
February 29, 2008

"Crime: Packing pistols on the Pike"

Like a good sheriff, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority's new director, Alan LeBovidge, got right to work disarming the heavies - in this case 16 Pike couriers and toll takers who packed .38-caliber handguns when transporting cash. With minimal training, the heat-packing employees posed a risk to public safety. The guns had to go. But Pike union leaders are still up in arms, and are calling for LeBovidge's removal. A more likely scenario would be a reduction in toll takers if Pike officials can improve electronic toll-taking. LeBovidge, known as a strong fiscal manager, sent a powerful message about how he will handle the Pike. Then again, in a state facing a transportation funding gap of $19 billion over two decades, collecting guns from toll takers is the easy part.


"Turnpike gets a guarantee on deck plan: Developers promise Columbus Center work will be done"
By Thomas C. Palmer Jr., Boston Globe Staff, March 1, 2008

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority board has secured a $270 million guarantee from the developers of the Columbus Center project that they will see the expensive four-block deck over the highway to completion.

The guarantee clears another hurdle for the project, which has been 11 years in planning and development, encountered monumental opposition, and finally went into construction only late last year.

Columbus Center is a 1.45-million-square-foot, six-building complex that will include a hotel, condos, and retail establishments, as well as public parks and open space. It will extend from Clarendon to Tremont streets over what are now exposed traffic lanes.

The project has ballooned to $800 million, and a tentative financing agreement for a construction loan for the project did not materialize. Construction loans have become more difficult to obtain in the last year, and the guarantee ensures that - even if the full project is not completed - the authority will have a finished deck over the highway that could be developed in the future.

In addition to the guarantee, the Turnpike Authority amended its air-rights lease with the developers, WinnDevelopment and MacFarlane Urban Realty Co., to clarify the ownership and purpose of the deck on which the mixed-use project is being built on the edge of the Back Bay.

That clarification - stating the deck will be owned by the Turnpike, leased to the developers, and created in part to benefit the public - was necessary for the developers to use $10 million in jobs-creation grants from the state.

The money could not be used unless it had a public purpose.

The new agreement still has a few steps to go before it is final, including being signed by the governor.

WinnDevelopment's chief executive, Samuel Ross, said Winn and its partner MacFarlane, a San Francisco real estate adviser that represents the California Public Employees' Retirement System, would try over the next two months to secure the initial $10 million job grant and a separate loan from MassHousing for $15 million.

The grants are from the Massachusetts Opportunity Relocation and Expansion Jobs Capital, or MORE, program and are given to communities to help develop infrastructure and create jobs that benefit the public.

Mac Daniel, a Turnpike spokesman, confirmed the board approval of the lease amendment, saying the guarantee for deck completion "was very substantial for the Turnpike."

The Columbus Center project has drawn extensive criticism in its long development life, over the height of some of the buildings and the effects it would have on surrounding neighborhoods.

Recently, critics have faulted the administration of Governor Deval Patrick for providing the developer with public money to build what will be a privately owned project.

One of the most prominent critics is House Speaker Sal DiMasi, who had not yet seen the agreement, according to a spokesman.

"I can say that the speaker continues to have concerns about public subsidy for these kinds of luxury condo complexes, and that public financing for a project like this should not exist," said DiMasi spokesman David Guarino.

Guarino said DiMasi believes the MORE job grants that the Legislature authorized "were supposed to go for far different use. That continues to be his serious concern."

Ross, of WinnDevelopment, said the lease amendment resolves "any concerns anyone had about the appropriateness of MORE grants for the Columbus Center deck."

He called the commitment of the developers to guarantee the deck "quite extraordinary."

The agreement includes the expected cost of the concrete deck, $220 million, plus a $50 million contingency if costs rise.

Ross said the developers plan to obtain additional financing to construct the buildings planned for the deck, expected to be completed in about a year.
Thomas C. Palmer Jr. can be reached at

"Big Dig firm, manager charged with conspiracy: McCourt Co. to plead guilty to overbilling"
By Jonathan Saltzman, Boston Globe Staff, March 1, 2008

Federal prosecutors charged a major Big Dig contractor and one of its managers yesterday with scheming to overcharge the government more than $300,000 for work done on the Interstate 93 tunnel.

Shortly afterward, prosecutors and a spokesman for the Boston-based contractor, McCourt Construction Co., said the sides had reached an agreement for the company to plead guilty to conspiracy to defraud the government. Under the terms of the agreement filed in federal court, the company would pay a maximum fine of $628,989, twice the amount McCourt allegedly overcharged.

A criminal complaint filed by US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan alleged that McCourt Construction Co. overbilled the Central Artery/Tunnel Project from 2002 through 2005 by falsely reporting that apprentice ironworkers and other trades workers were higher-paid journeymen.

As a result, McCourt was paid $314,494 more than it should have received, the complaint said.

A separate complaint charged Ryan McCourt of Quincy, who supervised the company's billing, with participating in the scheme.

Although McCourt Construction billed the government for work done by apprentices at journeymen rates, it paid the apprentices their proper rates, the complaint said. The conspiracy involved more than 1,500 instances of overbilling, prosecutors said.

Diana Pisciotta, a spokeswoman for McCourt Construction, said in a statement that bills on the project, for which the company received $245 million, "did not always accurately reflect the type of worker that was performing a particular job on the project."

"This isolated incident, which was solely related to billing practices and had no impact on safety or quality of work performed, is not consistent with McCourt Construction's overall commitment to integrity and a longstanding history of impeccable business practices," said Pisciotta, who added that the company had cooperated with federal and state investigators.

Pisciotta and a spokeswoman for Sullivan said Ryan McCourt has also reached an agreement with federal prosecutors to plead guilty to conspiracy to submit false statements on the cost of a highway project, but the deal was not available on the federal court's website late yesterday.

The charge against Ryan McCourt carries a maximum prison sentence of five years and a $250,000 fine, according to prosecutors.

A hearing on the plea agreements has not been scheduled.

Mac Daniel, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, said the agency applauds the investigation into overcharging on the Big Dig and has cooperated with federal prosecutors.

Three employees of Mass. Electric Construction Co., a McCourt Construction subcontractor, were previously convicted in federal court of submitting false claims in connection with billing apprentice labor at journeymen rates on the $15 billion Big Dig project.

US Chief District Judge Mark L. Wolf sentenced one of the employees to 15 months in federal prison in December for his role in the scheme to defraud the government of more than $80,000. Two other employees were each sentenced to probation in exchange for their cooperation.

At the sentencing, Wolf accused Sullivan's office of not serving as a more aggressive watchdog on the project.
Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at

"Not over: Lots of items still to be finished on Big Dig"
The Berkshire Eagle Online, Monday, March 03, 2008

BOSTON (AP) — While Dec. 31, 2007 marked the official end of the Big Dig, contractors still have a lengthy to-do list for the massive highway project.
According to The Boston Globe, unfinished business includes everything from missing pedestrian handrails and misplaced signs to more serious issues like plugging tunnel leaks.

Officials say most of the 2,000 or so leftover items can be completed without further disruption to commuters, but some could require road closures and detours.

Project managers have said that it could take up to 18 months to dot all the I's and cross all the T's. But Massachusetts Turnpike Authority executive director Alan LeBovidge says it will be difficult to ever use the word "complete" to describe the Big Dig.

He says maintenance and repairs on the project will be an ongoing concern.


Tiles have been removed on the northbound section of the Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. Tunnel in Boston as part of ongoing leak repairs. The Big Dig still has about 2,000 maintenance items to take care of, so workers will be making repairs for at least the next 18 months. (David L. Ryan/Globe Staff) 3/3/2008
"Big Dig still runs a long to-do list: 2,000 final touches left for contractors; No official date set for the completion"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, March 3, 2008

Two months after turnpike managers parted with the Big Dig's chief engineer, shuttered the project's offices, and let its lead contract expire, workers are contending with a 2,000-item to-do list, an indication that the Big Dig remains a long way from finality.

Anyone who has ever hired workers to install a kitchen or repair a roof knows the endgame can be the most annoying chapter, the time to wonder when the contractor will show up and finish the job, and whether domestic peace will ever be restored.

In the case of the Big Dig, an entire state is struggling with the whims of dozens of contractors over the manhole covers that need replacing, the misplaced signs, the missing pedestrian handrails on the sidewalk. At the same time, more serious safety issues such as repairs of ceiling leaks are also delaying the project's completion.

But the many little things left undone easily could be overlooked now that managers at the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority have declared the Big Dig all but finished.

Today, the Big Dig has the long "punch list" - contractor-speak for the cleanup jobs, finishing touches, and repairs that remain after the main job is done.

"It's a $14 billion project. It's not a $200,000 house," said Alan LeBovidge, executive director of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which runs the Big Dig. "It's a massive project. This is our Hoover Dam."

Hundreds of the items are hard to notice: a half-dead cherry tree in a median, long slated for replacement, or the wrong material used for identification tags on circuitry. But in some cases, the leftover work requires crews to close off streets and tunnels and create detours. These jobs have delayed the arrival of the smooth drive that motorists were hoping for after years of Big Dig construction.

"All those small things add up," said Senator Steven A. Baddour , a Methuen Democrat who cochairs the Joint Committee on Transportation.

Every week, the Globe publishes a list of streets that are closed for construction around the Big Dig tunnels, usually from 11:30 p.m. until 5 a.m. It has been the same for months at a time: Interstate 92 south Exit 23 to Purchase Street; the Essex Street onramps; two of three lanes of I-93 north through downtown and Charlestown; and so on.

Helmut Ernst, the chief turnpike engineer, said some of the closures are related to unfinished punch list items, some were related to maintenance, repairs, and inspections, but he declined to give specifics on each job.

Big Dig managers warned in November that the last 1 percent of the project would take a while to finish. Ernst said last week that most of the punch list work would be done in 18 months, but he did not promise finality.

" 'Complete' is a very difficult term in this environment," he said.

LeBovidge was equally cautious, saying he did not want to be lumped with the "thousands that have always been wrong" if he made another prediction related to the Big Dig.

"We don't have a fixed date," LeBovidge said. "We're doing it as fast as we can get it done. . . . The Big Dig is functional. Everybody is using it."

But he warned that even when the remaining work is finished, maintenance on the project will be an ongoing concern. LeBovidge pointed out that the Ted Williams Tunnel is more than a decade old and needs repairs.

"Some of [the tunnel's] big fans need substantial replacement already," he said, adding that work on major public projects never ends.

"I bet if you went to the Grand Coulee Dam, you'd find guys working on stuff that was built in the 1930s," he said.

The Big Dig's punch list fills a 3-inch binder and includes jobs that were scheduled to be completed as far back as 2001. LeBovidge and Ernst were unable to estimate the cost to complete them. An unsigned Turnpike Authority memo distributed at a November meeting said that the project had $160 million in "construction value" to complete, including projects and claims against the authority from contractors.

As long as shovels are in the ground, critics will continue to question whether the project will ever end.

"This project has been so disastrous," said Senator Mark C. Montigny, a New Bedford Democrat and longtime Big Dig critic. "People should assume that the final outcome will be very disappointing at best, and that means it will go on longer than anybody expects it. The budget will be bloated."

Montigny has little faith in contractors sticking around to finish.

"Why would anybody assume that they are not running for the hills as quickly as they can?" he said.

LeBovidge and Ernst say the work in the punch list has been accounted for in the project's overall budget, currently $14.8 billion. But there are risks that the Big Dig will tip past that mark. Contractors are suing over an additional $145 million they say they are owed on issues that turnpike managers are disputing.

When it comes to dealing with contractors, LeBovidge said he has more leverage than a homeowner would on a renovation project. Big Dig employees can go back and do the work if necessary and then bill the contractor, LeBovidge said.

He mentioned one prominent contractor, Modern Continental, as an example of a firm that has had financial trouble and may not be able to fulfill all the work the authority was expecting. Ernst said some contractors may not be paid if they do not complete the jobs, though he said some of the work in question will be the subject of bargaining.

The key to getting remaining work done may be a sense of urgency. Now that the Big Dig is being run by the Turnpike Authority, many of the old managers are gone.

The monthly progress reports Big Dig construction managers once put on the Internet for the sake of transparency have not been posted since August. Turnpike Authority spokesman Mac Daniel said staff is working on putting a January update online soon. He could not say when.
Andrea Estes of the Globe staff contributed to this article. Bierman can be reached at

"Company's deals raise conflict questions: Swiss firm has contracts with state, turnpike"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, March 20, 2008

The company that has the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority on the hook for as much as $2 million a month in interest from an old investment is under contract to advise the state on how to shore up its struggling transportation system.

Some are questioning the arrangement as a possible conflict of interest, but state officials say that the contracts are unrelated and that the new deal will not be affected by the original pact.

A spokesman for UBS AG, the Swiss financial giant that has the dual role, would not discuss the specifics of the contracts yesterday.

UBS made a set of three complex deals with the Turnpike Authority in 2001 that are haunting the state agency. In part because of the nation's credit crisis, the authority is making extra interest payments to UBS that are now about $336,000 a month and could grow to as much as $2 million per month in January if markets fail to stabilize or the state does not refinance its debt.

In October, UBS beat out nine firms competing to advise Governor Deval Patrick's administration as it considers plans to restructure transportation debt and merge transportation agencies, said Jay Gonzalez, undersecretary for administration and finance, who helped pick UBS.

"UBS was the best proposal," Gonzalez said. "They gave us the most thoughtful proposal."

He said that the company's bid, $100,000, was also the least expensive and that most of the firms that bid do business in some way with state government.

Still, some are uncomfortable with UBS's dual role. Mary Z. Connaughton, a Turnpike Authority board member, made a proposal late last year to keep UBS and another firm out of the agency's other business because of UBS's financial relationship with the authority. She said the company's role as a state adviser on transportation issues poses a conflict.

"They have an interest in what happens," Connaughton said. "It's hard to objectively view a situation if one has a financial interest at stake in the matter."

Michael J. Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, said, "Both parties should have been more careful before entering into this agreement.

"It would have been better to hire a consultant that did not have any direct business interest with the state," Widmer said. "The perception, even if unfair, will be that the recommendations are self-interested."

Under the advising contract, UBS, one of the nation's largest bond underwriters for local governments, will help the state design its borrowing strategy. Gonzalez said the firm's deal to advise the governor clearly states that it will not gain an advantage in winning future underwriting contracts. But the deal does not bar UBS from bidding on them.

A UBS spokesman, Doug Morris, would not answer detailed questions. He said the individuals who made so-called swaptions with the Turnpike Authority in 2001 are no longer with the company.

In a statement responding to questions about the latest deal, Morris said, "Our primary objective is to ensure that the solutions we provide best meet our clients' needs."

Gonzalez said the UBS role is not a conflict because the 2001 deals were already in place and, no matter what the Turnpike Authority does, it will not affect the value of the swaptions to UBS.

In 2001, the authority received $29.1 million in payments from UBS, which gained the right to trade periodic debt payments with the authority. UBS began exercising that right on the first of the three deals last year, with the first payments due in January. Now the authority has to pay current interest, plus additional rates that grow even as the Federal Reserve lowers interest rates. Based on Monday's interest rates, the monthly payments are $336,000, which could increase to an estimated $857,000 in July and to more than $2 million in January.

"To the extent the decision was made to enter into this, UBS didn't make that decision," Gonzalez said. "The Turnpike Authority did."

Gonzalez and others in state government now question its wisdom. "The Turnpike Authority made its bed; whether that was a good decision is a whole separate topic of conversation," he said.


"Turnpike managers scramble for plan B: Authority a victim of recent turmoil in finance markets"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, March 19, 2008

The Big Dig's lingering financial hangover and the nation's credit crisis are conspiring against the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. The result: new monthly debt payments that could reach $2 million a month by January, absorbing a hefty chunk of the funds raised by a recent toll increase.

Initial attempts to stave off the new payments were thwarted late Friday when a bank rejected a plan to refinance $127 million in debt. That leaves the managers scrambling for a Plan B.

Like governments and nonprofit organizations around the country, the authority is the victim of turmoil in the lending markets. In this case, the seeds of the debt payments were sown through a series of complex deals meant to get quick cash to pay for the Big Dig.

The new financial hit came as Bernard Cohen, the state transportation secretary, tried to downplay earlier threats of new tolls on the Pike. But as the bad financial news mounts, the pressure grows. Under the newest worst-case scenario, the debt payments would wipe out most of the money generated by the toll increase that took effect in January.

"We thought last week we were getting ready to solve a problem," Cohen said at the Pike's monthly meeting yesterday. "Now we're finding out it's a greater concern."

The extent of the problem will depend on volatile financial markets and on the ability of Turnpike Authority managers to come up with another borrowing strategy, something the authority's financial advisers, Citigroup Inc., said is likely. For now, managers are weighing a series of options and hoping financial markets settle.

"The reality is, we don't know where we'll come out on this thing," said Alan LeBovidge, the authority's executive director.

At the same meeting, the authority's board discussed a preliminary report on how to create a fairer toll system, which could mean adding tolls in some areas that are currently free, including the Interstate 90 extension. Cohen said the board remains in a "research phase" on the toll issue, which will take four to six months as the Patrick administration looks for cost savings elsewhere.

Cohen has been cautious on the issue, trying to steer clear of controversy since an aide public discussed adding tolls to Interstate 93.

But the report from Cohen's staff suggested Turnpike Authority officials might look at reinstating some Western Turnpike tolls for cars, as well as a Newton toll that ended in 1996. The report also said that the state could add an optional toll lane on I-93 that would let solo drivers use the carpool lane if they pay a fee. That idea, often called a HOT lane, has been raised in the past and has gained support nationally as US Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters has encouraged states to try it.

Turnpike Authority board member Mary Connaughton said the latest financial news is increasing the likelihood of a toll increase.

She advocates reinstating tolls in Western Massachusetts.

She blamed past administrations for creating the current obligations.

"It was taking on risk," Connaughton said. "There were too many unknowns."

The bind began in 2001, when the managers entered into three complex financial deals known as swaptions. At the time, the authority received $29.1 million in payments from UBS AG, the Swiss financial giant. In exchange, UBS gained the right to trade periodic debt payments with the authority.

UBS began exercising that right on the first of the three deals last year, with the first payments due in January.

Now, the authority has to pay its current interest, plus additional rates that get higher, even as the Federal Reserve lowers interest rates for everyone else. The payment amounts change daily, depending on interest rates. But the cost to the Turnpike Authority has been steadily rising.

Based on Monday's interest rates, the monthly payments are currently $336,000, LeBovidge said. They would increase to an estimated $857,000 in July and to more than $2 million in January, assuming that UBS exercises its third contract and that the authority is unable to refinance.

"My worries, unfortunately, are becoming reality here, because the interest rates are coming down," LeBovidge said.

He said the authority is looking at a series of options to prevent the continued payments, including doing nothing in hope the financial markets will stabilize. He said that the authority has set aside the $14 million for the deals, but that the reserve account would not last long. "We're stuck with that" situation, he said. "We can't control it. It's bad for today."

Although some governments face similar problems, cities and towns in Massachusetts are legally forbidden to enter similar deals, said John Malpiede, the authority's financial adviser.

A UBS spokeswoman said the company declined to comment.

Noah Bierman can be reached at Ross Kerber of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

"Time to pay the piper"
March 23, 2008

THE INTEREST swaps arranged by the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority six or seven years ago are coming home to roost. These deals with the financial giant UBS should never have been made. They are a sign of the state's refusal since at least 1990 to face up to its transportation obligations.

In 2001, the Turnpike Authority initiated the first of these "swaptions" - a wager on low interest rates. UBS is now winning the bet. The Pike made the mistake of confusing itself with a hedge fund.

In 2001 the authority was under intense pressure. The Legislature had ordered it to pay much of the cost of the Central Artery, not knowing the price would balloon by another $4 billion. Motorists were enraged at the prospect of higher tolls. The swaptions limited the size of the toll increase.

Now UBS is advising the Patrick administration on a plan to reorganize state transportation agencies and refinance their debt. This doesn't seem right, but UBS says that the executives that arranged the swaptions have left the company.

The Patrick plan in its initial stages will apparently stress quicker completion of highway contracts, the elimination of duplicative offices at the Turnpike Authority and the Highway Department, and perhaps other changes, but they won't get to the essence of the problem: a shortage of money. A special state commission estimates Massachusetts has a backlog of up to $19 billion in transportation needs.

The Legislature last raised the gasoline tax in 1990, the final year of the Dukakis administration. Governor Weld could have pushed for an increase in 1993, when the controversy over the Charles River Crossing added $1 billion to the artery cost (gasoline was then at $1.07 a gallon). Governor Cellucci could have sought an increase in 2000, when the next big artery overrun became known ($1.51 a gallon). Acting Governor Swift could have proposed one in 2001 to assuage the turnpike tollpayers ($1.57). Governor Romney could have in 2006, when the collapse of part of a tunnel ceiling revealed deficiencies in the artery complex ($3.01). His four predecessors have left Governor Patrick an unpalatable choice, with gasoline above $3.20 a gallon.

Perhaps the Port Authority could offer help, but it should not be drained like the once healthy Turnpike Authority has been. MBTA subway fares have risen from 75 cents to $1.70 since 1990; riders can no longer be expected to pay more to fix that creaky system. And how many toll increases (the latest came in January) can Pike motorists be forced to endure? It's never easy to raise the gasoline tax, but there's never a good time for a bridge to collapse.


"Bechtel netted $5.3M from us after Dig ‘done’"

By Casey Ross, April 3, 2008,, Local Politics

Despite public outrage over its bungling of the Big Dig, Bechtel/ Parsons Brinckerhoff was allowed to soak taxpayers and tollpayers for another $5.3 million even after the massive project was finished - part of a $47 million Pike spending spree in 2007 on high-priced consultants and law firms, a Herald review found.

The payment to Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff drew immediate fury from lawmakers who said the cash spigot should have been shut off when work ended on the $14.8 billion boondoggle.

“You would think they’d be paying us right now after all their mismanagement,” said Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei (R-Wakefield). “I’m surprised we’re still paying them anything.”

Turnpike officials paid the money to Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff during a tumultuous final year of the project in which engineering consultants and law firms raked in huge sums before 17 years of construction finally ended.

High-priced Boston law firms made more than $12.3 million in the final year of the project, and several traffic and engineering consultants pulled down six- and seven-figure payouts from the cash-strapped Pike.

Keville Enterprises, a top Big Dig consultant, was paid $6.3 million for inspections and engineering work; HNTB Corp. raked in $1.7 million; and the auditing firm Deloitte & Touche got $660,000.

Among law firms, Kirkpatrick & Lockhart, which represented the Pike in the 2006 tunnel collapse, made $4.5 million and Choate Hall & Stewart received $2.3 million; Goulston & Storrs was paid $874,000.

Turnpike Executive Director Alan LeBovidge, who is trying to get reimbursement for part of the $5.3 million sent to Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, said his review of Pike finances found that the Pike’s high-priced help was making more decisions than its staff.

“If you have consultants just take care of things, they do what they want and you pay more than you need to,” LeBovidge said. “You need someone who will say, ‘The Taurus is fine, don’t build me the Rolls Royce.’ ”

A Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff spokesman said the firm had the money coming to it because of a contract that was signed in 1999.

“It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that in 2007 there was money spent for operations,” spokesman Andrew Paven said.

Lawmakers said the staggering costs for Pike consultants, a small fraction of consulting costs across state government, illustrates the need for greater transparency in the use of public money. The amount of non-Big Dig money spent on consultants - about $20 million - is more than 10 percent of the authority’s $190 million operating budget.

“The Pike has been a place for well-connected law firms and lobbying firms to get rich,” said state Sen. Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford). “There is an incestuous culture at the Pike where these firms have had a field day at the expense of taxpayers and tollpayers.”

LeBovidge said he is trying to change the culture by ensuring that more legal and labor relations work is done internally. “On the legal side, I want to . . . make sure the services are necessary and being done in a cost-effective manner,” he said.


State officials initially said Michael P. Lewis had retired.

"Big Dig official's firing led to windfall: Pension tripled under state law"
By Sean P. Murphy, (Boston) Globe Staff, April 5, 2008

Michael P. Lewis didn't retire from his longtime post as the head of the Big Dig project as the state previously said, but was actually fired last year by the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.

But for Lewis, the news wasn't bad.

The move allowed him to more than triple his state pension, from $23,000 to $72,578 a year, according to state records. Last month, Lewis, 46, received the first of the Massachusetts pension checks that he will receive until he dies. As with other turnpike retirees, the state will also pay 80 percent of his health insurance for life.

Lewis also landed on his feet with a new job. He began working last month in his new position as Rhode Island's transportation secretary, earning $130,000 a year.

Contacted yesterday through his office in Rhode Island, he declined to be interviewed, but continued to characterize his departure as a retirement.

The pension increase for Lewis was the result of a state law intended to protect state employees from politically motivated dismissals. Employees with more than 20 years of service are eligible for enhanced pensions if they can prove they were not fired because of poor performance or malfeasance. In his case, the reason was that his job was eliminated.

"These types of benefits are way too rich in a time of dire fiscal straits," said Mary Z. Connaughton, a Turnpike Authority board member, who learned of Lewis's enhanced pension from the Globe. "The average working person doesn't get benefits nearly as generous and yet is paying for these public employee benefits."

Employees dismissed in this fashion can be denied the increased pension if there is any evidence of collusion with a superior to make what is in fact a resignation appear to be a termination, according to state regulations. There is no indication of investigation in this case, and two state boards have already approved it.

Mary Jane O'Meara, who was the Turnpike Authority's acting director when Lewis left, told Lewis in an Oct. 22 letter that his position was being abolished and suggested he would be eligible for the enhanced pension due to his termination. O'Meara's letter offered no other position to Lewis and treated his departure as a foregone conclusion, saying he would be contacted for an "exit interview" and thanking him for "your many contributions." O'Meara, now a Massachusetts Port Authority manager, declined to comment.

The Turnpike Authority Retirement Board approved Lewis's enhanced pension on Dec. 19. The approval came about a month after Alan LeBovidge was appointed by Governor Deval Patrick to run the authority, but there is no indication in records that he was involved in the decision.

The enhanced pension was also approved by the Public Employees Retirement Administration Commission. Joseph E. Connarton, the executive director, said the commission accepts the assertions of agencies whenever they say a position has been cut.

Despite all this, when Lewis left his $185,000-a-year post last year, Turnpike Authority spokesman Mac Daniel said he had retired.

Lewis's salary made him a prime candidate for termination once the authority began shedding jobs with the completion of the Big Dig; the agency has recently eliminated 25 percent of its administrative jobs.

"Given the authority's financial situation and the fact that the Big Dig was complete, Mr. Lewis's job was no longer necessary," Daniel said this week.

Asked why Lewis wasn't offered another post, Daniel said, "We were eliminating positions at that time, and Michael Lewis was one of those eliminated."

Daniel took responsibility for telling reporters in November that Lewis had retired, rather than being terminated. "I was not privy to everything; I misspoke," he said yesterday.

Lewis's pension records were obtained by the Globe under the state's public records law.

Lewis had primary oversight responsibility for the Big Dig for the last seven years of the project, which was widely criticized for bloated costs, missed deadlines, and shoddy workmanship. Originally estimated to cost under $3 billion and to be complete in 1998, the Big Dig ended up costing $15 billion. Crews are still plugging leaks and working on a number of unfinished details.

On Lewis's watch, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff and other design and management firms paid the state only $35,000 in refunds through 2003. After a Globe story about the low amount of refunds, the Turnpike Authority appointed a retired probate court judge to take over the job of cost recovery. The state attorney general's office later took over from the judge and eventually won a $508 million settlement.

In addition, Lewis's repeated assurances that water leaking into the tunnels would end went largely unfulfilled, and last year a state report repudiated his assertion the problem was under control.

In 2006, after a section of tunnel ceiling collapsed and killed a Jamaica Plain woman, Matthew J. Amorello was forced to resign as authority chairman. Lewis, who frequently appeared at Amorello's side in times of crisis, remained.

In a February interview with the Providence Journal, Lewis said he was very proud of the Big Dig, "an enormous undertaking that has delivered what was promised."
Sean Murphy can be reached at

"Dead zones frustrate drivers: Cellphone service lags in tunnels"
By Noah Bierman, (Boston) Globe Staff, April 12, 2008

Five months after Massachusetts Turnpike officials announced that the Big Dig would finally join the digital age and provide cellular service to thousands of commuters this spring, there is no sign the $15 billion tunnels will be wired anytime soon - and no timeline for completing the job.

Since the last completion date was announced, even the century-old T has launched cellular service in downtown subway cars. But for drivers, the frustrating refrain continues: I'm about to lose you. I'm going through a tunnel.

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which has been promising cellular service in the tunnels for years, says the responsibility now lies with the four major cellphone companies, which bought the right to wire the tunnels in 2006.

"We can't control the contractors," said Mac Daniel, spokesman for the Turnpike Authority. "It's largely out of our control."

Mark J. Elliot, a spokesman for AT&T, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, declined to answer questions about the project but said in a statement it will take "many months."

Until then, drivers are left with a nettlesome dead zone inside the Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill Jr. Tunnel, and the tunnel linking the Massachusetts Turnpike with Interstate 93.

"I've actually altered how I go home," said Jim Hall, a Scituate resident who flies out of Logan International Airport two or three times a week for his consulting job.

Hall, 50, said he drives through South Boston, instead of using the Interstate-90 connector, so he can tell his family he has arrived home safely from business trips.

"It doesn't seem to be that difficult to do because it's in the other tunnels," Hall said. "It sounds like it's just not a priority for somebody." Cellphone service is a standard feature in other major tunnels including the Sumner, Callahan, and Ted Williams.

In late October, it appeared the days of short-circuited cellular calls would soon be over, after the companies received federal permission to wire the tunnels. The Federal Highway Administration had held up approval, based on design concerns raised by the fatal 2006 ceiling collapse that killed Milena Del Valle, a 38-year-old Jamaica Plain woman. A week after the approval, Daniel said the companies had told Turnpike officials they would begin by late November and expected the project to take three to six months.

"If you hold us to the 3 to 6 months, that would be perfection," Daniel said this week. "But there's never perfection in the tunnels."

According to statements by Elliot, the companies did not hire a construction firm until January and did not begin construction until February. He declined to answer questions about the company's work schedule, how many workers are on the job, and where the construction is taking place.

Turnpike Authority records show the companies' construction crews have been in the tunnels on overnight work since Feb. 4, laying out the project and installing cable clips and supports. But it is unclear from those records how extensive the tunnel work has been or how many crew members have been involved in the project.

Daniel said the project is 20 percent complete and that the Turnpike is happy that construction - delayed by the cellphone companies' difficulty in hiring a contractor - has made "serious progress." The project, he said, involves laying five miles of cable through the tunnels and building a utility room. Daniel said contractors have installed anchors and hangers in the I-90 connector's ceiling.

Before construction began in February, the companies spent months on "extensive field testing, tunnel reconnaissance, design engineering, and construction planning," according to Elliot's recent statement.

"Given the complexity of the system and the extensive construction work required to be performed throughout the tunnels, installation of the system is expected to take many months," it continued. The statement did not explain the delay in hiring a contractor.

Daniel said complete testing on cellular signals is expected by this fall. But he said the projections are subject to change and would not predict when cellular service will be activated.

The Authority's contract with the cellular companies required the four carriers to pay a combined $1.6 million up-front fee and monthly payments of $11,666 each to provide the service, now standard in tunnels throughout the country. The companies will also pay construction costs, estimated at up to $7.6 million.

The companies made the first payments in November, Daniel said. But there is no penalty for construction delays.

State Senator Michael W. Morrissey, a Quincy Democrat, has been pushing for cellular service in the tunnels for years as a public safety issue. He blames the latest delay on the cellphone companies.

"It boggles my mind that first they were kind of having us push, and try to push the state into this. And we did that," he said. "And puff. Nothing's happening."

At this point, "you can only do so much. It's their money," Morrissey said.

The arrival of cellphone service in the tunnels might not be greeted warmly by some drivers and safety advocates.

The state has spent months debating the safety concerns of too much talking while driving. A bill to require hands-free cellphone devices passed the House in January, but has not come before the Senate. Studies have shown that speaking on cellphones, with or without a hands-free device, increases the risk of a crash. And no researchers defend the use of text messaging devices while driving, a practice banned in the House bill.

J. Wiese, a 35-year-old lighting designer from Waltham, said he would never use a cellphone in the tunnels because he has a company policy against talking on the phone while driving. Jason Chou, 30, of Chestnut Hill, said he tries not to answer his cellphone while driving because it is too much of a distraction.

Still, it remains legal to use a phone and many drivers find themselves with some explaining to do when they drive through the tunnels.

Michael Johnson, 31, a Hyde Park exterminator, likes to check in with his children between jobs.

"I'm on the phone with the kids and [they ask later] 'What happened to you Daddy, why'd you hang up?' "
Noah Bierman can be reached at

"Engineer suggests adding 900 new support anchors in Ted Williams Tunnel"
April 14, 2008, By Noah Bierman, (Boston) Globe Staff

An engineering firm hired to inspect the Big Dig tunnels following the July 2006 fatal ceiling collapse recommended today that the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority install about 900 new support anchors in the Ted Williams Tunnel.

The anchors would be a backup in 250-foot sections near the tunnel entrances that are impossible to inspect because they were designed without a crawl space. The new supports would fortify epoxy bolts, which were blamed for the fatal ceiling collapse in the Interstate 90 connector tunnel.

"We think this is a viable alternative, cost-wise," said Gary Klein, an engineering consultant from Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, which was hired to review all of the authority's roads, tunnels, and bridges.

The ceiling has enough redundant support that the inability to inspect those areas does not pose an immediate safety threat, but it should be addressed within five years, Klein said when he explained the recommendation at today’s monthly Turnpike Authority meeting. The ceiling could also be removed and inspected, but it would probably cost more than adding the 900 support anchors, Klein said.

While Klein did not estimate a cost, he said the fixes would add to the Big Dig’s $14.8 billion price tag. However, the authority may be able to use money generated from a settlement with the Big Dig’s contractors, he said.

The Turnpike Authority has not responded to the recommendation. Klein’s contract expires at the end of June, when he and others are scheduled to make a final report to Governor Deval Patrick.

Klein also recommended retrofitting an additional 180 anchors in the Ted Williams Tunnel that are bolted into unsettled or cracked concrete that may be showing signs of leakage or slippage.

He also recommended upgrading the fire suppression system in the Callahan and Sumner tunnels. Klein said the ventilation system in those tunnels is weaker than others and that any failure could compromise safety.


"STARTS & STOPS: Study takes aim at Pike's spending"
By Noah Bierman, (Boston) Globe Staff, April 20, 2008

These are tough times for turnpike drivers, who are paying higher tolls for roads that need major repairs that the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority says it cannot afford.

A new survey points to one key reason for the authority's financial struggles: relatively high operating costs, which eat up most of the tolls, leaving little for improvements and long-term maintenance; it also leaves the Pike vulnerable to the threat of more toll increases.

For every dollar the Pike collects in tolls, it spends about 80 cents on basic operating and maintenance costs.

The study says the MassPike spends a higher percentage on those expenses than any of the other 34 toll roads surveyed. Most other toll roads spend less than half of what they collect on operations.

"A dubious distinction, I'm afraid," said Robert Poole, the study's coauthor, along with Peter Samuel, publisher of

"The downside is that money can't be used for as many real improvements, such as eliminating bottlenecks," said Poole, director of transportation studies for the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank. "It's what economists call an opportunity cost, things you can't do because your money is being spent on mundane things."

Poole and Samuel did not intend to single out the MassPike. They collected the numbers to argue in favor of leasing the Pennsylvania Turnpike to a private vendor.

Turnpike officials in Pennsylvania, which ranked near Massachusetts in its spending on operating costs, have disputed their findings, saying they relied on inaccurate data.

The authors used 2006 numbers for the MassPike, but the 2007 numbers are similar. The Pike collects money on things like advertisements and land leases, and receives a $25 million Big Dig operating stipend from the state, but tolls are by far the biggest source of money.

There are several ways to interpret the findings. Certainly, the Pike has more manually operated toll booths than other states and pays relatively high salaries - both of which contribute to high operating costs.

It also pays more for snow removal than Southern states, which have a comparatively lower need of the service.

Turnpike Director Alan LeBovidge pointed out that the MassPike spends a large portion of the money it collects taking care of the Big Dig, more than it gets from the state.

Other tolling authorities do not have the burden of maintaining expensive, untolled tunnels.

"Right now it's a free road, so we've got the operating cost with no revenue," LeBovidge said "No one would ever buy that as a business."

Turnpike board member Mary Connaughton believes operating costs are high.

But she points out that the numbers are positive in one sense: It means the Turnpike is not turning a profit on tolls.

"I think the toll-payers would be up in arms if it were in business to make profit," she said.

Still, the slim margins have created problems. The Turnpike Authority raised tolls in January and seems increasingly likely to raise them again next year because money is so tight that the authority is using rainy-day money to balance the books.

And last year, the authority voted against spending $250 million on a five-year repair plan that its staff said was necessary to keep the roads in good shape.

Passenger tolls discussed
Speaking of tolls, there is a good chance that passenger tolls could be coming back to the westernmost Turnpike exits after a 12-year absence.

They were eliminated in 1996 for cars, though commercial vehicles still pay them.

Some Turnpike Authority members want to push for a vote as soon as next month, in hopes they could raise $1 million a month.

Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen, who heads the turnpike board, said it's too soon to take a vote. He wants to wait until late summer or early fall, and consider several tolling hikes and changes at once.

They include higher tolls at some Boston-area exits, eliminating some resident discounts, bringing back the Newton toll booth, and other possible changes.

"I don't think we want to make piecemeal toll decisions," Cohen said. "Does that mean in June we'll do another toll change and then in July we'll do another toll change?"

Usually, a toll increase provokes an outcry. But Representative Daniel E. Bosley, Democrat of North Adams, said the vast majority of Berkshire residents use local roads and would not be hit if the tolls come back to the Western Turnpike.

"When they took the tolls off I was sort of mystified," said Bosley, who said the state could use the money.

Marathon service changes
In honor of tomorrow's Boston Marathon, here's a salute to the oldest human transportation: legs.

All those legs on the streets, plus a Red Sox game, will make driving impossible in many cases and disrupt bus service. The MBTA plans to post extra workers and police around the city.

The T will sell $5 preloaded CharlieCards in some spots and offer extra service on subways before and after the race. Buses will operate on a Saturday schedule. Commuter boats and trains will run on a normal weekday schedule. Bicycles will not be allowed on the subway because of the anticipated crowds.

Copley Station will be closed all day. Use Hynes Convention Center or Arlington stations instead.

Bus Route 55, which goes through Copley, will not run until the marathon ends.

This morning's Olympic trials will also require the rerouting of bus routes 1, 10, and 43. For updates and information on other changes, go to


Can't get there...

. Lanes on the Tobin Memorial Bridge southbound after the toll plaza will close 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. weekdays beginning Tuesday through the end of May. At the end of May, lanes after the toll plaza through the Little Mystic Truss will close 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
. Two or three lanes of I-93 South approaching and through Downtown to South Bay will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday.
. I-93 South Exit 23 to Purchase Street will close 11:30 p.m. Thursday through 5 a.m. Friday.
. The Haymarket onramp to I-93 South and the Callahan Tunnel will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday.
. I-93 South Exits 20A South Station and 20B to I-90 West and Albany Street will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.
. Two or three lanes of I-93 North through Downtown and Charlestown will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday.
. I-93 North Exit 26 to Storrow Drive will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Tuesday through Friday.
. The Sumner Tunnel onramp to I-93 North will close 11:30 p.m. tomorrow through 5 a.m. Tuesday.
. The Haymarket onramp to I-93 North will close 11:30 p.m. tomorrow through 5 a.m. Tuesday.
. The ramp at I-93 North Exit 20 to I-90 East will close 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. Wednesday.
. Lanes on I-90 East near the Prudential Tunnel and Exit 22 will close 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Wednesday.
. Access from Frontage Road and Albany Street to I-90 East and Logan Airport will close 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. Wednesday.
. One lane of I-90 East in the Ted Williams Tunnel will close 11:30 p.m. Tuesday to 5 a.m. Wednesday.
. Lanes on I-90 West near the Sheraton in Newton will close 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Thursday.
. A section of I-90 West at Exit 25 in South Boston will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday.
. The D Street onramp to I-90 West will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday.
. One lane of I-90 West in the Ted Williams Tunnel will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Friday.
. For the next several months, maintenance crews will be doing repair work on sections of I-90 East and West from the I-90/I-93 Interchange in Boston to the New York State line 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays.
. The four lanes on Washington Street and Harrison Avenue will reduce to two lanes on the newly constructed bridge deck. The Harrison Avenue Bridge has been reconfigured to allow two-way traffic.
. The Sumner Tunnel onramp to Storrow Drive will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Tuesday through Friday. Sumner Tunnel access to Haymarket will remain open.
. One lane of the Sumner Tunnel will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Tuesday through Friday.

Noah Bierman can be reached at

"Pike slaps more speeders: Denies tix hike is to boost budget"
By Casey Ross, Saturday, April 26, 2008,, Local Politics

The Massachusetts Turnpike has turned into the nation’s longest speed trap as state troopers, freed from their Big Dig duties, are gunning for harried commuters and writing tickets at a rate of an additional 4,000 a year, a Herald review shows.

“It’s unfair for Metro West commuters to pay higher tolls and be targeted like this,” said state Rep. Tom Sannicandro (D-Ashland).

“People shouldn’t be speeding, but I think the Pike is looking at this as a revenue enhancer, and that’s a problem,” Sannicandro said.

State records show that 722 more speeding citations than last year were issued during the first two months of 2008, a nearly 12 percent increase over the same period last year. At that rate, motorists could get slapped with 4,332 additional tickets this year, each of them potentially costing $100 or more.

The increased volume of ticketing amounts to about 116 citations per day - one for almost every mile of the 138-mile Turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston.

The total amount raised from the stepped-up speeding enforcement is unclear, but a Turnpike budget plan projected an additional $1.2 million in revenue from tickets this year. The authority has been struggling to close a budget gap of about $30 million.

In addition to the increased ticketing, Pike brass hiked tolls along the highway in January, increasing the cost for passenger cars at the Allston-Brighton and Weston toll booths by 25 cents, to $1.25. One-way tolls at the Ted Williams and Sumner tunnels rose 50 cents, to $3.50.

“I have concerns overall about how much Metro West commuters are already paying for the Big Dig and the Greenway (parks),” Sannicandro said. “This only increases the burden, and if you come from the North or South, it’s not a problem you have to deal with.”

Records from the state’s Merit Rating Board, which tracks the issuance of moving violations, show that the number of speeding tickets issued on the Pike increased to 6,945 during January and February of 2008 from 6,223 during the same period last year.

Top Mass Pike officials denied yesterday that the agency is intentionally trying to soak motorists for more money. They said the rising number of tickets is due to a move to increase police patrols to levels that existed before July, 2006, when a fatal tunnel collapse siphoned troopers away for traffic direction and other duties.

“The primary focus of the patrols is to maintain safe roadways,” said Mass Pike Board member Mary Connaughton. “The way for people to keep money in their pockets is to drive safely and within the speed limit.”

A state police spokesman declined to comment, referring questions about the policy to the Turnpike Authority.
Article URL:

"The danger of delaying road projects"
By Fred Salvucci, April 30, 2008

GOVERNOR PATRICK'S $3.8 billion proposal to fix deteriorating bridges across the state is a dramatic break with the 17-year practice of underfunding infrastructure, and it merits the support it is receiving from House Speaker Sal DiMasi and Senate President Therese Murray.

For too long, phrases like "no new taxes" or "fix it first" have served as substitutes for action. This sugarcoating sounded nicer than the truth: passing a growing burden to the next generation and stunting economic growth in the state. Postponement of needed transit and roadwork projects has led to a backlog of $20 billion to $30 billion in projects necessary for economic growth and public safety.The practice of deliberately underfunding infrastructure investments, in the name of "balancing" budgets, has been fiscally imprudent for four reasons:

First, construction costs rise faster than the overall rate of inflation. Replacing a bridge now that should have been replaced 10 years ago means paying $20 million for a bridge that would have cost $10 million if done when first needed.

Second, timely repairs can arrest the rapid deterioration that occurs when road salt and heavy traffic worsen physical defects, turning minor problems into major ones. In fact, failure to quickly repair damage from Boston winters adds costs to motorists whose autos are damaged by spring potholes.

Third, if a crucial bridge fails, even if there is no injury or loss of life, it causes huge damage to the economy. For example, if the Longfellow Bridge were to fail, it could simultaneously close the Red Line, the backbone of the regional transit system, eliminate a major access route for ambulances and the public to Mass. General, and disrupt the fragile balance of the morning and evening commutes on all the Charles River crossings.

Fourth, in two years there will almost certainly be a new Federal Transportation Authorization Bill, providing 80 percent in federal funding to those states that have completed the engineering and have work ready for construction. But in Massachusetts, budgets in past years have dramatically reduced engineering personnel. Massachusetts will not be ready for federal funding, unless decisive action is taken now.

Secretary of Administration and Finance Leslie Kirwan should be commended for taking a big-picture view of the cost of neglecting infrastructure, and documenting that bonding with interest rates below the rate of construction inflation is fiscally prudent.

Secretary of Transportation Bernard Cohen will have a major challenge getting transportation agencies ready to deal with the huge backlogs. The availability of finance alone won't get the job done. More engineers, more consultants, and new techniques such as Design-Build-Maintain contracts are needed. Cohen's authority over transportation agencies, including Massport and the bridges and roadways of the Department of Conservation and Recreation, should be strengthened, both to facilitate access to federal funding and to get results.

But what about the larger finance question? Some say it would be better to increase gasoline taxes to pay for maintenance and reconstruction, instead of borrowing. If the economy were healthy, and gasoline prices were stable, this might indeed be both better policy and politically feasible.

But gas prices are at an all-time high, and the economy still tenuous. Instead of a gas tax increase, it may be time to look at a major public agency whose assets have dramatically increased in value due to transportation investments.

The I-90 Extension greatly benefited Massport's South Boston real estate assets, the Seaport, and Logan Airport - and represents roughly half of the $15 billion spent on the Big Dig (not to mention the half-billion Silver Line to Logan). Massport receives windfall revenues from the high parking charges at Logan. Before asking motorists to pay increased gasoline taxes, isn't it appropriate to first ask Massport to take responsibility for these costs and ease Commonwealth debt?

Hopefully the Legislature will take a comprehensive approach that strengthens Cohen's management tools, prioritizes completion of environmental and engineering work to maximize federal funds, and secures a fair contribution of revenue and bonding capacity from Massport. But the process should be driven by the central theme of the governor's proposal: with construction costs for needed investment rising faster than the interest rate, the worst choice is to postpone the investment. Increased bonding is better than delay.
Fred Salvucci is a former Massachusetts transportation secretary.

"Broker to return $37m to towns: Wall Street firm settles with AG"
By Beth Healy, (Boston) Globe Staff, May 8, 2008

A major Wall Street firm agreed to return $37 million to 17 cities and towns in the state, as well as to the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, after it allegedly misled them into buying investments they thought were as safe as cash.

UBS Financial Services Inc. reached an agreement with Attorney General Martha Coakley after she found that the brokerage had not fully disclosed the risks of the investments, known as auction-rate securities. Cities were unable to get their hands on their money when the market for these investments evaporated almost overnight.

Winchester, which had invested more than any other town, will receive $6.8 million in the settlement. The turnpike will receive $4.4 million, and the city of Holyoke and its retirement system will get $3.2 million.

"There have been a lot of new financial products," Coakley said. "There's been a heavy push by brokers to sell them, and a rush by cities and towns to take advantage of what appeared to be a burgeoning market."

The settlement was the first admission by UBS or any US brokerage that something may have been amiss in the sales of municipal debt securities. The market for these securities relied on weekly and monthly auctions run by brokerage firms. But starting in February the auctions attracted only sellers and no buyers, so the market failed.

UBS spokeswoman Karina Byrne characterized the settlement as a one-time event, based on a Massachusetts law that requires towns and cities to keep cash in only highly liquid accounts so they are readily accessible. She said the agreement followed the attorney general's finding that these securities were "not permissible" in municipal accounts.

"UBS is pleased this matter has been resolved," Byrne said. The firm is still under investigation by state and federal regulators for how it sold such investments to individuals and companies.

In Barnstable, which invested the second-largest amount in the state at $6.1 million, director of finance Mark Milne said the town first realized it had a problem in February, when it tried to sell the bonds.

"We had tried to liquidate some of the money from this investment and put it someplace else, and were told that we couldn't," Milne said in an interview. The town needed the funds to pay bills coming due, he said, and had to cash out other investments instead.

The bonds accounted for about 6 percent of Barnstable's cash account, Milne said. Not only was Barnstable treasurer Debra Blanchette told she could withdraw the funds at any time, Milne said, but, "she wasn't even told they were auction-rate securities."

Auction-rate securities were part of a wave of arcane debt products that investment firms sold heavily in the boom period before last summer's subprime mortgage meltdown. With interest rates low, firms offered these municipal bonds as a safe alternative to cash that paid a slightly better yield. Investors were supposed to be able to get out of these securities on a weekly or monthly basis.

But there was a catch many investors didn't foresee: The securities relied on constant investor demand at auctions. In February, spooked investors stopped participating in the auctions altogether, leaving sellers such as towns and public agencies unable to sell their securities.

The result was that investors in this $330 billion auction-rate market were stuck holding bonds they couldn't sell. They weren't losing money, per se, but they could not access their money. UBS is now buying back the bonds - something it and other brokers refused to do when the market collapsed.

The attorney general's action sprang from a case this year, in which Merrill Lynch & Co. agreed to repay the city of Springfield for $14 million in another type of debt that brokers were selling to municipalities, CDOs, or collateralized debt obligations. As with auction-rate bonds, CDOs were promoted as "cash-like" but investors were unable to get their money out when the market for mortgage-related debt froze.

Holyoke's mayor, Michael J. Sullivan, called news of the UBS settlement "manna from heaven." Under the agreement, UBS will buy back $3.2 million in auction-rate bonds from the Western Massachusetts city and its retirement system. Sullivan said the city had been advised by an investment consultant to buy the securities, a move he said he believed was an "honest error."

Holyoke had not been in any immediate financial risk, Sullivan said, but he added, "In the long term, we might have had some exposure to those investments evaporating."

UBS is hoping this matter is closed. This week, the firm said it's leaving the municipal finance business. But this may be just the beginning of the fallout from the collapse of auction-rate markets.

Secretary of State William F. Galvin is investigating whether UBS and other firms may have inappropriately sold these securities to individual investors and businesses. In March, Galvin, who oversees the state Securities Division, issued subpoenas to UBS, Merrill Lynch, and Bank of America Investment Services Inc.

Specifically, the division is examining whether investors were properly informed of the risks in these securities, and whether they were appropriate for the people who bought them. It's also looking into the role the investment banks may have played in causing the auctions to fail. UBS declined to comment on the investigation.

The Securities and Exchange Commission also is investigating the auction-rate markets.
Beth Healy can be reached at

"Big Dig firm may face more charges: Federal indictment possible over epoxy"
By Sean P. Murphy, (Boston) Globe Staff, May 10, 2008

After the major contractor that oversaw construction of the Big Dig avoided criminal prosecution by negotiating a large civil settlement with authorities, a small New York supplier of epoxy that failed in the 2006 fatal tunnel ceiling collapse is in the crosshairs of a federal grand jury investigation, according to two lawyers briefed on the case.

The company, Powers Fasteners Inc., of Brewster, N.Y., has already been indicted by the state. Now federal prosecutors are trying to determine whether the firm or any of its executives or employees should also be hit with federal criminal charges in connection with its work, the lawyers said. The collapse killed a 38-year-old Jamaica Plain woman, Milena Del Valle, whose car was crushed in the Interstate 90 connector tunnel in South Boston after bolts holding a ceiling panel gave way.

Federal officials would not confirm the grand jury probe, which was disclosed to the Globe by two lawyers who do not work for the government. Lawyers around the city have been contact ed to possibly represent Powers Fasteners employees as the federal probe progresses, the lawyers said.

Powers Fasteners was indicted on a charge of involuntary manslaughter by a state grand jury in August, making it the only company known to be facing criminal proceedings related to Del Valle's death. Trial is set to begin in January. In that case, Attorney General Martha Coakley and special assistant attorney general Paul Ware alleged that Powers Fasteners acted criminally by failing to warn construction contractors of the dangers of using a fast-drying epoxy to secure ceiling bolts.

In contrast, the construction manager for the $15 billion Big Dig, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, agreed in January with both the federal and state governments to pay a $450 million settlement for a host of Big Dig flaws, including the faulty ceiling. The settlement included a provision that protected Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff from any criminal liability.

Powers Fasteners is a family-owned business of about 200 employees with about $100 million in annual sales. By comparison, Bechtel Corp., also privately owned, has an estimated 40,000 employees and $20 billion in revenue, according to a 2006 Forbes magazine report. Parsons Brinckerhoff has 9,000 employees and revenues of about $1.5 billion, Forbes said.

Powers Fasteners officials have protested that they are being made a scapegoat for a disaster in which many companies were implicated. "The only reason that our company has been indicted is that we don't have enough money to buy our way out," Jeffrey Powers, company president, said last year in response to the state charges.

Max D. Stern, one of Powers Fasteners' lawyers, would not discuss whether the firm has become the focus of a federal grand jury investigation. In a statement, he noted that previous legal filings have indicated that there "continues to be a grand jury investigation into a number of the entities involved in the Big Dig project and that it expects that the investigation will be concluded by the end of May."

Powers Fasteners is the only company that has settled a civil claim against it by Del Valle's family. Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff and other Big Dig companies, including contractor Modern Continental and designer Gannett Fleming Inc., as well as the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, remain defendants in the family's lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages.

Though grand juries conduct their business in secrecy, it has been widely known that the office of US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan has been investigating the $15 billion Central Artery tunnel project, one of the largest public works projects in the country's history. Nothing legally bars an individual or company from facing both state and federal criminal charges.

The recent flurry of activity by federal prosecutors comes against the backdrop of some criticism that the US Attorney's office, over more than a decade, failed to do enough to police the Big Dig, whose years of leaks, cost coverups, schedule delays, and ballooning costs have frustrated many. Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf of the US District Court criticized the US Attorney's office in December for not serving as a more aggressive watchdog on the massive tunnel-and-highway project.

There have been indications in court filings that the federal grand jury might be close to concluding its investigation. In documents filed in state court relating to the suit by Del Valle's family, federal prosecutors have asked to postpone some depositions to keep them from interfering with the prosecutors' continuing criminal investigation. The prosecutors said they need at least until May 30 to conclude their investigation.

The National Transportation Safety Board, in a report issued last summer, concluded that Powers Fasteners should have made clear to customers that its fast-drying epoxy should not be used to support ceilings after Powers officials were asked to find out why Big Dig bolts were coming loose in 1999. The NTSB found that Powers Fasteners provided "inadequate and misleading" information about its epoxy. Subsequently, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff and Modern Continental, the tunnel builder, failed to monitor whether bolts continued to come loose, and the Turnpike Authority did not inspect the ceiling after the tunnel opened in 2003, the NTSB found.

According to Coakley's investigators, company officials knew that their fast-setting epoxy repeatedly failed tests of long-term strength, yet the company catalogue and product labels did not clearly warn about the hazard. They also knew that the distributor working with Modern Continental had ordered 1,000 tubes of fast-set epoxy and just 120 tubes of standard epoxy just before the ceiling was installed, Coakley alleged.

But when Powers officials were asked to come to Boston to look at five bolts that had unexpectedly come loose shortly after ceiling panels were hung from them in 1999, they did not raise the possibility that workers might have used the wrong epoxy, according to Coakley's indictment. Powers issued a warning to product distributors last month that fast-set epoxy should not be used for holding heavy loads over the long term.

Powers Fasteners offered the state $8 million to avoid criminal charges, just as Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff negotiated a settlement, lawyers told the Globe at the time of the indictment. But, according to one lawyer familiar with the case, Coakley was not satisfied and secured the indictment.

Under state law, the maximum fine for a corporation convicted of manslaughter is $1,000.

In the state case, prosecutors are attempting to show that Powers Fasteners was so reckless in not speaking out more forcefully about the risks of the ceiling support system that it was criminal. Under federal law, prosecutors can consider criminal fraud, under which prosecutors would have to show that the Big Dig supplier accepted payment for a product it knew to be deficient, according to lawyers who have been involved in the case and state officials.
Sean Murphy can be reached at

The Business Magazine for Professional Truckers - Land Line Magazine

May 14, 2008 – Massachusetts Turnpike tackles spending, toll violations

Facing pressure from the governor, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority has reduced spending and has saved $14 million so far in 2008, a spokesman said.

The conversion of four cash toll lanes to electronic tolling at the Allston-Brighton Exit saved the authority $500,000, spokesman Mac Daniel told Land Line. He said the authority will continue to expand the Fast Lane electronic tolling system in the future at the request of Gov. Deval Patrick and turnpike administrators.

Patrick and Massachusetts Turnpike Authority Secretary Bernard Cohen laid out what the governor called a blueprint of change in July 2007 to make the authority more transparent and accountable.

Recent cost reductions have included reducing employee overtime by $800,000; eliminating six senior-level positions totaling $1 million; eliminating a healthcare provider that cost $1.7 million; purchasing bulk electricity to save $1.4 million; limiting the use of outside consultants to save $8 million; and reducing state trooper overtime by $600,000.

Patrick said the cost reductions are helping, but the authority needs to do more.

“To date, the total savings from all of these and other savings initiatives is approximately $14 million,” Patrick announced May 9. “It’s a good start. But it’s not enough.”

Future savings will come from a clampdown on users who have unlawfully taken advantage of a toll discount program.

The authority recently deactivated about 2,400 transponders that motorists were using to obtain discounts intended for residents of certain areas near the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels. A check of addresses showed that a number of motorists had moved out of the area but continued to use transponders to pay 40 cents per trip instead of $3.50.

Daniel said that neither the residential toll assistance program nor the alleged violations occurring within that system apply to commercial vehicles.

– By David Tanner, staff writer



"State to take closer look at tolls on I-93"
By Noah Bierman, (Boston) Globe Staff, May 19, 2008

Governor Deval Patrick's top transportation official signaled today that he wants to take a closer look at adding tolls on Interstate 93, but stopped well short of endorsing that method for raising more money for the state.

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority will count the number of vehicles on the Zakim Bridge and at other major points on I-93 at the request of Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen. The data will help determine whether tolls are a viable option.

"Everything is on the table here and we need to look in all corners," Cohen said today at the board’s monthly meeting. "Whether we will find the money in all corners, I don't know. But we need to look in all corners."

Cohen, who also chairs the turnpike board, made the comments during a discussion about possible changes in the state’s tolling system. There are currently tolls on the east-west Massachusetts Turnpike, Tobin Bridge, and tunnels beneath Boston Harbor, but not on I-93, the main north-south thoroughfare.

When asked after the meeting whether the traffic count was a signal he was ready to consider tolls on I-93, Cohen said, "It just means that I want to have as complete a picture as possible."

A Toll Equity Working Group convened by the turnpike board reported it has reached no conclusions about how to equalize payments for drivers, but it presented a roster of 37 options. A final analysis is due in July. The board will spend the summer evaluating a broad list of possible changes.

"If you look at the matrix, there are 37 possible tolling options," said Cohen, who stressed that he is not moving in the direction of tolling on I-93. "As far as I'm concerned, they're all on an even playing field."

Given federal regulations and local concerns about bottlenecks, it is unlikely that any new tolls booths will be installed on I-93. There is the potential, however, for some type of electronic tolling. Possible locations include the Zakim Bridge and the south end of the Tip O'Neill Tunnel.

Adding tolls to I-93 has been discussed for years, but it is usually avoided by politicians who fear the wrath of the driving public. The addition of any form of tolling along I-93 would require federal approval.

Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen
"37 possible toll options":
Discuss: "Are tolls on I-93 a good idea?":

Zakim Bridge, Boston.

Cellphone cables are covered by a metal tube in this area connecting the Ted Williams Tunnel and Interstate 90. In most of the tunnel system, cables are strung together and left unprotected. (Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff)

"Big Dig's $13.9m ducts go unused: Cellphone firms find channels too pricy; US allows attaching cables to tunnel walls"
By Noah Bierman, (Boston) Globe Staff, May 19, 2008

Big Dig engineers thought they were making a wise investment by spending millions of dollars building a series of hidden compartments that were meant to someday carry unsightly utility cables, like cellphone antennas, through the tunnels.

But now that cellphone companies are finally wiring the tunnels for service, they bypassed the ready-made ducts and began driving holes into the already-leaking walls of the $15 billion system to anchor a mishmash of cables.

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which runs the tunnels, at one time valued the duct system at $13.9 million. Now, it sits mostly unused.

The reason: The conduits are too narrow in places to fit the cellular cables inside them, turnpike officials said. And even if they weren't, the cellphone companies that are wiring the tunnels say it is actually cheaper to do the job without using the pricey ducts, and that Big Dig officials wanted to charge them too much money to use them.

"This was bad planning on the part of the Big Dig's designers and past administrations, and another example of the lack of oversight at the project," Mac Daniel, Turnpike Authority spokesman, said in a statement released to the Globe last week in response to a reporter's questions.

"We're stuck with that decision, however, and are now focused on getting the long-delayed cellphone service installed in the tunnels as soon as possible," Daniel continued.

Aside from being a potential waste of millions of dollars, the conduits have also played a quiet role in the years-long delay in bringing cellphone service into the tunnel system. The Turnpike Authority has tried to recoup the cost of the conduits in the form of rent money from the cellphone companies; the cellphone companies have said they don't need the conduits and have adamantly refused to pay.

The disagreement resulted in a negotiating standoff that the cellphone companies seemed to win. The current wiring project, which depends on epoxy to hold the bolts in place, was so counterintuitive that federal highway officials initially declined to approve it, questioning whether the wires put too much stress on the walls. Epoxy failure was blamed for the fatal ceiling collapse in 2006. The federal officials eventually approved it for the wiring, agreeing that the walls could support the weight of the cables.

A drive through the Interstate 90 connector this week shows that metal brackets have been installed on the tunnel side walls every few feet. In some areas, workers have begun hanging wires.

Still, Daniel said that constructing the duct system was not a waste of money. He said that the ducts were built to adapt to technologies 20 to 30 years in the future and that they may still be used for lighting, electrical work, or safety projects.

But not cellphone reception. Negotiations between the Authority and the cell companies lingered for years, without results. The turnpike wanted the consortium of cellphone companies to pay $10 million to wire the tunnel, then at least another $15 million for use of the conduit space, through a combination of up-front payments and rent, according to state documents. (Big Dig officials have never said how much it cost to build the conduits, but they estimated the replacement cost at $13.9 million).

The cellphone companies refused the terms and eventually hired experts who said the duct system built into the tunnels was unnecessary for the project and that cell service could be provided cheaper by mounting cables directly to the walls, according to documents.

As the two sides bickered, motorists lost calls whenever they entered the tunnels, even as cheaper and older tunnels throughout the nation offered uninterrupted cell service, and political leaders got fed up.

In mid-2006, the Legislature passed a law that required the Turnpike Authority to come to an agreement with the cell companies and build cellphone capability by the end of that year. The law also designated the former state Department of Telecommunications and Energy to determine what fair rental costs would be, even though that department had not previously regulated cellphones.

Before the utility commission ruled, the Turnpike Authority and the cell companies came to an agreement that allowed the cellphone companies to wire the tunnels themselves, without using the duct system. The cell companies said it would cost them $7.6 million for installation under the second plan. The companies have also agreed to pay the turnpike a total of $1.6 million for initial tunnel rights and $560,000 a year in rent.

Michael D. McNally, whose company was originally selected by the Turnpike Authority to wire the tunnels using the ducts on behalf of the cellphone carriers and later lost the contract, asserted that the companies' decision to bypass the duct system will not make the project any cheaper, and that the ducts are large enough to fit the cell cables. McNally is now suing the Turnpike Authority.

The project failed to meet the 2006 legislative deadline and continues to fall behind schedule by the day. Part of that delay is a result of federal concerns about the wiring. Cellphone companies are no longer willing to make a public promise as to when they will finish installing cell service.

"There has been significant progress to date, given the many complicated logistics of installing telecommunications in the world's most complex and extensive tunnel system," said Mark Elliott, a Sprint spokesman who is also representing the other companies in the project - AT&T Wireless, Verizon, and T-Mobile.
Noah Bierman can be reached at

"Turnpike reviews who gets a free pass at tolls: Some state workers could lose longstanding union perk"
By Noah Bierman, (Boston) Globe Staff, May 22, 2008

Facing the prospect of new toll increases, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority is taking a fresh look at an old program that allows nearly 4,000 drivers to pass through toll booths without spending a dime.

Alan LeBovidge, the authoriity's executive director, said yesterday that he is taking steps to determine if the program is being abused or whether some passes need to be revoked.

The authority's board has been scrutinizing the free transponder program as members attempt to stave off a second toll increase in as many years. It is one of 37 issues the board is studying as it contemplates changes in the tolling system this summer.

Many of the free transponders go to turnpike workers who are expected to use them on the job in official vehicles. But about 800 go to current and retired turnpike workers, many of them toll collectors, who get them as a perk under longstanding union policies and can use them however they like. Though the Turnpike Authority has records of who has the passes, it does not have a separate accounting of how many toll-free trips are being taken or how much money is not collected, officials said.

LeBovidge said yesterday that he will replace transponders in 1,970 State Police cruisers that are part of the program. The new transponders will make auditing easier, because they will identify the user as a police officer. LeBovidge said he will give Massachusetts State Police Colonel Mark F. Delaney a monthly report documenting troopers' travel on the turnpike, so he can make sure officers are not using the passes on personal time.

A State Police spokesman, David Procopio, said officers are allowed to use the toll-free transponders on official business or to commute to work. He said his office has not received official word of LeBovidge's plan to track when they are being used.

"When and if we do begin receiving reports, of course we will review the information," Procopio said.

LeBovidge said he will also count the number of trips being taken by the 150 retired workers who pay $25 a year for the toll-free transponders to see if it is worth ending their participation, a step that could require union negotiations.

About 1,000 of the transponders are assigned to turnpike fleet vehicles. Those are supposed to be used only for official business, but the Turnpike Authority does not check on whether employees use them for personal trips.

"Anyone who is using these for anything other than official business, it's toll money not received," said Mary Z. Connaughton, an authority board member who raised the issue during recent board meetings. "It's not fair that some people pay tolls and others might not."

The free rides have long been a symbol of the old-style patronage perks given out to bigwigs and their friends. For years, turnpike managers have made periodic attempts at curbing their use, stripping them, for example, from turnpike managers, elected officials, and appointed officials over the past few years.

LeBovidge said he inherited the program and pointed out that it has been reduced to the point where no more than one or two nonunion employees have the transponders. Union rules might make stripping others of the privilege more difficult.

"Whether we can change that going forward will be a matter of negotiations," LeBovidge said.

But beyond the symbolism, LeBovidge said, he is not sure much money is involved and believes that efforts to end the program may not be worth it.

"I can't tell you whether this is one of our top priorities," he said. "There's a whole bunch of other stuff out there, like salary range and healthcare costs."

Toll-takers who get the free passes to use in their personal cars need them to get to work, said Robert Cullinane, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 127, which represents toll-takers.

"It's like the guy in the MBTA gets to ride the train to and from work,' Cullinane said. "How else is he going to get there?"
Noah Bierman can be reached at

Photo by Stuart Cahill

"Pike commuters don’t need equity, just reparations"
By Howie Carr, Thursday, May 22, 2008,, Columnists

Memo to the Turnpike Authority’s Toll Equity Working Group:

Those of us who commute on the Pike don’t want “toll equity,” we want reparations. How many times do you tax-fattened hyenas have to hear this - the tolls were supposed to come down after the original bonds were paid off, sometime around 1985.

Guess what? The sun never set on the sun-setted tolls. The hacks decided to “earmark” the toll money, for themselves.

At the State House, they are just itching to pull the trigger on more toll hikes, and more toll booths, and what comes in their wake, which is more toll-takers. Why else would they keep floating these ridiculous trial balloons, only to shoot them down, sort of, later in the day?

In case you didn’t hear the most recent non-denial denial, it’s not that tolls on I-93 are off the table. They’re off the table “at this point.”

So Monday the Pike releases its “37 options” for dealing with the so-called toll equity issue - the fact that some drivers are paying billions for other drivers who pay nothing. As for some of these 37 suggestions - you hacks were kidding, right?

This is on page one, under the chapter heading “MassPike Commuters Believe That Not All Commmuters (sic) Are Paying Their Fair Share of Tolls.”

So Option 3 concerns the West Newton exits, Exit 16, where the toll booths were taken down by then-Gov. Bill Weld during the 1996 Senate race. It’s one of the very few breaks the MetroWest crowd gets - you cut through Newton on Route 16 and you can save the $1.25 you’d otherwise pay at the Weston tolls.

The Turnpike’s suggested “solution”: “Reinstate Int. 16 toll.”

So to deal with the problem of MetroWest commuters getting hammered, the solution would be to make them pay even more.

Next, we have another thorny issue (at least to the Pike’s payroll Charlies): On the western part of the Turnpike, “commuters pay nothing for CA/T (the Big Dig).”

There’s a reason for that, of course. People in the 413 area code don’t use the Big Dig. Studies have been done showing that only 8 percent of the MetroWest commuters use those leaky, God-forsaken tunnels on a regular basis, so you can imagine what the number is in the Golden West. Maybe .08 percent. Again, the equity solution - beggar more of the drivers who aren’t even using the rotten road that’s eating up all the money.

Here’s another bulletin from the Toll Equity Working Group: “Many People Have Observed that MHS (Mass. Highway System) Tolls are Being Diverted Off of the Turnpike.”

And here is their solution to this plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face information: “Explain CA/T funding that MassPike only paid 12 percent of total CA/T cost.”

Only 12 percent! That might be a good argument, if the Big Dig only cost, say, a hundred bucks. But it cost $16 billion - so far. So 12 percent is $2 billion.

No, the 37 options aren’t really getting the “toll equity” job done. Last I checked, “equity” more or less means “equality.” So here’s the deal, either you take them ALL down or you build them for everybody. Of course, the hacks could just increase the gas tax, but that would leave all those toll collectors with no jobs. That ain’t gonna happen.

Which is why I demand reparations. If you stipulate all the boilerplate in the 37 options, it becomes clear that everyone who drives the Pike has been robbed over the past two decades or so, since the original bonds were paid off. We’re not talking about something that happened hundreds of years ago to our ancestors. I just got robbed of $1.25 a couple of hours ago, in Allston. Put it on my tab.

Toll Equity indeed. Repeat after me, Mass Pike commuters: No justice, no peace!
Article URL:

"Big Dig clash cost $8.3m, audit says"
By Noah Bierman, (Boston) Globe Staff, June 11, 2008

A dispute between the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and the Massachusetts Port Authority over cracks and leaks in Big Dig construction has cost taxpayers $8.3 million, the state auditor reported yesterday.

The Turnpike Authority and Massport have been arguing for years over the quality of a 3/4-mile section of the Ted Williams Tunnel and a nearby elevated ramp leading to Logan International Airport. Massport, which runs the airport, is supposed to take control of the property but has refused to pay the Turnpike for it, contending that the work was not up to standards.

The state treasurer wound up making Massport's payments to the Turnpike Authority, a process that cost taxpayers an extra $8.3 million in borrowing costs, Auditor Joe DeNucci said.

"I don't blame the Port Authority for not wanting to accept damaged goods," DeNucci said. "If the roadways were built correctly, this wouldn't be a problem. It wouldn't have been a problem at all."

DeNucci called the latest findings typical of the Big Dig, the subject of 22 audits by his office.

"We were disclosing problems with the roads leading out of the Ted Williams tunnels way back, and here we are a decade later and it's the same old story," he said.

Pike officials argue that the value of unfinished work is much lower than the amount that Massport has withheld and that it has been unfairly blamed for the credit problems that forced Massport to borrow money through the state.

The Legislature required Massport to pay $365 million to help cover the cost of the Big Dig roads and ramps that serve the airport. Massport paid off the first $160 million on time.

The state Treasury became involved after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when Massport could not get a loan without the Commonwealth's backing. The state then became responsible for Massport's Big Dig debt and made payments to the Turnpike Authority, relying on Massport to repay the money. But beginning in 2002, Massport delayed and withheld payments to the state, because of a dispute about how much work was left to be completed.

As delays continued, state Treasurer Timothy Cahill became increasingly frustrated.

"Due to a disagreement between Massport and the Central Artery Project over a punch list, Massport still has not reimbursed the Commonwealth, which remains out $50 million," Cahill wrote in an Aug. 7, 2006, letter to Governor Mitt Romney. Once DeNucci's audit began in 2007, Massport made two large payments totaling $36.6 million, leaving the final $12.4 million unpaid out of the original debt.

In a statement, Mac Daniel, Turnpike Authority spokesman, said the agency disagreed with the premise of the audit because the authority was not responsible for Massport's inability to borrow money after 9/11, nor the state's decision to back the loan.
Noah Bierman can be reached at

The Boston Globe, Op-Ed, JIM STERGIOS
"Rebuilding bridges and public trust"
By Jim Stergios, June 11, 2008

GOVERNOR Deval Patrick's proposal to accelerate funding to fix deficient bridges is a creative policy move that promotes public safety and economic growth. It could also repair taxpayers' faith in state government's ability to manage critical transportation infrastructure projects.

The plan calls for borrowing $3 billion to fix 250 to 300 bridges over the next eight years. Of course, borrowing is not new revenue. It is spending now what could be spent later, and that means fewer dollars will be available for future projects.

Borrowing for new projects would not make sense. But dealing with the backlog of deferred bridge maintenance is a liability every bit as real as the pension and retiree healthcare benefit liabilities. And rampant construction inflation, together with the rapidly escalating cost of repairing assets whose condition is in decline, makes acting now a necessity. Fix it now and you avoid a big-ticket overhaul later.

Patrick's team has significantly improved the proposal since it was unveiled in April. Overall spending has been reduced, and the plan now contains provisions for funding future maintenance. The administration has also taken steps to maximize potential federal assistance.

In the wake of the Big Dig, taxpayers are skeptical of the Commonwealth's ability to successfully manage major projects. Making the bridge repair proposal work is vital to building the public trust that will be needed if taxpayers are to fund other costly transportation infrastructure needs.

One way to make sure bridge repairs are done well is to build on the accountability reforms in this year's Transportation Bond Bill by providing for separate, transparent reporting on the results of projects funded by this proposal.

Once repaired, the state needs to ensure these bridges are properly maintained. The governor's proposal now allocates some money into the recently created Deferred Maintenance Trust Fund. Governors should be required to either direct enough capital dollars into the trust fund to meet maintenance needs or explain why maintenance is being underfunded.

Public safety should override agency turf battles. All bridges should be inspected according to a single standard and utilize the high-tech PONTIS bridge management system to ensure cost-effective maintenance.

This period of extraordinary funding must not unnecessarily burden Executive Office of Transportation and MassHighway budgets over the long term. Lax oversight of the Big Dig clearly demonstrated that state transportation agencies need sufficient expertise to oversee and manage complex projects. As a result, the administration intends to use solely in-house management to oversee the bridge projects.

My own experience in the Office of Environmental Affairs makes me skeptical of the Commonwealth's ability to quickly add the needed number of skilled engineers. Even if it hires 50 to 150 engineers, what does it do with them after the projects are completed? The Commonwealth already funds almost all MassHighway's payroll out of bond funds - a very expensive and irresponsible way to pay for personnel. Let's not compound the error.

Long-term budget concerns and questions about the feasibility of hiring enough engineers suggest that leaving the door open for public-private partnerships that could create value for the Commonwealth. Without appropriate oversight, these partnerships can be costly failures. But they are often a good fit for bridge repairs.

Some of the planned projects - including renovation of the Longfellow Bridge - have the potential for serious cost escalation. Public-private partnerships should be considered for these, especially if the state can shift financial risks associated with extended timelines and cost overruns to the private sector.

Restrictive laws now prevent the use of innovative public-private partnership options available to transportation departments in other states. Bridge safety and $3 billion are too important to fritter away on outdated rules that don't serve the public interest. State agencies should be allowed to utilize delivery methods best suited to the needs of each project.

The governor's accelerated bridge funding proposal could be a signature achievement of his administration. Its evolution is a case study in good public policy: innovative thinking combined with a willingness to incorporate ideas that strengthen the plan. Its effective implementation is a prerequisite to asking Massachusetts taxpayers to fund additional transportation needs.
Jim Stergios, former chief of staff and undersecretary for policy in the Office of Environmental Affairs, is executive director of Pioneer Institute.

"State plan is dismissed as par for the course: Ponkapoag diehards don't expect overhaul"
By Megan Woolhouse, (Boston) Globe Staff, June 16, 2008

CANTON - The state is planning an elaborate, multimillion-dollar reconstruction of the famous - some would say infamous - Ponkapoag Golf Course, with changes that include installation of a new drainage system that will stop some chronically soggy fairways from flooding and importing truckloads of peat to raise holes that have sunken from years of neglect.

But ask any of the regulars who show up every afternoon, rain or shine, whether they are excited about the plans, and they offer the same been-there, done-that look as when their partner misses yet another 8-foot putt.

"The state's always saying they're going to improve this place," Bob Bradley said before he teed off one recent sunny afternoon. "It hasn't happened in 50 years."

In Massachusetts, where infrastructure is crumbling, roads are ragged, and some bridges are so shaky that trains have to slow down to cross them, it should probably come as no surprise that state officials have faced enormous challenges accomplishing a seemingly small task: running a 36-hole golf complex.

But more vexing than the state's failure is the perpetually lost potential of Ponkapoag. This isn't just any golf course, but a Donald Ross-designed course, a distinction that puts it in a league with the famed Course No. 2 at Pinehurst in North Carolina and the exclusive Salem Country Club on the North Shore. Ross may be one of the most revered course designers in the history of the sport, but half the holes he created at Ponkapoag's Course No. 1 are overgrown and have been closed to golfers for at least five years. Vast stretches of Course No. 2 are dry and scabby; weeds grow in bunkers. The state has hired consultants to design improvements over the decades, but the plans never come to fruition, gathering dust at taxpayer expense.

All of this has made Ponky, as it is commonly known, a symbol of state mismanagement, if not an outright joke. The 1996 best-selling book "Missing Links" referred to a fictionalized version of Ponkapoag as "the single worst course in America." After visiting Ponkapoag several years ago, United States Golf Association officials declined to consider it as a venue for the US Open, even though they have held championships at other once-beleaguered public golf courses, like Bethpage Black in New York.

Such slights haven't been enough to spark changes in Massachusetts. Despite decades-long problems, officials at the Department of Conservation and Recreation have never leased Ponkapoag to an outside agency and conditions there have only worsened. Donald Crawshaw, the state engineer overseeing the current revitalization plans, said the course needs as much as $35 million in improvements.

"It doesn't reflect well on the Commonwealth to have thousands of golfers being unable to play on a Donald Ross course," he said. "It's a magnificent place."

From the parking lot, Ponkapoag's two courses look like a golfer's dream. Earlier this month, the grass on Ponkapoag's rolling fairways glowed bright green and were shaded by graceful old maples and pines. Course regulars said that by next month, the summer's heat will turn the grass dry and brown. Because the course's irrigation system is old and malfunctions, employees must drag hoses to some of the holes to water them.

A short golf cart drive away from the parking lot, the desert gives way to a bog. This is the third hole on Course No. 1, where 4-foot-tall reeds sway in the breeze along the mucky fairways. It is closed to golfers, as are the fourth through eighth holes and the 11th through 13th, which are badly unkempt and prone to flooding. Off-limits to golfers, all the closed holes were designed by Ross but now are so overgrown that they are havens for hikers and birdwatchers.

"It's a sin," said Ponkapoag golf pro Michael Fleming as he surveyed the course on a recent afternoon.

"You need a boat to get to the green," said Bradley, a retired special-education teacher in Boston.

Yet it is good enough for the Roundos, a motley collection of Ponkapoag diehards who continue to meet for golf at the course, as they have for decades. An assortment of retired teachers, janitors, and golf buffs, several of the diehards were the basis for characters in "Missing Links," which chronicled the exploits of four blue-collar golfers. The Roundos have been fixtures at Ponkapoag for decades, referring to themselves as "members" of the public course because they hold season passes.

Frank "Cementhead" Oliverio, a Roundo who acquired his nickname from his days as a construction worker, said the state does not seem to care that it is sitting on a treasure.

"Golf has become so expensive, there's a cry for more public golf," he said. "A lot of guys can't afford $100 to play."

Bradley scoffed at the notion of state-promised improvements and takes the neglect personally.

"This [course] is for the working-class person," he said. "If this course was in Wellesley and played by the rich, they'd have it fixed in two seconds."

In fact, the state also operates one other golf course, the Leo J. Martin Golf Course in Weston. At both courses, it costs $25 to play golf Friday through Sunday, but the Weston course does not have the massive maintenance problems Ponkapoag does. While the number of starts at the Leo J. Martin Course has remained steady, Ponkapoag has seen a decline in golf starts in the last decade. According to the state, Ponkapoag attendance dropped by 20,000 starts since 1985, to 60,000 last year.

State Senator Brian A. Joyce, a Canton Democrat, said that is because Ponkapoag has gotten so bad that even some of the course's most loyal golfers have abandoned it. He would like to see the golf course bring in state revenue and has proposed a bill that would lease Ponkapoag for 25-year stints to the town of Canton or a private management company. The proposal remains under consideration in the Legislature.

A similar bill failed to pass in the Legislature several years ago. Joyce said it met with resistance from the union representing Ponkapoag's six employees. It was also greeted with opposition from Ponkapoag regulars who feared its rebirth would bring rising greens fees. DCR officials currently back the proposal to offer a long-term lease of Ponkapoag, but, Joyce said, for years they did not.

"There's the natural resistance to change that any organization has. It's easier to maintain the status quo," Joyce said. "The state should not be in the business of running a golf course."

That became clear to some in 1992, when the Metropolitan District Commission, the state agency that then managed Ponkapoag, hired Watertown-based Sasaki Associates to redesign drainage and irrigation systems for the course to solve its flooding problems. While the state paid the company about $700,000 to redesign the course, plans were shelved when funding dried up during the Romney administration.

John Hollywood, a principal at Sasaki, said the project was mired in red tape, a reorganization of the state agencies in charge, environmental concerns, and tensions between state officials and local elected officials who wanted to take control of the course from the state. Hollywood said he met with Ponkapoag's regular golfers in the early 1990s and recalled that they scoffed at the notion that the club would improve.

"After a decade of work on the project," Sasaki said, "I came to appreciate their comments."

More recently, the state hired EA Engineering, Science, and Technology of Maryland to complete new designs for Ponkapoag improvements at a cost of $419,000. And construction is expected to begin this year on $5 million in improvements to the golf course and the leaking Ponkapoag dam.

Those plans are dismissed with knowing smirks among Ponkapoag regulars and Roundos. Roundo numbers are fewer now, down from the 40 or 50 guys who used to meet regularly in the clubhouse. On a recent afternoon, a handful met to play in the rain, trading jabs, telling jokes they deemed "politically incorrect," and settling bets when the game was over.

Oliverio, a janitor in the Westwood public schools, said what he loves about Ponkapoag is that "everything is the exact opposite of what it should be."

It's a mismanaged public course built by a famous designer and mostly frequented by regular working guys.

And "it's water, water everywhere," he said, with a laugh, "except on the greens."


"No bridge boondoggles"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Governor Patrick's $3 billion bridge repair program, which is proceeding through the Legislature, is long overdue and should not be put off any further. That said, once it is up and running, the state must be vigilant so it doesn't turn into a boondoggle, like so many public works projects have had a tendency to do.

A report issued by the Boston-based Pioneer Institute recommends several steps to prevent the project, which will take an estimated eight years to complete, from becoming another Big Dig. The project, which is to be financed through borrowing, encompasses more than 400 bridges requiring everything from minor repairs to complete reconstruction. The Institute emphasizes the need for strict oversight and project transparency, and while that may seem self-evident, the Big Dig had neither.

The report recommends periodic public updates of progress and cost estimates to head off the surprises that made the Big Dig's overruns that much harder to absorb. It also cautioned against dramatic staffing increases that will leave salaries and pensions on the state payroll after the bridges are repaired and rebuilt eight years from now.

The state finds itself in this dilemma because little or no provision was made to maintain bridges, and state roads for that matter, when they were built. The state should never again embark upon any project without budgeting for the repairs and upgrades that will be inevitable as the decades go by. In making these bridge repairs, the state must also anticipate the day 10, 20 or more years from now when money will be needed to do it all over again.


"Modern Continental files for bankruptcy protection"
June 23, 2008 11:56 AM
By Jonathan Saltzman and Sean Murphy, Globe Staff

Modern Continental Co. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection today, the first business day after federal prosecutors brought 49 charges against the Big Dig's largest contractor, including allegations that it knew about bolts coming loose in the ceiling of the Interstate 90 tunnel years before a 2006 collapse killed a motorist.

Modern Continental said in a petition to the US Bankruptcy Court in Boston that it had debts of $500 million to $1 billion and assets of only $100 million to $500 million. The company estimated that it had 200 to 999 creditors, including one it owed nearly $9.9 million.

The board of directors of Modern Continental voted June 11 to seek protection from its creditors, according to court documents.

The company was expected to issue a statement today, according to Harold B. Murphy, who helped prepare the bankruptcy petition.

Late Friday, the US Attorney's Office in Boston brought a slew of federal highway fraud and wire fraud charges against Modern Continental. Prosecutors alleged that the company made false statements on construction documents certifying the quality of its work and systematically cheated on the bills for labor and materials it submitted.

US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan said his office brought the charges after plea negotiations with the company broke down. Modern Continental denied the allegations in a lengthy statement, calling them ``completely unfounded and without merit.''

Modern Continental teetered on the brink of bankruptcy in 2004, but to avoid a default and the resulting chaos it would inflict on the Big Dig project, the state helped arrange a merger with another large Big Dig contractor, Jay Cashman Inc.

The deal had the strong backing of Modern Continental's insurance carriers, which had guaranteed the completion of the company's work on the project. However, the deal also meant that Modern Continental was essentially a shell corporation, with no real independence

"Accused Big Dig firm files for Ch. 11: Facing US charges, seeks financial shield; Modern Continental cites $1b in debts"
By Sean P. Murphy and Jonathan Saltzman, (Boston) Globe Staff, June 24, 2008

Modern Continental Corp., which earned $3.2 billion as the largest contractor on the Big Dig and was charged criminally by US authorities last week with hiding shoddy workmanship, sought the shelter of US Bankruptcy Court yesterday, claiming up to $1 billion in debts.

It was a long-feared turn for a company that started with a wheelbarrow and a single sidewalk contract in Peabody 30 years ago and morphed into a construction giant on the back of its Central Artery work.

Ultimately, Modern Continental became one of the biggest symbols for all that went wrong on the $15 billion project. US prosecutors filed 49 individual charges against the company on Friday, alleging that it was responsible for flaws that caused a series of tunnel leaks as well as a ceiling collapse in 2006 that killed a motorist.

Modern Continental's Chapter 11 bankruptcy could complicate attempts for financial recovery on many fronts.

Legal specialists said bankruptcy status could hamper attempts by relatives of motorist Milena Del Valle to collect on their multimillion-dollar negligence claim against the firm. The filing is expected to greatly diminish the value of hundreds of business debts, to just pennies on the dollar. It also could help Modern Continental, meanwhile, to win $20 million it says it is owed by the state.

A lawyer who specializes in bankruptcy said yesterday's filing appeared to be skeletal, indicating the firm may have rushed to bankruptcy court in response to the criminal complaint.

Modern Continental has probably been considering the move for some time and kept that option "in their hip pocket," then hastily filed the petition when federal prosecutors brought charges, said Jeffrey Sternklar, a veteran bankruptcy lawyer in Boston who is not involved in the case.

The effect on the government's criminal case was not clear. Lawyers contacted by the Globe disagreed over whether the filing would hurt the government's ability to recover up to $24.5 million in fines that the privately held firm would face if it is convicted on the federal criminal charges.

Lee Harrington, a bankruptcy lawyer not involved in the case, said fines that might stem from the federal prosecution would be treated like any debt owed by the company: Creditors might get only a fraction of what they are seeking.

But US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan, who said Friday that prosecutors charged Modern Continental after extended negotiations toward a plea bargain collapsed, said yesterday the bankruptcy petition "does not impact the government's criminal case and will not deter us from trying to recover taxpayer dollars."

Modern Continental has said it would vigorously contest the criminal charges, but yesterday the company sought to blame the state for at least some of its financial problems. The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which oversaw the construction of the $15 billion project and which faces severe financial hardships of its own because of the debt it took on in that capacity, is withholding $20 million in payment to the company as a means to guarantee the work's completion.

"As a result of Modern's struggle to collect due and owing contract balances from the Commonwealth, Modern's ability to timely fulfill its remaining contractual requirements as well as its obligations to its creditors has been placed in jeopardy," the company's statement said. "Modern hopes that the Commonwealth will fulfill its contractual obligations and allow Modern to reach its continuing goal of meeting all of its obligations."

The Turnpike Authority would not comment on the dispute, except to say that the $20 million being withheld is meant to compel the company to finish the job.

"The work is not complete and there are outstanding punch list items," said Mac Daniel, a spokesman for the Turnpike Authority. "But because of pending litigation, we can't comment further."

A lawyer for Del Valle's children, Brad Henry, said the family intends to persevere in its claims. Modern Continental's general liability insurers may be forced to pay a negotiated settlement or a court judgment, without regard to the company's financial condition, he said.

"This may cause some short-term delay but it won't stop the family from ultimately establishing Modern Continental's role in this tragedy," Henry said.

The company's financial problems have long been a source of major concern among state officials. For five years, the firm built by the Italian immigrant Lelio "Les" Marino has been considered a virtual shell corporation, teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and kept on life-support by its surety company through the infusion of hundreds of millions of dollars.

The company fell behind on two dozen contracts on the Big Dig in 2003 - contracts it often won by underbidding other contractors by substantial sums. Since then, Modern Continental has been kept in business by Travelers Insurance, which in 1999 contracted with the company to insure its performance on the Big Dig, guaranteeing to the state that the work then underway by the building contractor would be completed.

Amid the crisis, the 69-year-old Marino, the company's driving force, died months after having open-heart surgery and undergoing chemotherapy for stomach cancer.

Travelers decided it would be cheaper to pay the firm's burgeoning debts and keep it operating than to bring in another company to finish the job.

As of 2006, Travelers had poured $435 million into Modern Continental, most of it to keep work going forward on the Big Dig, according to court filings in a case unrelated to the present bankruptcy proceedings.

Shane Boyd, a corporate spokesman for Travelers Insurance, said he could not comment.
Sean Murphy can be reached at
Legal actions related to the 2006 Big Dig ceiling collapse:

Epoxy supplier indicted for manslaughter; settled a civil suit for $6 million.

Big Dig project manager agreed to $450 million state and federal settlement.

US Attorney announced range of criminal charges against the construction contractor yesterday, Friday, June 20, 2008.

Family’s civil suit against the agency & 8 other Big Dig companies still pending.



"More Big Dig charges brought: Contractor is said to hide tunnel flaws"
By Sean P. Murphy and Jonathan Saltzman, (Boston) Globe Staff, June 21, 2008

The US Attorney's office in Boston yesterday brought a raft of criminal charges against the Big Dig's largest contractor, saying it knew that bolts were coming loose in the ceiling of the Interstate 90 tunnel but glossed over the problem until panels came crashing down in 2006, killing motorist Milena Del Valle.

The government also accused the company, Modern Continental Corp., of systematically cheating on the bills for labor and materials it submitted. And it said a water-gushing wall breach in 2004 was a result of shoddy concrete workmanship, which it said Modern Continental knew about but ignored.

Prosecutors said they brought the charges late yesterday after plea negotiations with the company broke down. The company denied the accusations in a statement issued last night, calling them "completely unfounded and without merit."

The company said in the statement that it had performed its work according to contract plans and specifications.

"The charges represent an attempt after the fact to criminalize actions that were either approved by the project manager and state authorities or represented bookkeeping errors that the company ultimately addressed," the statement said.

If convicted, Modern Contintental faces criminal fines of up to $500,000 for each of the 49 counts of making false statements, submitting phony time and materials slips, and wire fraud that were brought - or $24.5 million in all. Its financial exposure could be even greater if it is forced to pay restitution for its deficient work. No individual executives or employees were charged in the case.

Authorities say Modern Continental routinely passed off flawed craftsmanship as adequate and accepted full payment for its work on the $15 billion project when the company knew its performance was actually deficient, according to documents filed by prosecutors in US District Court yesterday.

US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan said the company would have to pay a high price, if convicted.

"You're talking about tens of millions of dollars, conservatively," he said in an interview last night. "Sadly, a tragedy occurred with the ceiling collapse, and there's no charge that the federal government could bring, and no amount of recovery that we could collect, that's ever going to make those families whole."

"Companies don't go to prison," he added. "People go to prison. Companies pay fines and then suffer some other consequences as a result of a federal conviction."

Sullivan also issued a brief statement through a spokeswoman saying that "considering the extent of the inspections and review since the collapse of the tunnel ceiling, we have no reason to believe that the public is not safe." Since the collapse, the state has inspected and repaired ceiling bolts throughout the tunnel system.

Del Valle was a 38-year-old Jamaica Plain mother crushed when tons of concrete came tumbling down on the car driven by her husband on July 10, 2006. The charges allege that Modern Continental knew the anchor bolts-and-epoxy system used to hold up the ceiling was faulty, but did not correct it.

Modern Continental "was aware, through documents in its possession concerning the epoxy it used to install the concrete anchors, that the epoxy it used in the I-90 tunnel was not appropriate for long-term loads like the ceiling panels," the criminal information says.

Modern Continental and Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, which managed the design and construction process, were aware during construction that the anchor bolts were slipping out under the weight of the ceiling, and between 1999 and 2003 made several attempts to determined the cause and to fix the problem.

"Neither Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff nor [Modern Continental] ever determined the cause of the failing bolts," the criminal information says. Under a joint state-federal settlement in January, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff avoided criminal jeopardy by paying $450 million.

Yesterday's charges also say Modern Continental overlooked flaws when its workers poured the concrete that makes up the walls of the Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. Tunnel, including defects in the spot that burst open in 2004 allowing 300 gallons of water a minute to gush into the road.

Modern Continental managers identified in December 2001 a "large defect and leak" in the wall that later opened up but the defect "was never repaired," according to the criminal information.

Federal prosecutors say they determined that Modern Continental did not properly fill out 210 of 230 forms documenting concrete work in the section of tunnel it built between Congress and High streets. That showed the company was involved in "systemic failure" to meet specifications, the criminal information says.

Besides the shoddy work, the company is accused of engaging in a scheme to overbill the project by claiming pay for workers classified as experienced "journeymen," when they were in fact apprentices. Prosecutors did not disclose the total costs of the alleged padded billing.

Modern Continental joins one other company charged criminally in connection with the death of Del Valle. Powers Fasteners, the New York-based supplier of the bolts-and-epoxy support system used to hold up the ceiling panels, stands charged with manslaughter by the state. Those charges were brought last year by state Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Lawyers for the Del Valle family praised the US Attorney for bringing the charges yesterday, but said federal prosecutors have been making the family's civil suit more difficult by preventing them from interviewing some witnesses while the fedreral probe continues.

"We're glad they are pursuing these kinds of claims," said Brad Henry, who represents Del Valle's children. "The family can't get to the bottom of what happened if we can't take testimony."



The Boston Globe, Saturday, June 21, 2008, Page B4

“Turnpike presses state for funding: Needs to cover Big Dig expenses”
By Christopher Baxter, (Boston) Globe Correspondent

Worcester—The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority—facing a near-certain toll increase—turned up the heat on the Legislature yesterday to get it to help pay for the Big Dig and mandated discount programs.

Key words: “Alan LeBovidge”, executive director; “Bernard Cohen”, transportation secretary & chairman of the board; “Michael P. Angelini”, board member; “Judy Pagliuca”, board member; “Mary Z. Connaughton”, board member from Framingham. Also, “Steven A. Baddour”, State Senator, &, “Joseph F. Wagner”, State Representative, Chairmen of the Joint Committee on Transportation.

3 main scenarios:

(a) Rebalancing the toll fares across the commonwealth, (—weakest);

(b) Raising toll fares;

(c) Receiving more $ from the state government.

The “Central Artery/Tunnel Project” is expected to cost the agency $104 million in 2009.


"Massachusetts moves -- badly"
June 24, 2008

MASSACHUSETTS political leaders have known for years that the state has a severe transportation financing gap, but it hasn't yet registered with the average citizen. Yesterday, a coalition of public-spirited groups explained that the crisis is apparent every time a motorist lurches over a patched-up highway or an MBTA passenger is delayed by a train breakdown.

According to a report commissioned by the Massachusetts Transportation Investment Coalition, 585 bridges in the state are structurally deficient, the most heavily traveled being the Interstate 95 span that crosses the Newburyport Turnpike in Lynnfield. A stretch of North Road in Westfield is number one on the list of deteriorated highways. There may be no immediate safety hazard, but with truck and automobile transportation essential to the state economy, no highway should linger in substandard condition.

With the spike in gas prices, ridership on public transit has increased markedly, and the MBTA has worked hard to accommodate all its riders. Years of inadequate investment, however, have meant that 82 percent of the transit rolling stock is in poor or marginal condition, and 84 percent of commuter rail coaches are in similarly poor shape. Continual repair keeps most of them going, but the threat remains of unreliable service.

The coalition comprises 21 groups ranging from the American Automobile Association, Conservation Law Foundation, Construction Industries of Massachusetts, and the Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council. Its members will spend the next few months going around the state explaining the extent of the problem. The coalition's findings ought to encourage legislative candidates to make transportation finance an issue this fall.

It's a hard sell. A special commission established by the Legislature issued two reports last year spelling out the problem, and figured it would cost $15 billion to $19 billion to fix it. Governor Patrick responded last month with a $3 billion bridge repair program. This is only a down payment.

That commission proposed a series of financing options, including an increase in the gasoline tax. The coalition itself declines to make specific recommendations, leaving it up to the Legislature and the governor to make the choices next year.

The only revenue increases allowed without legislative approval are increases in transit fares or toll hikes. That's unfair to transit riders and toll payers. This is a statewide problem, and requires a solution that spreads the burden to fix it. State officials shouldn't wait for a tragic road or bridge collapse to show leadership on this issue.


"10 face charges of theft at tolls: Turnpike workers probed in scheme; $5,000-$10,000 stolen, DA says"
By Noah Bierman, (Boston) Globe Staff, June 25, 2008

Rogue toll-takers deployed a low-technology scheme to steal thousands of dollars from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, skimming quarters and dollars from the taxicabs and other vehicles that passed by their booths near Logan International Airport, prosecutors said yesterday.

On the most profitable shifts, a toll-taker could take home an extra $150, Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said. On less lucrative days, the loose change and dollar bills added up to only $20.

Over a three-month period, the 10 toll-takers were observed on camera stealing a total of $5,000 to $10,000, Conley's office said. They were charged yesterday with larceny and fraudulent record keeping, which is a felony. Authorities said they do not know how long the employees were skimming money and how much ultimately was stolen from the financially struggling Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.

Though the known dollar figures were relatively low, the risk in public confidence was high, authorities said.

"This was the very definition of a violation of the public trust," Conley said.

The head of the union representing toll-takers could not be reached for comment yesterday afternoon.

Turnpike Authority officials tipped off State Police to the potential problem in October, prompting a State Police investiga tion. All 10 toll-takers charged work at the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels connecting the city to Logan Airport.

At those tunnels, taxicabs pay a higher rate than passenger vehicles. The toll-takers are supposed to press one of several buttons in the booth for each vehicle that passes, indicating whether it is a car, cab, or other kind of vehicle. Cabs pay $5.25, while cars pay $3.50. Before Jan. 1, the rates were $4.50 and $3, respectively.

Conley said the workers would charge the cab full fare, press the button for passenger cars, and then pocket the difference. In other cases, they would let two cars pass, but only press the button once, he said.

The toll booths near the airport are the easiest to skim from, because they rely on toll-takers to press buttons to differentiate cabs and regular cars. Other booths along the Pike do not charge separate rates for cabs. The same scheme could not be used for tractor-trailers, which are charged for each axle, because the Pike has trundles on the ground that detect how many axles are passing.

The Turnpike Authority has some controls in place at the airport tunnels, including cameras that record vehicles as they pass the booths and daily reports on how much money is collected. But the authority's executive director, Alan LeBovidge, said those controls were not being used in the past.

"If you're not checking, you don't know," he said.

But, LeBovidge added, "there's always an issue when cash is involved in any transaction, any retail transaction."

LeBovidge said that he was uncertain how long the skimming had occurred, but that it could not have started before 1995, when the Ted Williams Tunnel opened and officials began charging a separate rate for cabs. LeBovidge said the 10 workers were placed on unpaid suspension. Their boss, Bob Cole, was fired earlier this year, though not accused of a crime.

LeBovidge said several changes should prevent further theft.

This month, Boston police began enforcing a rule that cab drivers use the Fast Lane pass, limiting the chance for fraud by eliminating the human factor. The Turnpike Authority is also retraining toll-takers, with an emphasis on ethics and whistle-blowing, and adding stricter discipline, said Mac Daniel, a spokesman for the authority.

Finally, LeBovidge has added a new department in charge of analyzing toll data and reviewing video to detect fraud. Still, the authority has not moved as quickly as other toll agencies in persuading drivers to pay electronically. About 60 percent of the money collected at the Logan tolls comes in cash, Daniel said.

The authority had planned to upgrade its electronic toll system, with technology that might have encouraged more drivers to buy Fast Lane transponders, but that effort was canceled for a second time last week because the authority cannot afford it. The lowest bid came in at $30 million, LeBovidge said.

Donna Blythe-Shaw, a United Steelworkers official who represents Boston taxi drivers, said the crackdown was another case of taxis being caught in the middle of a problem.

"We find it very unfortunate for the families of those workers and for them," she said. "We hope that the system . . . can find a better system for toll-taking, for accounting for tolls, and not to just issue mandates that really don't solve the problems and cause individuals and particularly in this case taxi drivers, a hardship."

Bob Turner, 64, who said he has been driving cabs for 15 years, said the scheme was well known to drivers.

Turner said that during one recent trip through a toll booth for one of the tunnels, the lighted display said $3.50, but the toll-taker collected the $5.25 taxi fare. Turner asked the toll-taker if she could explain to his passenger why he had to charge her $5.25, when the display showed the lesser price. "She said, 'It's not working.' I said, 'So why is it open?' She had no answer," he said.

He said he has tried to "beat them at their own game" by asking for a receipt, forcing them to record the correct price. The receipts, however, display the date but not the time.

"So, frequently, you'll notice that they have printed out four or five of these [receipts], so that they're stuck in the door frame of the booths, so that they're ready to go," he said.

The simple solution to the thefts, Turner said, is to charge taxis the same price as any other sedan at the tunnel tolls, as they do at every other toll on the Pike. The men charged in the scheme range in tenure from eight months to 29 years at the Pike. Eight were full-time employees and earned an average of $53,000 a year, not including overtime. The two part-timers made an average of $38,000, Daniel said.

Stephen Golisano, 35, of East Boston, was charged with three misdemeanor counts of larceny under $250 and three felony counts of false entry on corporate books. He said he quit on May 1, because of plans to move to California to be with his daughter. He said that his legal summons showed only one charge and that it was probably an accident, rather than an attempt to steal.

"It's not that I was trying to skim the money," he said. "It's just that I hit the wrong button, trying to make the traffic quick."

He said the lines back up and toll takers work fast so as not to upset the public.

"We make enough money there," he said. "We don't need their money."

Efforts were made to reach the others charged, identified by authorities as King Chan, 50, of Wellesley; Joseph Fermino, 56, of Quincy; Paul Iacobacci, 48 of Everett; David Jones, 47 of Dorchester; Steven Lorina, 53, of Buzzards Bay; Tony Pasuy, 35, of Lynn; Hartley Riley, 67, of Roxbury; Justin W. Ruggiero, 27, of Bradford; Cheung Wan, 67, of Randolph.
Globe correspondents Matt Collette and Jillian Jorgensen contributed to this report. Noah Bierman can be reached at

"Turnpike seeks aid from state on debt"
By Sean P. Murphy, (Boston) Globe Staff, July 9, 2008

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority is looking for state protection to avoid being forced to pay back as much as $200 million to investors.

Governor Deval Patrick's administration has signaled its support of the plan, which it says would cost the state no money but would expose the state to some measure of additional risk.

"We believe this is the best of a number of bad options the turnpike faces," said Jay Gonzalez, undersecretary for administration and finance. "We don't expect to ever have to pay $1 in the turnpike's debt. But does it expose us to some level of additional risk? Yes."

In essence, the plan proposed by the Patrick administration and the authority would have the state step in and guarantee part of the authority's debt, like a cosigner on a loan. And because the state's credit rating is better than the authority's, investors in complex turnpike debt securities issued in 2001 and 2002 would be blocked from requiring the authority to pay off a portion of the debt at unfavorable terms.

Gonzalez said the debt-related problems the authority faces originated years ago, rooted in a series of complex financial deals it made in 2001 and 2002 to raise cash to meet Big Dig costs.

"This was an arrangement that did not work out well for the turnpike and one that the current leadership of the turnpike and this administration inherited," said Gonzalez.

The deals were made under the leadership of Matthew J. Amorello, who was forced to resign as Turnpike Authority chairman in 2006 after a prolonged battled with Governor Mitt Romney. The agency is now run by Alan LeBovidge.

In a statement yesterday, LeBovidge said: "Thanks to a series of poor decisions by past Turnpike administrations, we're dealing with a grim financial picture while working hard to find steadier ground. As we continue in our efforts to reform the authority and find all possible cost savings and efficiencies, we are working with the governor's office and the Legislature on possible solutions."

Even with Patrick's backing, the plan faces questions in the Legislature. This week, the House attached a version of the plan to a transportation bond bill. But Senator Mark C. Montigny, a New Bedford Democrat who is Senate chairman of a committee that oversees state bonds, said yesterday that he plans to grill administration and Turnpike Authority officials in a public hearing next week. Montigny said he is concerned that there is nothing to prevent other boards and authorities from making such deals.

The Turnpike Authority is an independent agency, with the ability to borrow money on public markets by pledging revenues collected in tolls. In 1996, the Legislature gave the authority the responsibility for managing construction of the $15 billion Big Dig and, later, for operating it.

As cost overruns mounted, the authority accumulated $1.8 billion in debt for the Central Artery/Tunnel Project. In 2001 and 2002, the authority, short on cash, made deals with the investment firms UBS and Lehman Brothers to raise $65 million in cash.

The so-called swaption deals allowed the investment banks to hedge against disadvantageous changes in interest rates. Already, the banks have exercised options that cost the authority about $10 million a year in increased payments. And another option available to the banks in January could double the additional cost.

One way out of the deals for the authority is to refinance, but because its credit rating is so poor, the authority cannot find willing purchasers of its bonds.
Sean Murphy can be reached at

"Highway woes crippling state"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Friday, July 11, 2008

I was amazed to read how much it's actually costing us when we drive over potholes and are stuck in traffic ("Roads take toll on state," June 23).

Hopefully it was a wake-up call for our elected officials too. It's bad enough that gas prices have risen to unprecedented levels, but now we're being hit from this angle as well.

Out in this part of the state we're used to being slighted by the politicians on Beacon Hill who can't see past Boston, but this problem is bigger than Boston. The story was right, the state of our transportation system is dragging down our ability to be competitive with other states and other countries. But even worse, it's not safe.

When is Massachusetts going to learn that we need to learn from the tragedies in other states — like last year's bridge collapse in Minneapolis — before it happens here?

Belmont, Massachusetts

"Keep the tourism clerks"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Turnpike Authority Director Alan LeBovidge has made impressive progress in shaping up the bloated, debt-ridden bureaucracy in his short time on the job. Perks like free trips on the pike for authority officials have been eliminated, and he has cut back on lobbyists and public relations specialists. However, eliminating the jobs of 10 tourist information clerks who staff kiosks along the pike, done without consulting tourism officials, is counter-productive and not worth whatever modest savings are made. Any program that boosts tourism is beneficial to the Berkshires, and thousands of potential tourists roar down the turnpike daily. The Eagle has long advocated restoring the tolls to the western end of the turnpike, which would produce revenue to pay for the clerks with plenty left over, and Representative "Smitty" Pignatelli's suggestion of seasonal tolls has promise. Let's explore options that don't involve undermining the tourist trade.


"State tries to rescue Pike from huge debt: $800m would be refinanced; treasurer objects to 'bailout'"
By Casey Ross, (Boston) Globe Staff, July 16, 2008

The Patrick administration is engineering a large-scale financial rescue of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority that would allow the cash-strapped agency to refinance $800 million in debt to avoid potentially ruinous repayment terms.

The House, acting swiftly at the administration's request, gave initial approval yesterday to legislation that would allow the Turnpike Authority to use the state's higher credit rating to refinance its debt to lower its interest costs. The move means taxpayers would be responsible for the turnpike's debt if the agency defaults.

A Patrick administration official yesterday said the debt provision is urgently needed to get a safety net in place before the Legislature recesses at the end of July. "What we're doing is making sure the Turnpike Authority is not in the position of having to make a lump-sum payment in the hundreds of millions of dollars that would have to be financed on the backs of toll payers," said Jay Gonzalez, undersecretary of administration and finance.

However, state Treasurer Timothy Cahill accused the administration of exposing the state and its taxpayers to heavy risk without demanding financial reforms at the Turnpike Authority.

"It borders on fiscal recklessness, to be honest with you," Cahill said yesterday. "This is a bailout, and it does nothing to force the turnpike to clean up its own mess. The taxpayers deserve better than this."

The turnpike has said it may have trouble making higher payments that could come due in January under the terms of complex loans that were used to help pay for the Big Dig. While they have not sketched a plan to fix the agency's debt problem, turnpike officials have indicated that one of the primary options for fixing its finances is to increase tolls. The Turnpike Authority increased tolls on the roadway inside Route 128 and at the Boston Harbor tunnels in January.

Cahill, and another critic, state Senator Mark Montigny, said the administration needs to install new oversight provisions that would prevent the Turnpike Authority from entering into potentially risky financial transactions in the future.

"We're assuming all of the risk here, but we're abandoning any concept of oversight," the New Bedford Democrat said. "I want to prevent this from ever happening again, and we can't do that until we assess blame and correct this."

Top aides to Governor Deval Patrick defended the administration's maneuvers, arguing that the state's backing is needed to avert a financial disaster brewing at the Turnpike Authority. Gonzalez also emphasized that the turnpike will still be primarily responsible for repaying its debt and that he does not foresee deeper financial problems that would force the state to open its coffers. "We don't expect to have to pay a cent of the turnpike's debt," he said.

The turnpike debt provision was tacked onto a $3 billion borrowing measure that, if passed, would fund repairs to as many as 300 bridges that have structural problems.

Overall, the provision authorizes the state to guarantee the Turnpike Authority's entire debt load of $2.4 billion; the Commonwealth would in effect act as a cosigner on a loan for the turnpike.

The full debt must be backed by the state in order to allow the turnpike to refinance the $800 million portion that carries the costliest interest charges, officials said. The bill still needs approval from the state Senate, whose members have called for a hearing on the turnpike's debt for tomorrow.

The authority is facing a pair of troubling scenarios involving complex debt deals it made earlier this decade with investments banks, including UBS. Under one scenario, UBS can demand repayment of an additional $2 million a month beginning in January, a burden turnpike officials said they would have trouble meeting.

The authority may also have to make a $179 million payment to UBS if the company that provided insurance on the bonds, Ambac Financial Corp. of New York, experiences further financial troubles.

Ambac's credit rating was lowered last month by Wall Street rating agency Moody's out of concerns that tightening credit markets have limited the firm's financial flexibility. One of the nation's largest providers of financial insurance and guarantees, Ambac has seen its stock price plummet in the last year. Another reduction in Ambac's credit rating would allow UBS to demand immediate repayment, citing the turnpike's lack of adequate financial backing.

The move to use the state's credit rating would allow the turnpike to avoid both costly scenarios.

The authority's arrangement with UBS was authorized by former Turnpike Authority chairman Matthew Amorello as a way to extract an upfront payment from the investment house to plug holes in the Big Dig budget. Similar transactions were also made with Lehman Brothers, freeing up a total of $65 million.

The turnpike's problems stem in part from the turmoil that has been rocking financial markets since last summer, and has spread in particular to public agencies and large nonprofits whose interest costs have soared as investors have retreated from portions of the bond market.
Casey Ross can be reached at



"Big Dig's red ink engulfs state: Cost spirals to $22b; crushing debt sidetracks other work, pushes agency toward insolvency"
By Sean P. Murphy, (Boston) Globe Staff, July 17, 2008

Massachusetts residents got a shock when state officials, at the peak of construction on the Big Dig project, disclosed that the price tag had ballooned to nearly $15 billion. But that, it turns out, was just the beginning.

Now, three years after the official dedication of the Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel, the state is reeling under a legacy of debt left by the massive project. In all, the project will cost an additional $7 billion in interest, bringing the total to a staggering $22 billion, according to a Globe review of hundreds of pages of state documents. It will not be paid off until 2038.

Contrary to the popular belief that this was a project heavily subsidized by the federal government, 73 percent of construction costs were paid by Massachusetts drivers and taxpayers. To meet that obligation, the state's annual payments will be nearly as much over the next several years, $600 million or more, as they were in the heaviest construction period.

Big Dig payments have already sucked maintenance and repair money away from deteriorating roads and bridges across the state, forcing the state to float more highway bonds and to go even deeper into the hole.

Among other signs of financial trouble: The state is paying almost 80 percent of its highway workers with borrowed money; the crushing costs of debt have pushed the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which manages the Big Dig, to the brink of insolvency; and Massachusetts spends a higher percentage of its highway budget on debt than any other state.

The scope of the debt has not previously been calculated, much less publicly disclosed, by the state's political leaders, including Governor Deval Patrick and his senior transportation officials. The Globe confirmed its calculations in interviews with the state's financial analysts.

"The Big Dig saddled us with costs we can't afford," said Bernard Cohen, secretary of transportation. "We are grappling with that legacy now. There are no easy answers."

The debt is a big part of why Massachusetts had the highest tax-supported debt per capita in the United States last year. Most of the Big Dig borrowing occurred when cost overruns on the tunnel network skyrocketed in the late 1990s and state officials scrambled to keep the partially completed project afloat.

The impact of the debt can be seen in some frustrating and alarming ways.

During the last three years, Massachusetts spent the most of any state, by far, 38 percent of its highway budget, on debt payments, according to Globe analysis of federal data. The median is less than 6 percent nationally.

The state has also been forced to meet payroll demands for 1,400 Massachusetts Highway Department workers with borrowed money because it does not have enough cash to pay them. That means that painters and clerical workers paid around $18 an hour cost the state $28.80 an hour. The 80 percent of the workforce being paid with borrowed money compares to 14 percent before the Big Dig work began.

Across the state, commuters are suffering daily for the massive shortfalls that have led to closings and stalled projects.

In Boston, Red Line trains on the Longfellow Bridge are forced to a crawl, trucks are prohibited, and the volume of passenger cars is restricted. On the South Shore, the Fore River Bridge between Quincy and Weymouth is awaiting replacement while motorists squeeze over a temporary span. And in Southeastern Massachusetts, Fall River motorists are frustrated with the pace of work on replacing the Brightman Street Bridge.

"It's a mess," said Fall River resident Muriel Pomprowicz.

Other such signs of neglect include a fleet of rusty trucks, some of them 12 years old, that are still on the road.

From the start, the Big Dig was supposed to be paid for jointly by the federal and state governments. When the project was unveiled in the early 1980s, Massachusetts residents were told by transportation officials that the federal government would pick up 90 percent of the cost. Based on cost and borrowing estimates made at that time, state residents were expected to spend around $345 million, interest payments on debt included.

But the federal government ruled that the project was not eligible for that level of federal support. As costs mounted over the next two decades, it was the state's responsibility to make up the difference. Ultimately, the federal government paid just 27 percent of the construction costs, or about $4 billion.

As a result, the Globe analysis of state and federal data shows, state taxpayers and toll-payers are responsible for a staggering $18 billion of the total $22 billion in construction and debt costs.

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which was brought in to oversee the Big Dig construction in 1996 as part of a financial rescue plan, borrowed $1.8 billion, but will have to pay back almost $5 billion, including interest. Its borrowing was so expensive because it was financed over 40 years, twice as long as the vast majority of government debt, with no principal due for the first 10 years.

It is now unable to keep up with its share of the state's debt payments and is in desperate need of a bailout. Alan LeBovidge, the turnpike's new executive director, estimates a yawning deficit next year in the authority's operating budget, $70 to $100 million.

"There is a funding gap," said LeBovidge. "It's a large number, and I don't have a magic wand."

The authority's annual payments on its Big Dig debt are $115 million now. Those payments will level off at $145 million annually by 2020 and continue for another 18 years. The capital budget for construction, paving, and inspection for the Big Dig and the 137-mile Massachusetts Turnpike, meanwhile, has been slashed to $22 million, about 19 percent of the debt expense.

The Turnpike Authority raised tolls last year, but will need to raise them again and again to stay afloat. It may even add tolls on the approaches to its downtown tunnels to alleviate the load on commuters from the western suburbs.

"It's outrageous that toll-payers wind up footing the bill when others get a free ride," said Mary Z. Connaughton, a Turnpike Authority board member.

Quantifying the amount of money that was diverted to the Big Dig from statewide road and bridge repair and construction programs is difficult. A Globe analysis of data maintained by the Federal Highway Administration shows spending for state roads and bridges lagged behind other states. If Massachusetts had kept pace, it would have spent an additional $851 million.

"The Big Dig drained funding away," Cohen said. "I can't tell you exactly how much, but it's been in the billions of dollars."

There are two sources of state highway funds: state borrowing and reimbursement to the state on federal gasoline taxes collected in Massachusetts. The Big Dig, which makes up 7.5 miles of an 11,000-mile system, gobbled up about 40 percent of those funds during the last 17 years, data show.

Since planning for the Big Dig began, the state gas tax was raised only once, in 1991, to help pay for the Big Dig. That two-cent-per-gallon increase contributed a modest amount to the project.

"The state didn't want to pay the cost as we went along, so now it is time to pay the piper," said Alan Altshuler, former state transportation secretary. "It's quite a bind, and there is no obvious way out. It's something the politicians have to figure out."

So far, the answer adopted by Governor Deval Patrick and his administration is a familiar one: Borrow more money to meet current transportation needs. The administration has gained legislative approval for $5 billion in new borrowing for transportation projects and is asking for $4 billion more in a plan to get the state's 3,000 bridges into top condition over the next eight years.

Asked why the state doesn't raise taxes to help pay for its burgeoning costs, Cohen said no such course was necessary.

"We can afford these borrowings within the income stream we have today," Cohen said. "Raising taxes is not on the table."

Since taking office, Patrick has proposed merging the Turnpike Authority with other transportation agencies to increase efficiency and save money. He also has begun to reduce the number of workers being paid with borrowed money.

There have been high-level discussions about adding tolls on Interstate 93, as well, though Cohen insists only as a last resort.

"What is on the table is reform and reorganization to show people we are serious about sound policy," he said. "We need to turn things around before we ask people to dig in deeper in pocket."

Cohen said eliminating consulting contracts, reducing senior staff, and curtailing overtime at the turnpike have contributed to $14 million in savings in the last year.

But more is needed, said Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. It simply avoids the nasty reality by borrowing deeper and longer into future, he said.

"They are not addressing the situation, they are just shifting billions of dollars of debt to future generations," Widmer said.

"Nobody wants to be the one to increase taxes," he said. "But without taxes, it means the next generation will face a deep hole."
Sean Murphy can be reached at

"Pike rescue plan raises questions at Statehouse hearing"
July 17, 2008, 1:36 PM, By Eric Moskowitz, (Boston) Globe Staff

The Patrick administration's plan to help out the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which is laboring under a crushing $2.4 billion debt, received a lukewarm reception today from the chairman of a legislative committee at a Statehouse hearing.

Senator Mark Montigny, a New Bedford Democrat who is chairman of the Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures, and State Assets, said he had questions about the proposal, under which the state would essentially act as a co-signer on the authority's debt. He wondered if the plan could hurt the state's credit rating.

"I'm at best [a] deep skeptic," he said.

Treasurer Tim Cahill said the move might not hurt the state's credit rating, but it certainly wouldn't help it.

Jay Gonzalez, undersecretary of administration and finance, said the bill would not put the state at high risk but would give the authority badly needed help in avoiding a "financial calamity." Gonzalez also said those opposed to the option have not yet proposed alternatives.

The Globe reported Wednesday that the governor is engineering a large-scale financial rescue of the authority.

The House, acting at the administration's request, gave initial approval Tuesday to legislation that would allow the authority to refinance $800 million in debt to avoid potentially ruinous repayment terms. The plan calls for the authority to use the state's higher credit rating to refinance its debt to lower its borrowing costs.

Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a business-backed budget watchdog group, said a gas tax increase and tolls on Interstate 93 heading into Boston are needed and inevitable because of the Turnpike's financial problems, even if lawmakers don't acknowledge it yet.


"Western Mass. may bear brunt of Big Dig debt", July 18, 2008

(Danica Pecirep, NECN: Worcester, MA) - Just when you thought it couldn't go any higher, it apparently has. The price tag for the Big Dig could hit 22 billion dollars.

The Big Dig is already the most expensive highway project in us history - and with another seven million dollars in interest - the price tag has jumped to a staggering 22 million. The state will be footing almost all of that bill - and many taxpayers aren't pleased.

like it or not - state taxpayers will continue paying for the project until 2038 - a date almost fifty years after construction started.
Jordan Levy - a former board member at the Massachusetts Turnpike- says the latest figures aren't surprising.

Levy says residents in Metro West will be paying more...compared to those in other parts of the Bay State.

The western toll payers that really don't utilize the project to any great degree are going to pay a proportional amount.


"Digging deeper"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Friday, July 18, 2008

Maybe we should start calling the Big Dig the Big Debt, considering the hole that the massive construction project has left in the state's finances. Three years after the Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel was officially dedicated comes news that an additional $7 billion in interest has raised the project's total cost to an astounding $22 billion, according to The Boston Globe. The sum is so large that the state won't be able to pay it all off until 2038. The state, of course, includes Berkshire taxpayers who received no benefits from the Big Dig but saw funding for local highway and bridge projects disappear into its gaping maw.

The project was supposed to contain a large amount of federal funding — in the early 1980s transportation officials said the federal government would pick up 90 percent of the tab — but now we learn that 73 percent of the construction costs were paid by state drivers and taxpayers. To satisfy that obligation, the state's annual payments over the next few years will be $600 million or more, around what they were when construction was at its peak. Quite a price to pay to construct 7.5 miles of highway to help drivers get in and out of Boston more quickly.

There's no easy way out of a financial mess like this one, and the state has paid and will continue to pay the price. Infrastructure improvements have been delayed, and funding to repair deteriorating roads and bridges has to be funded through bonds. The state is paying 80 percent of its highway workers with borrowed money, a stop-gap measure that looks like a journey further down a slippery slope.

With the Turnpike Authority buried in Big Dig costs, Governor Patrick has proposed a large-scale financial bailout of the agency's $800 million of debt. The House on Tuesday gave initial approval to legislation that would allow the authority to use the state's higher credit rating to refinance its debt and lower its interest costs, but if the agency defaults on its payments taxpayers would be responsible for turnpike payments. We agree with state Treasurer Timothy Cahill that this plan will do nothing to force the turnpike to "clean up its own mess," which it could begin to address with toll increases and the reinstitution of tolls on the western end of the turnpike.

State Senator Mark Montigny, a New Bedford Democrat, argues that the state can't prevent a similar situation from taking place unless it is willing to assess blame and correct it. Under current leadership, the authority has begun to do that. Acknowledgment of harsh financial realities is also required, which means an increase in the gas tax along with toll hikes to address this debt. The Big Dig has burdened the state for nearly 20 years, and relying entirely on borrowing to pay its debt along with bridge and highway repairs means that future generations will long be paying the freight.


"MassPike paid 43 employees $100K-plus"
The Associated Press, Thursday, July 24, 2008

BOSTON (AP) — The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority paid 43 employees $100,000 or more last year even as it struggles with $2.4 billion in debt.

A payroll analysis by the Boston Herald found that the agency has 24 employees with six-figure salaries, while another 19 boosted their pay past the $100,000 mark with overtime work, including two who hang road signs.

The agency also paid 51 toll collectors $70,000 or more, with overtime.

Turnpike Executive Director Alan LeBovidge, credited with saving the agency millions of dollars by eliminating staff and reducing overtime, admitted that overtime is a burden, but defended the sign hangers as "highly skilled" workers.

Lawmakers are currently considering a plan to help the agency refinance $800 million in debt.


"2 Mass Pike sign hangers cruise to $100G-plus pay"
By Joe Dwinell / Special Report, Thursday, July 24, 2008,, Local Coverage

The cash-strapped Mass Pike is paying two “sign hangers” more than $100,000 each to design and erect roadway signs even as state leaders consider a multimillion dollar bailout of the toll road, a Herald payroll analysis reveals.

Coupled with 51 toll takers driving home with $70,000-plus paychecks thanks to overtime boosts, the spending could spell “Trouble Ahead” for the Pike as it paves the way for new toll hikes.

The sign hangers - among 43 Pike employees pulling in six-figure salaries last year - lifted their base pay with lucrative OT.

That overtime, Pike brass admit, is a budget breaker.

“We’re trying to balance whether it’s more economical to pay OT or to have another person,” said Alan LeBovidge, executive director of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.

LeBovidge has been lauded for cost-cutting, including spending $3.5 million so far this year on overtime, down from $4.8 million during the same period last year. But fiscal watchdogs say it’s time to speed up the cuts.

Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation president Michael Widmer blasted the Pike for failing to move quickly enough to replace overtime-sucking toll takers with technology.

“It’s striking that the Turnpike is paying this much for toll takers at the very moment that they are looking for a bailout from the state,” he said.

The Mass Pike is struggling with the $22 billion Big Dig price tag and currently pushing for a state lifeline to guarantee its $2.4 billion debt.

As for the sign hangers, LeBovidge called them “highly skilled” workers who clocked in overtime at night on the Allston-Brighton U-turn construction. They also are busy replacing signs busted by trucks inside the Big Dig tunnels.

“Every sign you see, they made,” said LeBovidge, who earns $160,000. “If we had to buy these signs it’d be astronomical.”

According to the latest Pike payroll:

Henry Kelley, one of three Pike sign hangers, made $104,594 last year - including $40,395 in overtime. Sign hanger Edward McCarthy made $101,489 - including $37,000 in overtime.

Only 24 employees have six-figure salaries, but once overtime is factored in 43 people made $100,000 or more, including plumber William Giggi, who made $109,996, with $45,000 of that in overtime.

Fifty-one of the 317 full-time toll takers earned $70,000 or more in 2007. Senior collectors make $58,749 a year and toll collectors make $53,022 as a base pay.

Winston Forde, who made $99,680 including about $41,000 in overtime, was the highest paid toll taker.

LeBovidge, who took over in December, points out there are 54 fewer Pike employees today than in 2006 and he has cut six senior staff positions, saving $1 million.

“My instructions to management is this is a never-ending project and it’s our responsibility to look at costs every day,” he said.


Article URL:

"Legislature agrees to back Pike finances: Reaches a compromise as session ticks to a close"
By Matt Viser, (Boston) Globe Staff, August 1, 2008

House and Senate lawmakers reached a last-minute compromise at nearly 1:30 this morning to extend a financial lifeline to the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority that is intended to protect the quasi-public agency from financial collapse.

Although lawmakers disagreed over how risky the various plans would be for taxpayers, even critics said they had to do something to avoid reconvening in special session to prevent the Pike from insolvency.

Lawmakers - with advice from lawyers, financial advisers, and bankers - spent days in rooms negotiating the final measure. It changed hour to hour in the final days of the session as advocates weighed the risks to taxpayers and toll payers.

Under the approved legislation, lawmakers insured more than $1 billion in Turnpike Authority debt and investment obligations, which was less than the governor's more aggressive proposal to back the Pike's entire $2.4 billion debt. The state's backing will allow the turnpike to refinance $800 million in debt using the state's superior credit rating.

The Legislature, capping the end of its 2008 session in dramatic fashion, used every minute until its midnight deadline last night - and then blew past the deadline to meet until about 1:30 this morning. In its marathon session, lawmakers approved several major proposals, including overriding nearly half of Governor Deval Patrick's $122.5 million in budget vetoes, and approving a sweeping proposal to curb soaring healthcare costs.

Major items that lawmakers neglected to take up included whether to allow residents to register to vote on election days, whether the state should ban trans fat oils in restaurants, and whether Massachusetts should join a movement to decide presidential elections using a national popular vote instead of the Electoral College.

"We're getting a little punchy and sleep-deprived tonight," Representative Patricia A. Walrath, Democrat of Stow, said at a 6 p.m. news conference. "But we'll try."

Yesterday was a day of ceremonial bill signings, as well as a bit of whimsy - the House welcomed Miss Massachusetts 2008, Alicia Zitka, into its hallowed chamber, and lawmakers buzzed about the Red Sox trading Manny Ramírez, carrying printouts of ESPN articles along with stacks of legislative documents.

Everywhere the governor went well-wishers burst into rounds of "Happy Birthday" to note his 52d, and during a morning news conference attended by a dozen squirming kindergartners, he gave them a brief lesson on state politics.

"In this building, we make laws, and the laws are made by the Senate and the House," he said. "It's insane down there right now."

Lawmakers waded through mounds of unfinished business last night, and the pace was frantic as votes were cast in flurries and aides ran documents between the House and Senate to keep each chamber updated on what the other was doing. Late yesterday afternoon, House and Senate lawmakers reached a compromise on a broad proposal that seeks to contain the state's rising healthcare costs. The new law includes a contentious provision to clamp down on drug companies' gifts and meals provided to physicians.

Although the legislation does not include an outright ban on drug company gifts, it requires the companies to report to the state Department of Public Health any payment or subsidy over $50 made to a healthcare professional. It also requires that the department post that information on a public website.

"We fought for this bill until the very end, which was 15 minutes ago," said Senate President Therese Murray, who spearheaded the legislation, which has dozens of other provisions aimed at improving healthcare and lowering costs. "It was a dynamic and collaborative process."

The bill also sets a statewide goal for adopting electronic health records by 2015 and would set a standard for uniform billing and coding among healthcare providers and insurance companies.

Yesterday completed a busy two-year session that was full of political maneuverings as, for the first time in 16 years, Democrats adjusted to controlling both legislative chambers and the governor's office - and Republicans rarely had a significant seat at the negotiating table. The governor's proposal to license three casinos in Massachusetts took most of the oxygen out of the State House this year and led to fierce clashes between Patrick and House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, before the speaker ensured its dramatic defeat in March.

Lawmakers also approved a $1 billion package to bolster the state's life-sciences industry. They backed a plan to tighten corporate income tax codes and approved a series of laws that promote environmental policies and combat global warming.

One of the biggest issues to dominate the session was preserving the legality of same-sex marriage, and the topic stayed on the agenda yesterday as Patrick signed into law a bill allowing gay couples from other states to marry in Massachusetts.

For the ceremonial bill-signing, DiMasi walked down the grand staircase and greeted Patrick. They both smiled widely before praising each other in front of a crowd of hundreds. It allowed DiMasi a brief reprieve from the palace intrigue over whether he will leave his position and who will take his gavel. It gave the governor an opportunity to revel in a successful issue in the final hours of the session.

"I ask you to applaud today and every day you can for . . . the leadership shown by my friend and yours, the speaker of the House, Sal DiMasi," Patrick said.

"I am so proud to stand next to the governor," DiMasi said.

Later in the day, the state Republican Party sent out a legislative scorecard, measuring the performance of the Democrat-controlled State House on ethics, property tax relief, and state pension reform. Predictably - given the hand-picked nature of the list from a party that holds just 24 seats in the Legislature - the grade on every issue was an F.
Kay Lazar and Noah Bierman of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Matt Viser can be reached at

The Boston Globe, B2, City & Region, Thursday, August 07, 2008

“No more testimony at Amorello hearing”

The State “Ethics” Commission hearing into conflict-of-interest charges against former Massachusetts Turnpike Authority chairman Matthew J. Amorello is closed, according to Thomas Kiley, Amorello’s lawyer. On Tuesday (8/5/2008), Amorello testified that he had nothing to do with the change in the authority’s policy on the buyback of unused sick leave in 2006, a change that had the potential of boosting Amorello’s severance package by about $73,000. The commission left open until yesterday (8/6/2008) whether additional testimony would be taken in the case. But now there is no more testimony scheduled. Kiley and Stephen P. Fauteaux, who presented the case against Amorello on behalf of the “Ethics” Commission, are expected to make closing statements in the case at a later date.


“The Boston Herald”, Editorial, Page 24, August 07, 2008

“Amorello as Sgt. Schultz”

Former Turnpike Authority chief Matt Amorello has opted for the stupidity defense in his case now being heard before the state “Ethics” Commission.

The commission has charged Amorello with conflict of interest in approving a change in the agency’s sick-leave buyback policy that would have benefited his own financial interest even as he was on the way out the door.

The commission’s prosecutor, Stephen Fauteaux, said, “In effect, the evidence will show that, in short order, in July 2006, the sicktime buyback policy for non-retirees went from zero to 100 percent to 50 percent.

That change made Amorello eligible for about $73,000 in additional pay.

But Amorello testified that he knew nothing about the policy shift (insert your own Sgt. Schultz imitation here), insisting it had been implemented by the Pike’s head of human resources Norman Chalupka and that the first he knew about it was when he informed Chalupka he was leaving. Later that same day Chalupka scaled back the buyback to 50 percent of unused sick pay.

Of course, Amorello’s departure followed two weeks of wrangling with Governor (Willard) Mitt Romney in the wake of the tunnel ceiling collapse that killed Milena Del Valle. And the policy shift was made 10 days before Amorello’s resignation.

So to win his case Amorello has to convince the commission he was clueless, which, come to think of it, might actually be believable.


“The Boston Herald”, Editorial, Page 24, August 07, 2008

“Never trust fox to guard henhouse”

Never again in Massachusetts should a private behemoth like Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff be allowed to police its own work as it was largely allowed to do on the Big Dig. Not when billions of taxpayers dollars are at stake. Not when lives are at stake.

But a bill extending a financial bailout to the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority also contains a provision requiring that an “owner’s representative” be hired to oversee spending and construction on major public works projects – those that exceed $50 million. Governor Deval Patrick should sign it, and make sure there are enough souvenir pens to hand out to all those tax- and toll-payers who suffered for the lack of past oversight and accountability.

If the idea sounds familiar, well, it should. Former Turnpike Authority board members Christy Mihos and Jordan Levy called for such independent oversight back in 2002 (although that was years after the Big Dig’s problems had already been exposed.) The state inspector general and a bipartisan group of lawmakers renewed the call in 2006, after the death of Milena Del Valle revealed the depth of the oversight failures.

State Senator Steven A. Baddour (D-Methuen), co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Transportation, says the Big Dig failures would never have happened if this measure had been in place. That might be overstating it.

And neither this reform, nor the need for more engineers and consultants to oversee a massive new bridge-repair initiative, is an excuse to lard up the state payroll.

But at least lawmakers have figured out that while the hired guns on the Big Dig were watching their own backs, no one was assigned to watch out exclusively for the taxpayers. This small reform sets out to change that.


"Panel urges more funds to keep tunnels safe: Big Dig needs regular upkeep, letter warns"
By Noah Bierman, (Boston) Globe Staff, August 14, 2008

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, already struggling with debt and rising costs, must find a way to dedicate more money to the regular maintenance and long-term rehabilitation projects necessary to keep the Big Dig tunnels safe, according to an influential panel appointed after a ceiling collapse in 2006 killed a woman.

A June 27 letter from the panel to Governor Deval Patrick, obtained by the Globe, said the agency must revise its long-term spending estimates and find a reliable source of money "commensurate with the scale of the system" to keep the $15 billion tunnels and the rest of the turnpike from deteriorating.

The warning was given as the Turnpike Authority faces dire financial challenges; it recently borrowed from its reserve accounts to patch a deficit and sought help from the Legislature last month to stay solvent. The possibility of a second toll increase in as many years has been lurking since the authority raised rates in January.

The letter summarized the final report of the long-awaited $9.8 million "stem-to-stern" safety review of the eastern portion of the turnpike and the tunnels, which was delivered to the governor's office with the letter, but has yet to be made public. It was ordered in two phases, initially by former governor Mitt Romney in 2006, after Milena Del Valle died when heavy ceiling panels fell on the car in which she was riding. Patrick's office has declined requests from the Globe to release the engineering report from the second phase, saying the document is still in draft form as officials review it and remove sensitive security information.

The letter does not delineate how much money will be needed to keep the tunnels maintained as the structures age.

Mac Daniel, Turnpike Authority spokesman, said the agency plans to spend about $33 million on operations and maintenance for the nontolled portions of the Big Dig next year. But he could not provide exact projections for maintenance or a long-term spending plan for preserving the tunnels, which were officially completed last year.

"Until the stem-to-stern [report] is presented to the board next week, we haven't been asked nor has it been possible to calculate what the full needs of this are going to be," he said.

Daniel suggested that some of the financial burden will be eased with the help of a $458 million legal settlement reached with Big Dig contractors in January. Most of the settlement money was set aside in a trust fund primarily for future nonroutine repairs, according to initial announcements, and requires federal approval before it can be spent. That could rule out many of the foreseeable maintenance and rehabilitation issues outlined in the letter, but could cover the costs of some larger repair projects linked to defective work.

Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen said in January that as much as $100 million could be spent within a year. None has been used yet, Daniel said.

Executive Director Alan LeBovidge declined a request to be interviewed for this article because the letter to Patrick has not been released publicly.

Outside transportation specialists say it is difficult to generalize what the authority should be spending on regular maintenance and capital projects because the tunnels are unique in their complexity.

But observers inside and outside the agency have expressed concern that the Turnpike Authority does not have enough money to properly maintain the tunnels, calling a $25 million annual payment from the state too small a figure to cover both meaningful repairs and about $70 million a year in debt payments related to the project.

LeBovidge has warned in the past that segments of the Big Dig are aging faster than the public realizes, noting that the Ted Williams Tunnel opened more than a decade ago - in 1995, when commercial traffic was first allowed to use it.

In the past, the turnpike has delayed major spending in order to avoid higher tolls. Last fall, the board declined to spend $250 million on a five-year road, tunnels, and bridge plan - deemed necessary by its staff - because board members wanted to limit the size of this year's toll increase.

In addition to overall maintenance issues, the letter points to several specific concerns previously identified during the engineering review. Together, they are a further reminder that spending on the project is far from over. The panel cited:

the need for a long-term program to plug leaks. The panel said water levels in the tunnels are "consistent with the most stringent US and international requirements." But builders had promised the state the tunnels would have no leaks at all. The letter does not say how extensive the leaks currently are, but previous reports put the number at 670 late last year. The Turnpike Authority continues to spend money plugging them, approving a $5 million contract in June.

lingering concerns that some Ted Williams Tunnel ceiling anchors cannot be inspected because of the lack of crawl space. Engineers, who began inspecting the ceilings after Del Valle's death, recommend retrofitting these sections with additional support to ensure safety.

the poor condition of the Sumner and Callahan tunnels, which predate the Big Dig by decades. Repairs to ceilings in both will be "costly," the letter says. Engineers said in the letter that a plan to fix the Sumner ceiling should be developed within two years.

the need to continuously monitor fire safety standards in the tunnels. The US Department of Transportation's inspector general has recommended that tunnels meet a higher fire safety standard than the one in place when the Big Dig was designed.

After listing the specific concerns, the panel wrote that it was important to look beyond the current review.

"Continued and safe operation of the [Big Dig and turnpike] can only be achieved with vigilant operational monitoring, thorough inspections on regular schedules, and timely maintenance and rehabilitation of any degraded components of the system," wrote the panel, led by Robert E. Skinner Jr. of the Transportation Research Board, which is affiliated with the National Academy of Sciences.

Skinner declined an interview request because Patrick's office has yet to release the letter publicly. Robert Rooney, the Patrick administration official who is overseeing the review, also declined to be interviewed.

Outside transportation specialists have a hard time quantifying the ongoing maintenance and rehabilitation costs of the Big Dig, because nothing of its scale and complexity has ever been built. A Federal Highway Administration spokeswoman said it is up to states to develop maintenance plans for megaprojects.

Mary Connaughton, a member of the Turnpike Authority Board, said the authority does not have the money to maintain the Big Dig and that costs will only continue to go up. "The only way the turnpike is going to have that money is to increase tolls," she said. "Where else could it come from?"
Noah Bierman can be reached at

The Boston Herald, Op-Ed, Page 20, July 27, 2008

“Vote ‘yes’ to stick it to those jokers”, By Howie Carr

“This town needs an enema.” The Joker was right, only it is not just the town, it is the state, and I have the prescription: Question 1, the referendum question on the November ballot to abolish the state income tax.

It becomes clearer by the day the entire hackerama has careened out of control. It requires an intervention. It has got to go cold turkey. And since the hacks can no longer even pretend to control their spending habits, someone has got to stop them.

On Nov. 4, vote “yes” on Question 1. If it passes, it will return to working people $12.5 billion the hacks now squander handing each other six-figure jobs, lifetime pensions beginning in their 40s, endless raises, free health care – you know the list. Every day brings more headlines about new outrages. Yesterday (7/26/2008), it was the news that 337 employees of the MBTA made more than $100,000 last year.

Vote yes on Question 1. If you make $50,000 a year, by abolishing the income tax you will be giving yourself a $2,600 pay raise.

Next week, I predict, we will learn that one of the $100,000 sign painters at the Mass Pike is the brother-in-law of a crooked, convicted-felon legislative leader. Another nationwide search. Who needs your $2,600 more? The felon’s brother-in-law, or you?

The economic reality is that you cannot have an ever-dwindling group of productive, working citizens supporting an ever-larger mob of indolent hacks, moonbats, illegal aliens and perverts. The parasites have learned to rally around one another – and the more heinous the crimes, the more hysterical the support. Think Sen. Jim Marzilli, the perv in the Prius. Or the 5-foot-3, 300-pound woman with the nine-page rap sheet (including common-night-walking charges) who went crazy on the Expressway this week, Sandra Howes.

How dare the cops pull guns on her, her (public defender) lawyer fumed, just because she was ramming cars? How dare the Herald put quotation marks around the word “wife” to describe her galpal? Six restraining orders against her by four different women – what are you, a homophobe?

Vote yes on Question 1. The teachers’ unions redefined “marriage” for you without your permission, now you get a chance to redefine “budget” for them.

Another scandal: One of Governor Deval Patrick’s judicial picks was on the Parole Board when they cut loose a convicted murderer who was charged with a vicious rape in Haverhill just last weekend. At Maureen Walsh’s hearing before the Governor’s Council, no one thought to ask her about the fact that the district attorney and the murder victim’s family begged her Parole Board not to let the fiend out to commit more crimes.

Walsh followed the traditional modus operandi of future judges: She gave money to pols, ponying up nicely for Governor’s Councilor Tom Merrigan, a prep-school classmate of mine, who just happened to chair the confirmation hearing for his campaign contributor.

Merrigan shrugged off the fact that no one asked a Parole Board member about a rape committed three days earlier by a plug-ugly who had been cut loose by that very same Parole Board. “You do the best you can with what you have got and you cannot guarantee the future,” said Merrigan, who collected $100 from the future judge who cannot guarantee the future, although I can. I guarantee she will be confirmed, on Wednesday.

Vote yes on Question 1. Give yourself a pay raise, just like they are giving out at the Pike.

Consider the brother of ex-Senator Cheryl Jacques. Two years ago Steve Jacques, the Pike’s “director of business development,” was making $90,000.43. Last year, his pay rose to $96,484.59. What Pike budget crisis? And now the former solon is herself back at the public trough, compliments of Governor Deval Patrick, with a $108,000 sinecure at the Industrial Accidents Board for which she is surely just as qualified as Maureen Walsh.

Then there is the brother-in-law of Representative Michael Kane of Holyoke. With overtime, Kane’s in-law made $66,512.88 last year as a Pike “maintenance worker.” Hey, Representative Kane, try to move up in leadership will you. Doesn’t your brother-in-law deserve to make more than 100 large too, just like the felon’s?

This state needs an enema. A Question 1 enema.


"Turnpike to cut tourism grants"
The Associated Press, Friday, August 15, 2008

BOSTON (AP) — In another moneysaving move, the cash-strapped Massachusetts Turnpike Authority says it will not hand out $700,000 in annual grants to tourist attractions this year.

Turnpike Executive Director Alan LeBovidge says it would be "ridiculous" to dole out the money when the agency is $2.4 billion in debt.

The grants were meant to get people to use the toll road by encouraging tourism at sites close to the highway, especially in western Massachusetts.

But communities without Turnpike exits and nowhere near the road also benefited.

Tow Powers of the Boston Island Alliance, which promotes the Boston Harbor Islands, says he isn't surprised his organization won't get its $80,000 grant considering the Turnpike's financial situation.

The Turnpike got 101 grant applications this year.


"Break in tolls on Pike may go: Budget proposal avoids higher fee; Cuts Fast Lane, other discounts"
By Ryan Kost and David Abel, (Boston) Globe Staff, August 22, 2008

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority unveiled a plan yesterday that would eliminate discounts for Fast Lane users and residents of some Boston neighborhoods. By scrapping the discount for more than 1 million people, the authority would be able to avoid another across-the-board toll increase.

Executive director Alan LeBovidge unveiled the idea as part of an ambitious budget proposal that he acknowledged could risk further damaging the authority's already battered bond rating. The proposed budget would also dip into the agency's depleted reserves, ask for additional help from the Legislature, and seek further cost reductions through restructuring as part of an effort to avoid an overall toll increase in January, which had long been seen as almost inevitable.

The Turnpike Authority has raised fares every three years since 2001. The last increase was in January 2007.

The plan was met with immediate skepticism, both at the meeting and on Beacon Hill, where the Turnpike Authority would need the Legislature's support to end the discounts.

"This has zero chance of passing," said Representative David Linsky, a Natick Democrat who chairs the Metrowest legislative caucus. "I will guarantee you that Metrowest legislators will do everything in our power to keep the Turnpike Authority from singling out Metrowest commuters for a toll increase, which is what the effect would be of removing the discount program."

Board member Mary Connaughton also objected. Like Linsky, she said that "eliminating the Fast Lane discount is a toll increase." She also worried that using reserves as a stopgap would turn the authority's bonds into junk bonds and leave the board without much cushion in case of emergency.

"We're taking a big gamble here, a big gamble," she said. "I just think this is very dangerous."

Both discount programs were approved as a way to appease those who felt unduly burdened by the $15 billion Big Dig. The discount for residents of East Boston, the North End, and South Boston took effect in 1995 to help compensate for the project's construction and the disarray that came with it.

Residents of those neighborhoods pay just 40 cents for tolls at the Ted Williams and Sumner tunnels, which would otherwise cost $3.50. By September 2007, more than 15,000 people received the discount.

About 1 million drivers benefit from the Fast Lane discount, which the Turnpike Authority board approved in 2002, to offset the impact of recent toll increases and to placate commuters and legislators from the western suburbs who complained they were paying a disproportionate amount of the Big Dig's cost. Later that year, the Legislature wrote it into law.

But yesterday, LeBovidge cast the Fast Lane discount in a different light, saying that it "was initially put in as an incentive" to encourage drivers to join the program and buy transponders, an incentive, he said, that is no longer necessary. "I think people get it."

The discount, he said, was always supposed to be contingent on whether the agency could afford it. When it became law, he said, the Legislature issued an unfunded mandate that the authority can no longer afford.

Yesterday lawmakers sympathized with LeBovidge's budget bind, but said that dropping the discounts makes an unequal situation even more unbalanced.

"I understand the Turnpike Authority is in a very difficult fiscal situation, but eliminating the Fast Lane discount should be off the table," said Senator Karen Spilka, an Ashland Democrat. "We are the most affected. It's patently unfair that the Metrowest has to bear this burden to begin with to pay for the Big Dig."

Legislators from other parts of the state also appeared hesitant to strip commuters of this perk, because of its impact on the western suburbs.

"The authority is at or close to bleeding red ink," said Representative Joseph F. Wagner, a Chicopee Democrat who chairs the House Transportation Committee.

"They need to look at ways to close the gap between revenues and expenses," he said. ". . . But this is an equity issue for Metrowest commuters, and I think they have a valid concern."

Rather than dip into reserves and cut discounts, Connaughton urged more thorough reform of the system. Chairman Bernard Cohen said that must happen eventually, but the the plan is a promising short-term solution.

Until long-term reforms can be made, he said, the board had to choose a lesser evil.

The Turnpike Authority is facing a $70 million deficit this budget year and a $100 million deficit in next year's spending plan. Recent restructuring saved $15 million, LeBovidge said. But that is not enough.

According to his plan, eliminating the discount program would allow the authority to raise more than $18 million. The budget would also use $36 million of the $71 million reserves.

If the plan goes through as proposed, the board will have done everything possible to avoid a toll increase, LeBovidge said. That way, he said, if discussion next year turns to higher tolls, board members will have a clear conscience that they have "left no stone unturned."

Ultimately, the board chose to approve an interim operating budget for the next two months and to table LeBovidge's proposal for at least a month.

Members acknowledged they cannot delay a decision much longer, but said they wanted a better idea of how dipping into reserves might affect the bond rating and whether the Legislature might offer the agency any kind of financial support.

Some members also wanted to review proposals for various levels of toll increases, which would have to be approved this fall in order to take effect by early next year.


"Time extended for Big Dig prosecution: WWII fraud law applies, judge rules"
By Jonathan Saltzman, (Boston) Globe Staff, September 3, 2008

A federal judge has ruled that prosecutors can pursue scores of fraud charges against former employees of a Big Dig contractor - even though the statute of limitations had expired - because the United States was at war for much of this decade.

In an unusual ruling that introduced questions of war and peace into a corruption case, US District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns said prosecutors can extend the ordinary five-year window to pursue 85 fraud charges against six former managers of Aggregate Industries NE Inc. by applying a seldom-used World War II-era law.

The Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act of 1942 suspends the statute of limitations on fraud committed against the US government during times of war and up until three years after the end of fighting "as proclaimed by the president or by a concurrent resolution of Congress."

Lawyers for the former Aggregate employees countered that the law did not apply because the country was not at war in this decade - at least not in the sense of the 66-year-old statute. They argued, among other things, that the United States did not issue a formal declaration of war against Afghanistan or Iraq.

But Stearns said that was irrelevant.

"The United States has not declared war in any conflict since World War II, despite prolonged engagements in Korea, Vietnam, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq (twice) and shorter deployments in Panama, Grenada, Haiti, and Somalia, among others," he wrote Friday.

"Certainly not every shot fired or every armed skirmish is of sufficient magnitude to stop the running of the statute of limitations," he added. But given congressional authorizations for the Bush administration to use force in Afghanistan and Iraq, hundreds of billions of dollars spent in both wars, and more than 4,500 US military casualties, the United States was definitely at war and the 1942 statute applied, Stearns wrote.

The ruling preserved 85 counts of highway project fraud and mail fraud filed against the men in May 2006, even though some of their alleged acts took place in 1999. The men, who were indicted for participating in an alleged conspiracy to deliver substandard concrete, face 50 other federal counts that were not part of this challenge .

Assistant US Attorney Brian T. Kelly said the ruling marks the first time prosecutors in the United States have successfully applied the 1942 statute to crimes unrelated to World War II-era fraud. Congress passed the law to prevent contractors from defrauding the government at a time when resources were focused on war.

Kelly said the ruling will probably also give prosecutors greater latitude in mounting other Big Dig fraud prosecutions beyond the statute of limitations, but he declined to discuss specific cases.

"Because [the statute] is not used very frequently doesn't mean it's not good law," he said.

Joshua S. Levy, who represents Keith H. Thomas of Billerica, one of the six defendants, had urged Stearns to dismiss the charges but noted that the case would have gone forward anyway because of the other charges.

"From our standpoint, I wish the trial was narrower, but we look forward to the trial on the merits," he said.

The judge, who quoted 17th-century Dutch philosopher Hugo Grotius and the Oxford English Dictionary as he sought to define war, has scheduled an Oct. 6 hearing during which he is expected to set a trial date, Levy said.

The other defendants are Robert Prosperi of Lynnfield; Gregory A. Stevenson of Furlong, Pa.; John J. Farrar of Canterbury, Conn.; Gerard M. McNally of Rockland; and Marc Blais of Lynn.

They are accused of running a conspiracy that allegedly delivered 5,700 truckloads of tainted concrete - 1.2 percent of the concrete used on the project - to the Big Dig over nine years.

The company was also charged in the case. In January 2007, another federal judge in Boston accepted a guilty plea from Aggregate for supplying the substandard concrete and a $50 million settlement negotiated between the company and the US and state governments.

Stearns said a strong case can be made that the United States remains at war in Afghanistan and Iraq. But after applying the statute, he concluded the Afghan war ended in December 2001 when the United States formally recognized the new government of Hamid Karzai. Stearns concluded that the war in Iraq ended on May 1, 2003, when President Bush, while aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, proclaimed that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended."

After adding the three years provided in the statute, Stearns calculated that the statute of limitations for the defendants' alleged crimes was suspended from Sept. 18, 2001, to May 1, 2006. The clock then began ticking again, he said, on the roughly 2 1/2 remaining of the original five-year deadline for filing charges.
Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at

"The phantom tollbooth"
September 3, 2008

AN INCREASE in the gasoline tax is the obvious answer to transportation funding shortfalls, and the gymnastics that state officials go through to avoid it are worthy of the Olympics. There has been talk, for instance, of easing the burden on toll-paying Mass. Pike commuters by instituting tolls on Interstate 93. But in June, the head of the Turnpike Authority quashed the idea of "open-road tolling" technology, which could have led to tolls on I-93 without the congestion and pollution of traditional tollbooths.

Pike director Alan LeBovidge said a lack of funding led him to end the bidding process for a system that would allow tolls to be assessed on cars driving at highway speed. Late last month, LeBovidge announced a different way to increase Pike revenues: ending the discounts for drivers with Fast Lane transponders at the Allston tolls and the harbor tunnels.

Predictably, this spurred a chorus of criticism from legislators in the western suburbs. Unlike commuters from the north and south who use toll-free I-93, Pike drivers pay tolls that help the authority cover the costs not just of the Pike but also the Central Artery section of I-93. Pike commuters with transponders have at least gotten a 25-cent discount at Allston and 50 cents at the harbor tunnels, but now the authority wants to take that break away. Doing so would bring in more than $18 million a year.

Behind the vision, now dimmed, of open-road tolling on I-93 is the injustice of burdening Pike commuters so disproportionately with the cost of the state's highways. Raising the gasoline tax is still the fairest way to ensure that all state drivers share in supporting all roads and bridges. That's what a Commonwealth is all about.


"Crack on Big Dig bridge limits trucks: Detour set for Leverett Connector"
By Noah Bierman, (Boston) Globe Staff, September 4, 2008

Federal highway engineers have asked the state to restrict heavy trucks from using a portion of a Big Dig connector bridge where inspectors found a crack on a concrete support earlier this year, officials said yesterday.

State officials insist the area where the crack was found, on the Leverett Connector Bridge that links the Tobin Bridge with Storrow Drive and Interstate 93, remains safe. But the latest findings show yet another concern about the $15 billion road project.

Engineers discovered the crack during a just-completed "stem-to-stern" review of the roadway initiated following the July 2006 ceiling collapse that killed Milena Del Valle.

"We can blame the lack of oversight over the Big Dig as one of the causes, and we've inherited that and we're dealing with that now," said Mac Daniel, spokesman for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.

News of the detour for trucks over 40 tons was announced after the close of business yesterday, and federal officials could not be reached for comment.

The Federal Highway Administration sent a letter to the state transportation department dated Aug. 21, but state officials said they did not receive it until yesterday afternoon and began restrictions on the road immediately. They could not explain the delay.

Lucy Garliauskas, division administrator for the Federal Highway Administration in Boston, wrote that "the prudent course of action is to immediately restrict the bridge to Legal Loads [those under 40 tons] only until the bridge is strengthened."

The crack was discussed at the Turnpike Authority board's August meeting, when the "stem-to-stern" review was officially completed. Klark Jessen, a spokesman for state Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen, said in an e-mail that engineers have been monitoring the crack since April and that its size has not changed. He called the federal recommendation "ultra-conservative" but said the state agrees with it.

The restriction will affect trucks coming from the Tobin Bridge, traveling southbound either to Leverett Circle and Storrow Drive or to the Zakim Bridge. The connector is actually an elevated roadway. The damaged portion is directly above the Boston Sand & Gravel Co., Daniel said.

Jessen said crews will begin work on the bridge soon and complete it no later than Nov. 1.

The state has more than $400 million set aside for unforeseen Big Dig repairs as part of a January settlement with contractors. Daniel said that money may be used to repair the crack, but it has not yet been determined.

Daniel called the crack "minor" but could not say exactly how large it is.

"The bridge is completely safe," he said. "We wouldn't in any way, shape, or form be allowing traffic to go over the roadway if we thought it was unsafe."

He said the restriction will affect only the heaviest 18-wheel trucks using the connector. Traffic planners are working on an alternate route that will be posted sometime today, he said.

"I think there were far greater concerns pulled out in the stem-to-stern report than this," Daniel said.

The report also listed issues with ongoing leaks and deterioration in the Callahan and Sumner tunnels.

Mary Connaughton, a Turnpike Authority board member, said the latest problem is a concern because last month's report did not indicate any immediate measures would be necessary.

"After all the billions of dollars spent on this project, it's a shame that we're at the stage where we actually have to close a portion of it off to traffic," she said.
Staff writer Martin Finucane contributed to this report.
Noah Bierman can be reached at

"Dueling road projects"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Friday, September 12, 2008

The state's inadequate funding of highway projects, in some part a result of all the money wasted on Boston's Big Dig, is adversely affecting the Berkshires. While it is true that one highway project should not be pitted against another when it comes to funding, that has become the case.

The West Street in Lenox (Route 183) project known as the "road to Tanglewood" has been dropped off the Berkshire Metropolitan Planning Organization's Transportation Improvement List (TIP) evidently because it is believed to have stalled, which Lenox Town Manager Gregory Federspiel vigorously disputes. Lenox officials, however, also suspect the project was dropped in favor of the $9.3 million reconstruction of the Berkshire Mall Road in Lanesborough. The West Street project is now being reconsidered.

The $5.2 million project on Route 183 involves repaving and better drainage, but the aesthetic appeal of the sidewalk and bike path to Tanglewood are powerful arguments of their own. As attorney C. Jeffrey Cook observed in Thursday's Eagle, Tanglewood hosts community activities like graduations, so projects that benefit the cultural attraction benefit the larger Berkshire community as well.

The Berkshire Mall Road may have been intended as just that when it was built but it immediately emerged as a connector road between Routes 7 and 8 for drivers seeking to avoid Pittsfield's collection of traffic lights. It has long been in bad shape, and $3 million in state transportation bond money has been granted for the estimated $9.3 million project.

Two good projects, not enough money. There is a fairness issue involved in the equation, however, and if the West Street project has been in the works longer it is difficult to justify dropping it from the TIP funding list in favor of another project.


"Invite private sector, but remember the Big Dig"
The Boston Globe Online - Letters - September 13, 2008

ALTHOUGH I am not in favor of privatizing the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, the op-ed "Privatization that protects taxpayer interests" (Sept. 10) appeared, at first, to be a thoughtful and creative, if not persuasive, approach to the issue.

The piece's credibility, however, was undermined by the last paragraph citing the critical role the private sector has played in building and maintaining transportation assets.

Excuse me, but wasn't it those same private sector entities that managed the Big Dig?

Enough said.

Newton, Massachusetts


"Facing reality in state"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Monday, September 22, 2008

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, for years the symbol of government inefficiency in Massachusetts, is no longer an embarrassment under the administration of Executive Director Alan LeBovidge, who has abolished perks and engaged in cost-cutting measures. Still, its existence means that Massachusetts continues to have two highway agencies, a redundancy that is increasingly hard to justify when the state must look for cost savings every place it can.

Mr. LeBovidge announced last week that the authority plans to lay off 100 toll takers, about a quarter of the workforce, over the next 12 to 18 months as part of an effort to reduce the number of collectors from 440 to 150. This would save the agency, whose debt will be as high as $100 million this year, about $10 million a month. It is painful to see anyone lose their job in this tough economic climate, and in a sense the toll takers are victims of years of bad decisions and failed oversight on the part of past administrators, but those jobs take a big chunk of the agency's budget. The authority says full-time toll collectors make about $70,000 a year in salary and benefits (the toll collectors' union, Teamsters Union Local 127, claims the number is $53,000 a year), which is hard to justify in this day and age.

The union argues that highly paid executive jobs should be cut first, but that has already been done in the course of a restructuring of the authority hierarchy. The executive director, named to the position less than a year ago by Governor Patrick, has ended the perk in which authority commissioners could ride up and down the turnpike free of charge. That decision did little to improve the authority's bottom line but it was of considerable symbolic value given the authority's reputation as a spendthrift patronage haven.

The Turnpike Authority is also in charge of Boston's Central Artery Project, otherwise known as the Big Dig, a boondoggle that led to two commissioners departing in disgrace. With that project essentially completed, an opportunity is here to evaluate the authority's future. As a quasi-public body, authorities are difficult to disband, and in this case, the authority's large debt and long-range bonds constitute attached strings that other agencies will be reluctant to assume. Nevertheless, between the Authority and the Highway Department, there are duplications of positions and services, and savings to be gained by a consolidation.

Increases in the cost of government combined with a shaky economy is forcing Beacon Hill to look at ways of saving money that were previously unimaginable. The presence on the November ballot of Question 1, which calls for elimination of the state income tax, increases the pressure on legislators. The ballot question, which would cost the state $12 billion in revenue or about 40 percent of its budget, is irresponsible, but may appeal to taxpayers struggling to pay bills and mortgages. Lawmakers must demonstrate that they are working to find ways to reduce the cost of government.

Police unions have been prominent in rallies and information sessions in opposition to Question 1, but they must acknowledge that their effort to protect police details on construction sites is handing Question 1 proponents a weapon to use against them. That perk will suddenly seem insignificant if public safety budgets are dramatically cut in the wake of the passage of Question 1. The Turnpike Authority is striving to adjust to harsh new economic realities. Police unions had better do the same.


"Momentum increases for substantial toll hike"
By Noah Bierman and Andrew Ryan, Boston Globe Staff, September 25, 2008

STURBRIDGE -- The likelihood of a substantial toll hike on the Massachusetts Turnpike gained significant momentum today as officials discussed drastic measures needed to dig the roadway out of a deep financial hole.

One proposal floated by Turnpike Authority board members today at their monthly meeting would increase the charge for passenger cars on the eastern portion of the roadway by $1, increasing the cost at toll booths at Allston-Brighton and Weston from $1.25 to $2.25. Another alternative would raise the fare for tunnels by $5, from $3.50 to $8.50. The four-member board also seemed to agree that tolls will have to be reinstated for passenger cars on the western turnpike for Exits 1 through 6.

The board did not make a final decision, and members stressed that the ultimate increase could be a blend of several proposals that may increase the cost of both the roadway and the tunnels. However, it became increasingly clear from the discussion that some type of toll increase was inevitable.

"There's no tooth fairy," said board member Michael P. Angelini. "We're going to have to get some revenue from the road."

Turnpike Executive Director Alan LeBovidge said he was holding out hope that the Legislature may still be able to offer some aid to the cash-strapped agency. Regardless of whether relief comes from Beacon Hill or as a toll increase, LeBovidge cautioned against a piecemeal solution. The Turnpike Authority needs enough new revenue to maintain the roadway and Big Dig for the next five years.

"The last thing I'd want to be associated with is another Longfellow Bridge," LeBovidge said, referring to the 102-year-old span over the Charles River that had to be partially closed this summer when it fell into disrepair.

The board remained split on a timetable for a potential toll increase. Two board members -- Mary Z. Connaughton and Judy Pagliuca -- lobbied for a speedy decision. However, Angelini and Bernard Cohen, the chairman and transportation secretary, said they wanted more time to fully consider all the proposals.



"Big hike in tolls for Pike looming: $5 rise at tunnels is one possibility $1 jump posed for elsewhere"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, September 26, 2008

STURBRIDGE - Massachusetts Turnpike Authority officials, declaring "there's no tooth fairy" to rescue the beleaguered agency, debated a menu of steep toll hikes yesterday and appeared resigned about passing a price hike in the near future.

In fact, the biggest point of contention was not whether a hike is likely, but when it would be imposed.

While some top officials at yesterday's monthly board meeting held out hope that an increase could be averted, the board appeared to have the support of the majority of its members to raise tolls enough to reap at least $78 million more a year from tollbooths and tunnels near Boston and another $12 million a year on the western portions of the toll road.

That could mean some combination of increases as high as $1 at the Weston and Allston-Brighton tollbooths, where tolls are currently $1.25, or as much as $5 at the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels, where tolls are now $3.50. Most likely, drivers would face a blend of those options, like an increase of 50 cents at the booths and $2.50 at the tunnels. In addition, a majority of board members said they wanted to reinstate tolls for passenger cars on the western turnpike, Exits 1 through 6, and at West Newton - both tolls were eliminated in 1996.

Commuters, already burdened by high gas prices and a floundering economy, greeted the prospects with angry sighs when interviewed at the Natick travel plaza yesterday.

"The economy is just horrible, so any increase would be hard," said Randy Carpenter, 49, a salesman from Hudson who uses the toll road three times a week. "It would change the quality of life, but people have to use the Pike."

The most contentious question yesterday was how soon to take a vote.

The board's four members were split evenly on a motion to take the imminent vote, leaving the timing unresolved. But one of the members who chose to delay a vote, saying he did not want to box the board in, sounded resigned to an increase.

"There's no tooth fairy," said board member Michael P. Angelini. "We're going to have to get some revenue from [tolling] the road."

The board has sole authority to set tolls and is not dependent on the Legislature to approve them.

Alan LeBovidge, executive director of the Turnpike Authority, and Bernard Cohen, transportation secretary and chairman of the turnpike board, said they were continuing to meet with legislators in hopes of finding an alternative, including a larger subsidy to cover the hefty expenses related to the Big Dig. But the state has been struggling with declining revenues and is facing its own budget shortfalls.

The national problems with credit markets could make the pain sharper for turnpike drivers. The authority's financial advisers told board members yesterday that any hopes of refinancing a troubled investment that could cost $2 million per month beginning in January have been stalled because the authority cannot get a loan with favorable terms.

Board members Judy Pagliuca and Mary Z. Connaughton said they were worried that unless the board passes a toll hike soon, the authority's credit rating could deteriorate further, putting it at risk of owing another $30 million on one of several complex investments made earlier this decade.

Cohen, who reports directly to Governor Deval Patrick, was the most insistent in asserting that a toll increase is not inevitable. "Says who a toll increase is imminent?" he said at one point in response to a board member.

"We're talking here about bank accounts, but we're also talking about people and pocketbooks," he said at another point in the meeting.

Still, he acknowledged that the board would have to come up with the money somewhere. And so far, his plans to find cost savings through efficiencies have not generated enough of it. He said legislators have not expressed support so far for a proposal to eliminate the Fast Lane discounts, which were mandated by special legislation, something that could mitigate the size of a toll increase but would require a vote by lawmakers.

"We have waited two years for the administration to come to the Legislature with a plan to restructure transportation in Massachusetts," said Representative David P. Linsky, a Natick Democrat who leads a caucus of legislators from the western suburbs. "They still haven't come forward with that plan." LeBovidge did not want to weigh in on whether there should be a toll increase. He agreed that he needs the money one way or another. His efforts to trim costs, including the number of toll takers, will not be enough to balance the agency's budget.

In a bid to get more drivers to participate in the Fast Lane program, LeBovidge announced a pilot project yesterday to give free transponders to drivers who do not have one and fill out a form. Turnpike officials have been trying to encourage drivers to use the transponders as they decrease the number of toll takers.

Regardless of whether relief comes from Beacon Hill or as a toll increase, LeBovidge cautioned against a piecemeal solution. The Turnpike Authority needs enough new revenue to maintain the roadway and Big Dig for the next five years or so, without having to continually debate new toll increases, he said. "The last thing I'd want to be associated with is another Longfellow Bridge," LeBovidge said, referring to the 102-year-old span over the Charles River that had to be partially closed this summer because of its state of disrepair.

The most recent toll increase was in January, but Cohen said at the time that he might need to come back in a year if the authority cannot find enough money elsewhere to shore up its finances. The Turnpike Authority spends more than $100 million a year on debt and interest payments, mostly related to Big Dig construction. Board members and drivers who commute from the western suburbs have long complained that the system is not fair because so many of the drivers who pay for the Big Dig do not use it.

Board members said they would like to structure an increase to spare drivers from the western suburbs as much as possible, meaning higher rates on the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels.

Eric Tucker, a 37-year-old software engineer from Charlton, said $1 more at the Allston-Brighton and Weston tollbooths, the worst-case scenario, would add $40 a week to his commute to Cambridge.

"Not cool," Tucker said. "I pay enough taxes."
Noah Bierman can be reached at

"Call made for Big Dig burden to be shared"
By Andrea Estes, (Boston) Globe Staff, September 27, 2008

Lawmakers from Boston's western suburbs yesterday called for an increase in the state's gas tax or new tolls on the Central Artery to stabilize state transportation budgets and take some of the burden off Massachusetts Turnpike commuters, who once again are facing big toll increases to pay for the Big Dig.

"We have to look at everything," said Representative David Linsky, a Democrat from Natick. "If the gas tax were raised 3 or 4 cents per gallon, we could eliminate the tolls on the Massachusetts Turnpike."

Senator Karen Spilka, a Framingham Democrat, also supports a hike in the state's 23.5 cent-per-gallon gas tax, which has not been increased since 1990, or new tolls on the Central Artery or other state roadways.

"Government shouldn't expect some small group of citizens to be supporting the Big Dig," she said. "That's what's happening and it's not fair. There has to be a shift - a real change in the way of thinking so that transportation is a priority of the state."

The lawmakers were reacting to the strong possibility that the Turnpike Authority will be forced to raise tolls by 50 cents to $1 on the highway and even more in the authority's tunnels to meet budget demands. Some lawmakers accused the Patrick administration of not acting quickly enough to avert a financial crisis at the beleaguered agency.

"For the last two years, we've been expecting the administration to put forth a total reorganization and finance plan, and it never came," said Linsky. "Now the Legislature is out of session, and they're going to raise tolls unless the Legislature acts by Jan. 1?"

With the looming hikes, Massachusetts Turnpike Authority board members would seek to generate at least $90 million more a year in revenue - $78 million more a year from toll booths and tunnels near Boston and another $12 million from western portions of the Pike.

Patrick administration officials said they will not ask for any additional revenue - including tolls on I-93 or a gas-tax hike - until they've eliminated every possible unnecessary expense.

"We're not going to ask riders of the Pike and other roads to bear any more of the burden until we've assured ourselves and the public that we've squeezed every legitimate reform and efficiency we can out of the system," said administration spokesman Joe Landolfi.

Landolfi said the administration is working on a comprehensive plan to reform the delivery and financing of transportation services, which will be unveiled "in the near future." The complex project has taken longer than expected, officials acknowledged.

Alan LeBovidge, turnpike executive director, said yesterday he's hoping the Legislature will come to the rescue and avert the need for a toll increase. He said that if lawmakers eliminated Fast Lane discount programs that now cost the Turnpike $18 million a year and raised its annual appropriation to the agency, currently capped at $25 million, huge toll hikes would be unnecessary, he said.

"I personally believe that is the right answer," he said. "Our problems stem from the Big Dig and the amount of debt and maintenance costs that were put on the Turnpike by the Legislature, much more than anyone anticipated."

But some legislators and financial experts suggested that nothing short of a major toll hike would be enough to bring stability to the troubled Turnpike.

"With the gas tax or [I-93] tolls off the table, I don't see any realistic alternative whatsoever," said Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a business-backed watchdog group.

"They need to have a major toll increase or the Turnpike will be driven into bankruptcy."

Patrick's efforts to cut fat or eliminate discount programs will not be sufficient to cover the turnpike's projected shortfall, he said. Nor can the state, which is facing its own budget crisis, afford a bailout, said Widmer.

"What are the odds the Legislature will vote to bail out the Turnpike Authority when there are about to be major cuts in important state programs?" he said.

"Cuts in healthcare, education, and maybe even local aid. In that environment, the Legislature is going to vote to give new revenues to the Turnpike Authority?" he said, chuckling.

House Minority Leader Bradley Jones, a Republican from North Reading, agreed that a legislative bailout is improbable.

"The last time I checked, no one was talking about how much money we have lying around," he said.

Toll increases might be palatable if the administration first takes dramatic steps such as abolishing the Turnpike Authority and making major budget cuts, said Jones.

"That would tell the public 'We get the message.' People are hurting and tired of throwing money down ratholes."

Commuters yesterday reacted angrily to the toll hikes being debated by the Turnpike Board - as much as $1 at the Weston and Allston-Brighton tollbooths, where tolls are currently $1.25, or as much as $5 at the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels, where tolls are now $3.50.

The board is also looking at reinstating tolls on the western turnpike, Exits 1 through 6, and at West Newton. Both tolls were eliminated in 1996.

"Do you think anybody is going to say they want an increase?" said Barry Standish, 58, of Westfield.

"I don't think they should increase it. I think the Big Dig is way overblown. The amount of money they asked for originally and the amount they ended up spending was ridiculous."
Globe correspondent John M. Guilfoil contributed to this report.

"Family to get $28m in Big Dig death: Reaches settlements with contractor, others"
By Donovan Slack and Andrea Estes, Boston Globe Staff, October 1, 2008

The family of a Jamaica Plain woman crushed to death in the 2006 Big Dig ceiling collapse will collect more than $28 million after reaching settlements yesterday with the last and largest of the defendants in the family's civil lawsuit.

Milena Del Valle's family agreed to accept a total of $18.1 million yesterday from construction contractor Modern Continental, project manager Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, six smaller companies, and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, according to the family's lawyers. The Del Valle family had already settled with two other defendants for $10 million.

Del Valle, a 38-year-old mother of three, was killed and her husband, Angel, was injured when concrete panels crashed from the ceiling of the Interstate 90 connector tunnel onto her car on July 10, 2006. Less than two months later, her family filed the lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court against 18 defendants.

Yesterday's agreements, once finalized in court, will end the lawsuits.

"Our hearts still ache for our mother, and always will, but we find peace in knowing that she is with God, and that we have honored her life and her memory by seeking the truth," said a statement issued last night by Del Valle's three children, including daughter Raquel Ibarra Mora.

"This has been an intense, hotly contested litigation," said Boston lawyer Bradley Henry, who represents Del Valle's children in the case. "But the family's instructions to us from the very beginning had been to find out the truth behind Milena's death and to let no one hide or delay that task."

Del Valle's children will receive a little more than half of the money and Del Valle's husband, Angel, will receive the rest.

There is no admission of liability on the part of the defendants in the settlement agreements. There is also no confidentiality agreement, common in such cases, because the family would not agree to one, the lawyers said.

"We brought this lawsuit to shine a light on what had happened," said Boston lawyer Jeffrey Denner, who, with co-counsel Raipher Pellegrino, represents Del Valle's husband. "That has occurred."

Spokesmen for Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff and Modern Continental could not be reached for comment last night.

A spokesman for the Turnpike, Mac Daniel, said, "The tunnel collapse in 2006 was the result of a colossal failure of oversight by past administrations. Since taking control of the Big Dig last year, we have completed a detailed stem-to-stern review of the project as well as created an inspection program to ensure that tragic night never happens again. We hope closure has come to the Del Valle family."

Investigations of the collapse showed that a string of failures - and, in some instances what authorities said was negligence - caused the collapse as the Del Valles were heading to Logan International Airport that night. Concrete panels weighing 26 tons fell from the ceiling after the failure of bolts that had been secured with epoxy.

The National Transportation Safety Board faulted, among others, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff and the Turnpike Authority for not taking steps to prevent the collapse; epoxy vendor Powers Fasteners; Modern Continental, which installed the bolts; and Gannett Fleming, which designed the tunnel ceiling.

To avert criminal charges in the collapse, Bechtel and a number of smaller companies agreed to a settlement with the state in January of roughly $450 million. The payment did not avert all charges, however.

Powers Fasteners was charged with one count of manslaughter by state Attorney General Martha Coakley last year, a charge that is still pending. In May, Powers Fasteners was the subject of a federal grand jury considering charges in the case, according to sources quoted by the Globe. And in June, the US Attorney's Office in Boston brought a raft of criminal charges against Modern Continental, saying it knew the ceiling bolts were coming loose but glossed over the problem until the collapse.

Henry said yesterday that the ceiling collapse was a tragedy waiting to happen.

"The truth that we found is that through a series of shortcuts and repeated attempts to avoid addressing a known problem back in 1999, the ceiling that later collapsed was put in place, waiting that whole time just to fall," he said. "Engineers who knew of failures in 1999 at a minimum turned a blind eye to the problem and in some instances tried to hide the defect."

The settlements yesterday were reached through mediation conducted by Brockton mediator Paul Finn, who also handled settlements in the clergy sex abuse scandal and The Station nightclub fire in Rhode Island, which killed 100 people. He worked with his partner, Brian Mone, of Commonwealth Mediation.

In addition to the large firms, smaller defendants in the settlement yesterday were Sika Corp., the company that makes the epoxy for Powers; tunnel structure designer HDR Inc.; engineering design company HNTB; and ConAm Testing, a bolt testing company.

All of the defendants in the suit are covered by an insurance policy issued by AIG.

In the earlier settlements, Powers Fasteners agreed to pay the Del Valle family $6 million and Newman Associates, a bolt distribution company, agreed to pay $4 million.

Henry said he is still concerned about the Big Dig, a $15 billion public works project that included several tunnels, highway stretches, and a bridge.

"The public has every reason to be concerned about the product they got in the Big Dig," Henry said. "They contracted for a 75-year tunnel and received one plagued with problems from the beginning.

"It had the potential to be an engineering marvel, and in some respects met expectations. But in many respects it failed miserably."
Donovan Slack can be reached at

"Turnpike Authority may face demise: Plan would have transportation agencies merge"
By Matt Viser, Boston Globe Staff, October 2, 2008

Governor Deval Patrick today will propose dismantling the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and merging its operations into other state agencies, the first step in a long-promised overhaul of a fractured, debt-burdened transportation network, officials briefed on the plan said.

Patrick is expected to have an easier time pulling off the feat than his predecessor Mitt Romney, a Republican who encountered resistance in the Legislature dominated by the opposite party and in a turnpike board he did not control.

Patrick, who cleared his public schedule and spent much of yesterday in his corner office with the state's top officials, also will announce that his administration will identify "hundreds of millions of dollars" in budget cuts before Oct. 15, according to two officials briefed on the plans. And Patrick has requested that the state's other constitutional officers -- including Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill, Secretary of State William F. Galvin, and Auditor Joe DeNucci --cut their budgets by as much as 7 percent.

Galvin said he would try to cooperate with the governor's request, which would require a $3.8 million hit to his budget. The secretary of state's office oversees elections and registries of x deeds, among other functions, as well as compliance with state law in the securities industry.

"It's a challenge to find 7 percent when you're trying to run an election and protect people's investments in the stock market," Galvin said.

The proposal to abolish the Turnpike Authority is now only a broad concept. The governor will announce today that he is asking the secretary of transportation, Bernard Cohen, to draft legislation with details as soon as January when the Legislature reconvenes, said two officials briefed on the plan.

There are numerous questions left unanswered, including how much money would be saved by shutting down the agency. There are no indications in the plans that turnpike tolls will be eliminated. While financial benefits might be realized in the future if the Legislature passes the overhaul next year, it does not appear it would ease what officials have said is an urgent need for large toll increases on the turnpike and Big Dig tunnels now.

Cohen has said the administration does not believe toll hikes are necessary, but Patrick and his aides have not outlined how they think increases can be avoided without defaulting on the authority's debt.

Tolls are the source for paying off bonds that were used to help build the Big Dig. When Romney sought to abolish the authority, he was thwarted by a host of legal, financial, and political barriers.

It is unclear how Patrick plans to surmount those hurdles. But he appears to have several advantages over Romney, including a much better working relationship with a Democratic Legislature; a fiscal crisis that lends a sense of urgency to passing a plan that promises long-term cost savings; and a chairman of the Turnpike Authority who is a Patrick appointee, Alan LeBovidge. Romney faced resistance from the former chairman, Matthew J. Amorello.

The move to abolish the authority has been expected since last year. The administration last October began floating plans to merge several of the state's transportation bureaucracies, but the plans never materialized as the governor worked on his bid to license casinos, an initiative that failed. When the idea of an overhaul surfaced last year, Patrick was considering a merger of the Turnpike Authority with the state Highway Department and then the creation of a combined board that would also oversee the MBTA.

Administration officials declined to comment yesterday on any specifics. House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi and Senate President Therese Murray, who were briefed on the plans yesterday and whose support will be crucial if it is to succeed, also declined to comment.

State officials throughout the country are reacting similarly to the recent downturn in the economy, which has forced most to readjust their books to account for losses in tax revenue. In New Jersey, Governor Jon Corzine is reviewing 5 percent cuts across state government, about $500 million. Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell this week announced $35 million in budget cuts as a first step in closing a $300 million deficit.

In Virginia, Governor Tim Kaine is looking at cuts ranging from 2 percent to 20 percent.

Patrick is expected to confirm publicly today that he will impose budget cuts by Oct. 15 in response to the financial crisis on Wall Street and frozen credit markets. State officials will gather over the next two weeks to determine how deep the cuts will be.

The state is planning to report a $188 million decrease in state revenues from what was expected for the month of September. In the first quarter of the year, state revenue is down $143 million from expectations, a fact triggering widespread concern throughout the State House about how to solve the fiscal crisis.

Before September, the state was $44 million above expectations, thanks largely to a one-time corporate settlement of $80.3 million that the state received in July.
Frank Phillips of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Matt Viser can be reached at

"Agency downgrades turnpike's bond rating, raising prospect of toll increases"
October 2, 2008, 7:01 PM, By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff

Another day brought another piece of dismal financial news for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. One of the authority's two rating agencies downgraded its credit rating Thursday, putting its bonds just a notch above junk status and increasing the likelihood that a significant toll increase is coming very soon.

“I think we all recognize that we need to do that promptly," said Michael Angelini, part of a majority of board members who say a toll increase is needed. "We're going to be meeting again in October and I’m sure that’s the first item on the agenda.”

The news that Moody's Investor Service downgraded the authority came on the same day that Governor Deval Patrick announced a still-undefined plan to abolish the turnpike authority and assign its responsibilities and debt to other state agencies. But regardless of who controls the turnpike, the debt will remain on the books.

Moody's decision increases the threat that the agency will be forced to pay Lehman Brothers $37 million as part of a complex financial deal entered into earlier this decade. Lehman, or whoever assumes the assets of the bankrupt company, can demand the money if the authority's other rating agency, Fitch's, follows Moody's with its own downgrade, something it has threatened to do.

Turnpike officials said the authority may also have to set aside another $9.5 million from its reserve account as collateral on another investment as a result of the downgrade, though that issue is still being researched.

"This was not unexpected, and while disappointing, it’s further evidence of our serious fiscal situation at the turnpike," Alan LeBovidge, the authority's executive director, said in a written statement. "This downgrade supports the governor’s recognition that real reform is needed at the turnpike authority."

In their report, Moody's analysts pointed to the need for either more credit support from the state "on a timely basis" or a toll increase. The rating will continue to go down if there is "continued inaction."

"Although the authority's board has independent authority to increase tolls, all board members are appointed by the governor and are subject to political pressure," the Moody's analysts wrote.

Board members had discussed the possibility of a lower rating at their meeting last month, but failed to pass a measure promising a quick toll hike that some members felt would prevent a credit downgrade. Board member Mary Connaughton tried unsuccessfully to call an emergency board meeting Wednesday night when the authority received informal notice that the downgrade was imminent. Secretary of Transportation Bernard Cohen, who chairs the turnpike's board, is out of the country on vacation.

“They made a huge mistake in not having the meeting last night,” Connaughton said.

Patrick's spokesman Joe Landolfi said Cohen would speed up his effort to design a turnpike reorganization bill in hopes of getting something in front of the Legislature by Jan. 1. Patrick will probably face a receptive audience in the Legislature, said Senator Steven A. Baddour, the Methuen Democrat who co-chairs the transportation committee.

“People have seen ... the decades of poor decision making, poor management,” he said.


"End of road for Authority?"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Friday, October 03, 2008

It isn't easy to locate a silver lining in the economic cloud that is sitting over the state and nation, but that lining may emerge as the demise of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. If that should happen, then something positive will have come from the Wall Street meltdown and its after-effects.

Dismantling the authority was among the goals outlined by Governor Deval Patrick yesterday in his five-point fiscal action plan to address financial challenges confronting Massachusetts. The Eagle has long advocated merging the Turnpike Authority with the Highway Department, eliminating needless duplication of services by closing a troubled agency. Yesterday the governor directed the secretary of transportation to prepare legislation to dismantle the authority, merge the state's transportation agencies, including the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) in Boston, and restructure the Big Dig debt.

The idea of dismantling the authority is not a new one, but the economic realities confronting the state may finally make it happen. While Wall Street greed combined with a deregulatory mindset in Washington ignited the economic meltdown, the controversial bailout package must pass the U.S. House today because that meltdown is affecting individuals and government bodies that were no more than innocent bystanders. The $223 million revenue shortfall for the first quarter of the state's fiscal year announced yesterday by the Department of Revenue is directly attributable to the subprime mortgage debacle, credit crunch and other financial dominoes falling across the nation. Beacon Hill must respond, and the governor has seized the initiative.

The Turnpike Authority oversaw the construction of the Big Dig, a debacle that cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars and two authority commissioners their jobs. Top-heavy with administration, the authority collected perks and overpaid its toll collectors. Authority Chairman Alan LeBovidge, a Patrick appointee, has instituted needed reforms, but there are limits to what he can do and no reason to believe he would oppose a consolidation. A merger won't change the fact that the authority is drowning in red ink, but it would be a step toward resolving it.

There are complex legal issues involved in closing and merging the authority that the Patrick administration must navigate, but we hope it won't encounter the political problems that tripped up Republican Governor Mitt Romney when he tried to do away with the authority. The Democratic Legislature stood in the way as leadership appeared reluctant to part with an apparent patronage haven. Governor Patrick should expect the cooperation of lawmakers, especially considering the need to find substantial savings in government costs.

The governor said he will ask executive agencies to make budget cuts, urge cuts in legislative and judicial areas outside his purview, reform the state's pension system, explore ways to contain health care and restructure agencies, this latter plank including the dismantling of the Turnpike Authority. It's ambitious and necessary, and closing the authority would have a significant symbolic benefit as well.


"For whom the Pike tolls?"
October 13, 2008

THE BELEAGUERED Massachusetts commuter, barely shaking off decades of Big Dig construction headaches, now finds the Turnpike Authority switching its disruptive roadwork projects to daytime hours in order to save money. This on top of threats by Pike directors to raise tolls - perhaps as high as $5 at the Ted Williams Tunnel - and the elimination of toll collectors, which is cost-efficient but creates major backups when those without Fast Lane transponders cram into the few remaining manned toll booths. How much abuse can drivers take?

The trouble is that the Turnpike Authority has a $2.5 billion debt and no obvious source or revenue other than tolls to pay for it. Day by day its credit rating inches closer to junk bond status. It needs a cash infusion. But residents west of Boston unfairly bear the brunt of paying for the Big Dig, which also benefits drivers of Interstate 93 and the state's business climate as a whole.

The fairest solution to the Pike's fiscal mess is a hike in the gasoline tax, which at 21 cents a gallon hasn't been increased since 1990. The idea is gaining support from a few legislators representing the western suburbs - and from policy analysts who are insulated from the voters' ire. But House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi and Governor Patrick says that no gas tax increase will be considered until every last efficiency is squeezed out of the system. "We owe the public a demonstration that we have tried everything," Patrick said last week.

To that end, Patrick is recommending reforms of all the state's transportation agencies. He wants pension reform at both the Pike and the MBTA, and he plans to submit legislation by the end of the year dissolving the quasi-public Turnpike Authority altogether, so that he can consolidate policy, streamline expenses, and restructure all the agencies' debts. At $8.1 billion, the T's debt dwarfs the Turnpike's. But at least the T did not engage in exotic debt "swaption" deals, which the Wall Street rating agency Moody's cited when it lowered the Pike's bond rating again last week.

Whether Patrick's consolidation plan is the salvation of the state's listing transportation agencies, a costly power grab, or simply a "sideshow," in the words of Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation president Mike Widmer, depends on the shape of the legislation. But the state clearly needs a permanent fix to its transportation debt if it ever hopes to raise the money to fix dangerously deficient roads and bridges or improve public transit.

Meanwhile, drivers pay an opportunity tax every time they are stuck in time-eating traffic jams or lose an axle to a yawning pothole - not to mention what they pay in aggravation. And relief is still a long way off.


"Two men sentenced in Big Dig fraud case"
The Boston Globe Online, October 16, 2008, 5:56 PM
By Boston Globe Staff

Two men who allegedly overbilled the state by more than $300,000 for work on the Big Dig construction project were sentenced today in federal court.

Ryan McCourt of Quincy, Mass., was sentenced to two years of probation, a $1,000 fine, and a $100 special assessment, the U.S. attorney's office said in a statement. Kenneth Hartley of California was sentenced to six months in the custody of the US Bureau of Prisons, two years of supervised release, and a $100 special assessment.

The two men had pleaded guilty in July to one count each of conspiracy to make false statements regarding a federal highway project, the US attorney's office said.

Prosecutors said that McCourt and Hartley, along with Big Dig contractor McCourt Construction, schemed to overbill the multi-billion-dollar project by falsely categorizing apprentice ironworkers, among other workers, as higher-paid journeymen.

Prosecutors have said the workers were paid as apprentices and the company pocketed the difference. The overpayments allegedly totaled $314,494.

The scheme by the managers of the company's Claims and Changes Department allegedly ran from 2002 through December 2005. Hartley was the department manager from 2001 through June 2004. McCourt had the same job from about July 2004 through the end of the conspiracy, prosecutors said.

The company, which was the main contractor on the Interstate 93 tunnel finishing contract, has pleaded guilty in the scheme and will be sentenced on Nov. 7, prosecutors said.


"Patrick mentions interest in border tolls: His office says it's not on his agenda"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, October 17, 2008

Governor Deval Patrick raised the specter of tolling more highways yesterday. Sort of.

On a morning radio show he said "there's some interest in looking at border tolls coming in from New Hampshire and from Rhode Island."

Later, his communications director said that interest was not coming from inside the governor's office. "That is not part of our current agenda, nor has it ever been part of our agenda," said Joe Landolfi, who added that Patrick was referring to suggestions made by others.

Patrick made his comments on Tom Finneran's radio show on WRKO while discussing a plan his administration is working on to eliminate the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. Details are expected at the end of the year.

"What I'd like to come out of this restructure is the elimination of many of the tolls on the turnpike, not all," Patrick said. "Border tolls, for example, might be kept at the New York line and coming in from Connecticut."

He followed those comments with the ones about tolling the other borders. At that point, Finneran, a former House speaker, interrupted him, joking that commuters from the north would "love" to hear that news.

"It's complicated," Patrick replied. "The thing is, you can't do anything that doesn't make somebody mad. But we're trying to figure out how to be equitable, not gimmicky, and deliver a long-term fix. And it ain't simple."

North-south tolls on Interstate 93 have been widely discussed, and roundly dismissed, by the Patrick administration over the past year. To toll Rhode Island commuters, Interstate 95 would have to be added to the mix. The idea is most popular with residents and politicians who live along the Massachusetts Turnpike and feel they are paying more than their fair share of Big Dig construction costs.

Senator Steven A. Baddour, the Methuen Democrat who leads the Transportation Committee and whose district borders New Hampshire, repeated his opposition.

"People say, 'Everything should be on the table.' I don't have a problem with that," he said.

"But we also shouldn't be afraid to take things off the table that don't make sense."
Noah Bierman can be reached at

"Lawyer for Matthew Amorello disputes ethics complaint"
By Associated Press, Friday, October 17, 2008,, Local Politics

BOSTON - A lawyer for Matthew Amorello says the former Massachusetts Turnpike Authority chairman did not benefit from a policy change that allowed employees to get paid for unused sick time.

The state Ethics Commission held a final hearing today on a conflict-of-interest complaint against Amorello, who resigned in the aftermath of a fatal Big Dig tunnel collapse in July 2006.

The complaint states that shortly before he resigned, Amorello learned the policy change gave some employees 100 percent cash value for unused sick time. Amorello has testified he was outraged and ordered an immediate policy revision.

The complaint alleges Amorello should have first gone to the governor.

Amorello could have received $75,000 for unused time, but he said he didn’t accept the money.

A ruling is not expected for several weeks.
Article URL:
(Picture: "Fat Matt")
Photo by Tara Carvalho

"Weld backs Obama"
Posted by Foon Rhee, deputy national political editor, October 24, 2008, 1:51 PM, The Boston Globe Online

Former Governor William Weld of Massachusetts is the latest Republican to cross over and support Democrat Barack Obama for president.

Weld held a press conference in Salem, N.H. to announce his endorsement. While Massachusetts is a slam dunk for Obama, neighboring New Hampshire is a competitive state.

Weld told the Associated Press that while he has never endorsed a Democrat for president before, his choice in recent weeks became "close to a no-brainer."

"It's not often you get a guy with his combination of qualities, chief among which I would say is the deep sense of calm he displays, and I think that's a product of his equally deep intelligence," he said.

Weld said his decision was not based on McCain's weaknesses. "John McCain is a very good guy," he said. "I do think the Republican Party has been playing on an increasingly small field in the last couple of elections."

In an earlier statement, Weld said, "Senator Obama is a once-in-a-lifetime candidate who will transform our politics and restore America's standing in the world. We need a president who will lead based on our common values and Senator Obama demonstrates an ability to unite and inspire. Throughout this campaign I've watched his steady leadership through trying times and I'm confident he is the best candidate to move our country forward."

Weld supported former Bay State Governor Mitt Romney during the Republican primaries.

He joins former Governor Arne Carlson of Minnesota, who announced his backing for Obama on Thursday.

In the Rasmussen Reports national tracking poll, which combines three days of surveying, Obama's support among Republicans is now higher than John McCain's among Democrats. Obama is backed by 12 percent of Republicans while McCain, whose political persona is all about being the maverick with bipartisan appeal, is backed by 10 percent of Democrats.

But with an increasing number of Republicans jumping ship, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer issued a strongly-worded rejoinder in an op-ed piece in today's Washington Post.

"Contrarian that I am, I'm voting for John McCain," he wrote. "I'm not talking about bucking the polls or the media consensus that it's over before it's over. I'm talking about bucking the rush of wet-fingered conservatives leaping to Barack Obama before they're left out in the cold without a single state dinner for the next four years.

"I stand athwart the rush of conservative ship-jumpers of every stripe -- neo (Ken Adelman), moderate (Colin Powell), genetic/ironic (Christopher Buckley) and socialist/atheist (Christopher Hitchens) -- yelling "Stop!" I shall have no part of this motley crew. I will go down with the McCain ship. I'd rather lose an election than lose my bearings."


52 readers' comments:

1. He isn't a true Republican and he did a terrible job as Governor of Mass. Another phoney Pol.
-Posted by EWT October 24, 08 09:44 AM

2. What a shocker!
Bill Weld is the textbook definition of a R I N O (Republican in Name Only) so this is no big deal if you ask me.....
-Posted by BobtheMusicMan October 24, 08 09:47 AM

3. Weld was my favorite MA Governor until today. We need PROVEN leadership and someone with foreign policy experience not a freshman Senator as the next commander and chief!!
-Posted by matt October 24, 08 10:02 AM

4. Good for Weld! I admire his independent thinking.
-Posted by Bay Stater October 24, 08 10:02 AM

5. This is great!
-Posted by Ush October 24, 08 10:09 AM

6. Where were these ambitious moderate Republicans when it counted! Did they fight to control the neo-con part of their party? Did they step up during the Republican convention and speak out against the division rhetoric streaming from the stage? No and No. It's telling that Republicans always talk about bi-partisan government - but only when they don't have the power to force through their views. I think Weld must be hoping for some federal position now ...
-Posted by JM October 24, 08 10:20 AM

7. Nothing shocking here, Weld is a liberal Republican and he's as far to the left on social issues as Obama.
Interesting enough, while Krauthammer is generally considered conservative (though he supports legalized abortion and is against the death penalty in most cases), he served in the Carter Administration and served as a speech writer for Walter Mondale in his bid to become President.
-Posted by James October 24, 08 10:52 AM

8. Funny this column is called "Political Intelligence". Clearly Weld has none.
-Posted by Charzy October 24, 08 10:58 AM

9. I disagree EWT. Please tell me how he was a terrible governor of this state. I think he did very well in his time here. I, too, appreciate his independent thinking. If government had more independent thinkers, things would get done a lot faster, compromises would happen quicker, and our country would be better off for it.
-Posted by fishman1234 October 24, 08 10:59 AM

10. He was always was right on the BIG issues and he's showing why he's been successful. He has common sense and knows that McCain is not a leader who can move us forward.
-Posted by jack October 24, 08 10:59 AM

11. If a former Hillary supporter switches to McCain (s)he's an idiot and obviously a racist. But if a Romney supporter switches to Obama he's an independent thinker. Gotta love those double standards!
-Posted by Dantheman October 24, 08 11:06 AM

12. Weld is all about the good times, living, loving, laughing (he is the anti-Kerry). While he's up in Salem, he should get loaded, and go over to Canobie and maybe have some sex with a babe as he rides her and the Yankee Cannonball simultaneously. Weld is one of the best Governors we ever had, they don't make 'em like that anymore.
-Posted by Free Willy October 24, 08 11:10 AM

13. Republicans who are horrified at what the Bush crew has done to the party are coming around to realize McCain will not rescue the GOP, in fact he and Palin will make things worse. It may take two or three elections for the GOP to recover from the Bush fiasco. Weld, Colin Powell, Scott McClellan and others are trying to get out in front to show the GOP it has to move away from the Bush/Cheney agenda of catering to the rich and preemptive invasions. The only republican running in the primaries that could have competed with Obama was Ron Paul and we saw how well he did.
-Posted by Lefty October 24, 08 11:10 AM

14. As a centrist democrat, one thing I used to admire about the Republican party was that they seemed to take accountability seriously. Government agencies, educators, etc., were all expected to measurably succeed. Those days are long gone. After 8 years of the most atrocious failure imaginable, how could anyone remotely consider putting this group back in power? If the world were a perfect place, the Bush voters (as opposed to those who rightfully supported McCain 8 years ago) would be required to apologize to America, in writing, before they were allowed to vote again. What a travesty. It's time for the Republicans to regroup and come up with something better.
-Posted by Joe M October 24, 08 11:15 AM

15. How could someone who supported Romney support Obama???? Does Mr Weld have any morals?
I thought Mr Weld was better than this, but sometimes he's such a disappointment. (Meaning, when he supported Romney, and when he caved on the issue of gay marriage, in NY.)
-Posted by John K October 24, 08 11:21 AM

16. Shouldn't he want to find out if Obama is a US Citizen before he backs Obama ?
-Posted by DLD October 24, 08 11:30 AM

17. Great? You call this great? That Koolaid must be really good.
-Posted by Fusilli October 24, 08 11:31 AM

18. Funny how when a republican jumps ship he is not a real republican. You repu-gants make me sick. You so full of your selves and elities, you can not even see the forest for the trees.
-Posted by James E Stevenson October 24, 08 11:35 AM

19. Weld is backing the least fiscally conservative and most socially liberal of the candidates. Has he forgotten what sort of mess he inherited when he was governor? What is it about Obama's tax and spending plans does he not understand?
-Posted by Rob October 24, 08 11:38 AM

20. Weld is bucking for a job in D.C., that's all. He's lining up just like Powell and Lugar for the lucrative government job payback.
Pray tell Mr. Weld, when has Obama linked with Republicans on ANYTHING???? He has voted straight party line (or voted "present") on every single piece of legislation in either Illinois or in DC. He's no cross-party unifier. What herb are you smoking lately ex-Governor?
-Posted by dbnuts October 24, 08 11:43 AM

21. This is utterly ridiculous. Weld was not a true Republican and now he proves it by endorsing the Democratic Terrorist lover for President. People like Weld are out of their minds. What on earth are Americans thinking???? Wake up America before it's too late!!!!
-Posted by pine8ball October 24, 08 11:43 AM

22. One more Republican that is making his decision based on logic and reason instead of blind loyalty to Republican ideology!
One more Republican that is making his decision with the best interest of the country in mind instead of blind loyalty to Republican ideology!
The only ones that will remain in the McCain/Palin camp are the racists, the ignorant, those voting with their sex organ instead of their brain, and the hard-core loyalists to party, rather than country...
-Posted by Helena Shaw October 24, 08 11:47 AM

23. Yo EWT. Weld led the turnaround of Mass from the Dukakis fiasco. He did such a good job that crazy Mass voters continued to elect Republican governors four consecutive elections. I agree with Weld that Obama has a chance to be a transformative figure. He is eloquent. However, I cannot find anything in his background to match the eloquence with deeds. He is a very liberal senator with minimal leadership history and no history of bringing diverse political parties together on important issues. I hope for the sake of the country that he succeeds as another Jimmy Carter would be disastrous.
-Posted by dd lang October 24, 08 11:48 AM

24. "Weld was my favorite MA Governor until today."
Sure he was.
'We need PROVEN leadership and someone with foreign policy experience not a freshman Senator as the next commander and chief!!"
No we don't. We need a "hockey mom". We need someone who can't answer a single question, Someone who can't name one newspaper.
-Posted by heyduke October 24, 08 11:53 AM

25. Weld is jockeying for Kennedy's seat in the Senate. Good move.
-Posted by Peter Forrester October 24, 08 12:00 PM

26. Good job Mr Weld you are one of the smart ones.
-Posted by dmiller October 24, 08 12:04 PM

27. James Stevenson, remember when Obama became the frontrunner and a lot of people who formally supported Hillary said they were going to now support McCain? Please tell me that you didn't say they were racists or idiots because Hillary's are so different than McCain's. If you can honestly tell me that than you are not a hyprocrite. Chances are you can't so you are.
-Posted by Dantheman October 24, 08 12:08 PM

28. Watching Republicans tear each other apart as they flee the sinking ship that is the GOP is better than anything I could ever hope for.
Ever since the mid 1990s when the GOP gained control of congress, progressive, independent thinkers have been shouted down, silenced, and ostracized. And while I would like nothing more than a President Obama (get used to saying that) to do the same to them, he will not, and that is exactly what will make him a great president. Enjoy it.
-Posted by db October 24, 08 12:12 PM

29. "matt" says we need someone with foreign policy experience. How is it that someone with a view of Russia can trump a thoughtful intellectual capable of bringing people together from all sides, when it comes to experience? George Bush had no foreign policy experience, barely a passing familiarity with world geography and was proud of being a "C" student--yet you would put his female equivalent a heartbeat away from the Oval office? We've seen where a total absence of intellectual curiosity can lead us--now let's try the opposite. Good call Governor Weld!
-Posted by Ann R. October 24, 08 12:13 PM

30. Obama will lead based on our "common values"???????? I do not share the values of Rev Wright, Bill AYers, Louis Farrakahn, Jesse Jackson, Tony Rezko, Barney Frank and the Black Panthers. Hating Jews, white people and the US military aren't values that I share. Weld is misguided on this one.
-Posted by michael, NH October 24, 08 12:17 PM

31. Now, now. Sarah can answer a single question......"Where did you get your clothes?"
-Posted by Desi October 24, 08 12:18 PM

32. Wow, the crying of the "Party before Country" Republicans is pretty loud on this one. Bill Weld was that rare republican that could actually govern, rather than just deregulate and let corporations rape us.
Put a fork in it folks, you are done. Get your act together for 2012
-Posted by W.R.Printz October 24, 08 12:18 PM

33. RE DLD's comment: the same could be said of John McCain, who was born in the Panama Canal Zone, and whose eligibility for the presidency may or may not have been resolved retroactively. Don't play with fire unless you're willing to get burned!
-Posted by nephos9 October 24, 08 12:20 PM

34. If it weren't for Double standards Republicans wouldn't have any. They can't even stay on message. Thank God for Bush, Cheney, Rove, et al. If it weren't for their hubris, temerity, lack of morals, ineptitude, and intransigence, we might be looking at an actual contest for president this year. As it stands, the 'Permanent republican majority" is small enough that we can probably drown it in the bathtub. It will be smaller still come November 5th. God has indeed blessed America.
-Posted by redrum October 24, 08 12:23 PM

35. Chuck Krauthanger is delusional. He's been carrying water for Bush for so long that he's suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. Somebody get him some pills.
-Posted by Mark F October 24, 08 12:24 PM

36. Excellent!
-Posted by ea7 October 24, 08 12:27 PM

37. To the above response; if you are truly financially conservative, how could you possibly vote for the republican ticket. Most of us have suffered net salary decreases and increased debt as a result of failed economic policy and budget/debt expansion over the last 8 years.
-Posted by d October 24, 08 12:29 PM

38. Well written piece by Charles Krauthahammer, but not necessarily true. His assignment of motive to those supporting Obama as politically motivated and not heart-felt is a lack of imagination that dishes a lack of dignity.
-Posted by Valery Lyman October 24, 08 12:37 PM

39. Just another useful idiot!
-Posted by zeeman October 24, 08 12:40 PM

40. I hate to tell ya, but without all those R.I.N.O s, the Republican Party is toast.
-Posted by synykyl October 24, 08 12:45 PM

41. pine8ball posted, "This is utterly ridiculous. Weld was not a true Republican and now he proves it by endorsing the Democratic Terrorist lover for President. People like Weld are out of their minds. What on earth are Americans thinking???? Wake up America before it's too late!!!!"
I am note sure where to begin with your post. Obama is a terrorist? If so, shouldn't you be extremely disappointed with the anti-terrorist bills that the Republicans spent so much time and money approving? I mean, here you have a terrorist running around in plain site, in fact running for President, and yet he is not behind bars! Wow! Sounds like all that tax money for homeland security worked out well, heh?
Then we hear you asking Americans to wake up? Why, because many people are behind Obama? If anything, people voting for Obama are most certainly awake. They are voting for change. You, on the otherhand, see nothing wrong with the past eight years of executive Republican control.
Now I ask you, are you awake?
-Posted by Subcritical October 24, 08 12:49 PM

42. ha ha you're so clever Mark F.
We always knew the "F" stands for F'ed Up or Fried on Obama Koolaid.
-Posted by Mark F's sister October 24, 08 12:52 PM

43. Weld is the last Republican for whom I ever cast a vote (in 1990).
I admire his courage.
-Posted by Bostonian in San Francisco October 24, 08 12:53 PM

44. "He isn't a true Republican and he did a terrible job as Governor of Mass. Another phony Pol."
Not a true Republican. Is he "anti-american"? A "terrorist" in the making? A "socialist"?
LOL, I guess those sour grapes get more bitter by the day...
-Posted by CB October 24, 08 12:54 PM

45. Two facts about Weld:
1. His ancestors were among the founders of the Massachusetts-Bay Colony.
2. Massachusetts was one of the Original Thirteen states, and the most "radical" pushing for and during the War of Independence.
Anyone who opposes Weld on "ideological" grounds is anti-American.
-Posted by JNagarya October 24, 08 12:55 PM

46. I think in some ways, its kind of funny...the republican party has their chance for 8 years...and they BLEW IT. The ghost of george bush's 8 years is the real motivator of this election. We had a leader for 8 years who screwed up time and time again and refused to take ANY accountability for it. Whats more, he doesnt think he should have to explain himself to the American people. Republicans, you want to blame someone for all this?? Blame George Bush...and the slack jawed yokels who helped elect him.
-Posted by Roy in Vegas October 24, 08 12:57 PM

47. Time to change the name from Washington DC to O-TOWN!!!!! Eat it rethugs!
-Posted by landslide08 October 24, 08 01:00 PM

48. Charles Krauthammer - LOL That guy is MAD! Did you really think that everyone was going to just drink the republican cactus cooler and vote for McCain?? C'mon...after 8 years of george W, the US people want something different. George Bush will go down in history as the WORST president EVER!
-Posted by Roy in Vegas October 24, 08 01:03 PM

49. Charles just admitted that he does not put the country first. Makes him the worst kind of hack.
-Posted by Bobc October 24, 08 01:04 PM

50. See what happens when you move to NY?
Come on, Bill, WAKE UP! Next thing you know, he'll be wearing a Yankees hat!
-Posted by Larry Fine October 24, 08 01:24 PM

51. Would you far-right wing-nuts rapture already so the rest of us can enjoy this country?
-Posted by Michael Sullivan October 24, 08 01:29 PM

52. Rush Limbaugh keeps ranting that the endorsement by Colin Powell was racially motivated. Well William Weld is white. You can't have it both ways Rush. Did it ever occur to you that the majority of Americans are beginning to understand that our next best chance to get this country back on track is Barack Obama? Now that is putting "Country First".
-Posted by Mike H - Michigan October 24, 08 01:30 PM


PHOTO GALLERY: The Boston Globe - "Crossing party lines" - October 24, 2008


"Former GOP Bay State Gov. endorses Obama"
By Brian Lawson, Reporter, 10/24/2008

SALEM-- Using words such as "deep calm," and "first class political temperament," former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld endorsed Barack Obama outside an Obama campaign office Friday.

Weld, a Republican, said that he has never endorsed a Democratic presidential nominee but sees Obama as someone who can unite the country and restore America's standing in the world.

"Senator Obama has spent his entire life bringing people together to solve problems," Weld told reporters at a press conference.

Weld added, "I do not come here has a Republican, I come here as an American."

Weld also said that he thinks Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin is qualified to be president.

"I frankly think that anyone who can get elected governor of a state is qualified to be president of the United States," he said.

When asked how he could go from endorsing Mitt Romney in the Republican presidential primary to now endorsing Obama Weld said, "I'm not taking anything away from anyone else."

Weld said that he has not talked to Obama about his endorsement yet and only told Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) that he was thinking about supporting the Democratic presidential nominee.

Weld was governor of Massachusetts from 1991 to 1997 and briefly ran for the governor of New York in 2006.
BRIAN LAWSON is a Reporter and can be reached via email at

"Turnpike Authority postpones its meeting as debt woes mount"
By Milton J. Valencia, Boston Globe Staff, October 25, 2008

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, struggling with debt and a burgeoning credit issue, has postponed its monthly meeting, a move one member said could trouble creditors and put the quasi-state agency in more financial trouble.

Turnpike Authority officials said the postponement of Tuesday's meeting until Nov. 14 was made to give state officials more time to complete long-awaited legislation that would abolish the agency, so that information about the move could be presented to the board.

But Mary Z. Connaughton, a holdover from the Republican Romney administration, said any delay in discussing ways to rescue the financially troubled agency - such as controversial proposals to increase tolls - could further hurt the agency's bond rating.

"The toll payers will wind up having to have an even bigger toll increase," she said. "The Turnpike Authority is in dire financial straits."

Turnpike Authority officials have signaled in recent weeks that toll increases are inevitable as the agency struggles with $2.5 billion in long-term debt, mostly related to the Big Dig.

The agency has had difficulty getting loans with favorable terms, and earlier this month Moody's Investor Service, one of the agency's two bond rating agencies, downgraded the Turnpike's credit rating.

The decision increased the threat that the agency will be forced to immediately repay a $37 million loan that was part of a financial deal made nearly a decade ago.

A decision by the Turnpike Authority's other bond rating agency, Fitch's, could allow creditors to require the immediate repayment of the loan, which could financially break the agency.

"I think it . . . ultimately puts toll payers at risk," Connaughton said.

She noted that Moody's decided to lower the bond rating just a week after the Turnpike board at its last meeting decided against an immediate toll increase, in spite of concerns that it would leave the agency's finances uncertain.

She said the authority has delayed toll increases in the past because of the plan to abolish the agency, but in the meantime the finances have only worsened.

Klark Jessen, a spokesman for Bernard Cohen, secretary of the Executive Office of Transportation and chairman of the Turnpike Authority, denied the postponement will hurt the agency's credit ratings, saying those concerns were considered.

He said the meeting was postponed to give Cohen's office more time to develop plans to abolish the authority and merge its operations under other state agencies, a move that will dictate how the state plans to raise revenue.

Toll increases are not a sure thing, and plans are still being outlined, Jessen said.

Mac Daniel, a spokesman for the Turnpike Authority, said, "We're going to know more about what the plan's going to look like (in November) and that will allow the board to make better-informed decisions about the future of the Turnpike Authority."

In another development, Governor Deval Patrick is expected to announce next week that he has appointed John Jenkins of Natick, a 63-year-old former chief executive officer of Polaroid Corp., as a new member of the board.

Jenkins is president of the West Insurance Agency of Boston and has a law degree from Suffolk University.

He was also a member of Patrick's transition team on economic development.

State officials said yesterday that the appointment was needed - even as Patrick's administration proposes abolishing the Turnpike Authority - so that the authority can address immediate issues such as the financial woes.

"John Jenkins will bring a strong voice and a fresh perspective to the board at this critical time," said Rebecca Deusser, a Patrick spokeswoman.
Milton Valencia can be reached at

The Boston Globe, Editorial, "Short Fuse" - Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"Massachusetts Pike: Toll plaza blues"

When traffic is heavy, the Massachusetts Turnpike suffers a slow and sluggish shuffling of vehicles as they approach the Allston/Brighton toll plaza, with Fast Lane users and cash-payers all searching out their respective lanes. New Hampshire has a better system at its Hampton toll plaza, where all lanes work for vehicles with transponders. That cuts out a good deal of last-minute lane-shifting. The Mass. Pike cites the estimated $100,000 it costs to set up each new express lane as a major reason it doesn't follow suit. But if thrifty New Hampshire has found the wherewithal, surely the Pike can as well.


"Patrick to dissolve Mass. Turnpike Authority"
The Associated Press, Monday, November 10, 2008

BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Deval Patrick is planning to dismantle the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority to improve efficiency and try to mollify public complaints about planned toll hikes, two government officials said today.

Patrick is expected this week to unveil plans to fold Turnpike operations west of Route 128 into the Massachusetts Highway Department.

Operations within Route 128, the so-called Metropolitan Highway System, would be folded into the Massachusetts Port Authority. Massport already runs the Mystic Tobin Bridge and tunnels leading to and from Logan International Airport.

One government official said dismantling the Pike "would keep a promise to the taxpayers," while merging its operations into other government departments and authorities would eliminate duplication and create maintenance efficiencies.

According to the plan, tolls likely will be raised inside Route 128 to pay off debt associated with Big Dig. Toll booths outside Route 128 will be eliminated, except in West Stockbridge near the New York border and in Sturbridge, close to the Connecticut border.

The governor needs legislative approval for the Massport piece of the takeover, said one of the officials who, like the other, demanded anonymity to speak before Patrick's announcement.

The Turnpike's board is expected to vote on the plan — and a possible toll hike — on Friday.

House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, D-Boston, said he believed the proposal would win wide support among lawmakers.

"Something drastic needs to be done. If it's the dismantling of the Turnpike Authority, I for one may tend to agree with that," he said. "Changes will be made, drastic changes, dramatic changes, comprehensive changes will be made in the transportation system."

Rep. Daniel Bosley, a North Adams Democrat and co-chairman of the Economic Development Committee, said a key to the plan is that it keeps tolls near the borders of other states.

"If we can do that, which other states do, I think that's a good idea so we don't lose revenue," he said. "But the devil's always in the details on these things."


"Sources: Patrick plan gives Big Dig to Massport"
November 10, 2008 02:50 PM, By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff

Governor Deval Patrick would get rid of some tolls in the western part of the state and give control of the Big Dig to the agency that runs Logan International Airport under a plan his administration is drafting to eliminate the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, according to three government sources.

Patrick has been working for more than a year to reorganize the state’s troubled transportation agencies. Though some tolls would be eliminated, the tolls closest to Boston within Route 128 would remain. The Turnpike Authority board is set to meet Friday and will discuss raising tolls.

Patrick's long-term goal is to eliminate the turnpike authority and let the Massachusetts Port Authority assume control of the roads inside Route 128, including the Big Dig tunnels. Massport already maintains one toll road, the Tobin Bridge. Under the Patrick plan, Massport’s road maintenance and tolling responsibilities would be greatly expanded.

The western Turnpike would still have tolls at the Connecticut and New York borders -- at Stockbridge and Sturbridge -- under the plan, though, others would be eliminated, according to one of the government sources. The Massachusetts Highway Department would take over that portion of the turnpike, under the plan.

All the sources requested anonymity because Patrick has yet to formally unveil the plan.

The sources were not able to explain how the turnpike authority’s $2.2 billion debt would be parceled out. The debt, mostly the result of the Big Dig, has left the agency struggling with a poor credit rating and in need of legislative help to avoid insolvency.

Patrick’s plan would need legislative approval.
1. It sounds like this will mean that even more money will need to come from the Tunnels, Eastern Mass Pike, and the Tobin Bridge. Since the debt doesn't go away just the number of locations you can collect it.
I have no problem with letting the people who benefit from the Big Dig pay for it, (not western ma) but what about route 93 drivers? So far it is the North Shore (Route 1 and 1A) and Metro West (Mass Pike) who get the cost, but the benefit goes to those using 93.
Posted by NorthShoreDriver November 10, 08 03:27 PM

2. Poor hacks no more cushy salary and bennies!!!!
Posted by Chris Boston, MA November 10, 08 03:34 PM

3. No one wants to pay a toll but why are we eliminating Tolls west of Boston with a growing $2.2 billion debt? Wouldnt it be smarter to keep these tolls steady, raise the Metro tolls and pay off the debt until the debt is eliminated?
Posted by Mike November 10, 08 03:39 PM

4. The Mass Turnpike, the best maintained road in the State, will be taken over by the Mass Highway Dept (the department responsible for most of the other roads in the State) and Massport (responsible for the Tobin Bridge), oh great. We better be prepared for very little actual maintenance on the Pike when that happens.
Posted by Lorraine Gardocki November 10, 08 03:46 PM

5. It's about time that patronage haven called the Turnpike Authority got squashed. As far as tolls, they should get rid of them all and increase the gas tax. This way, the more you use the roads the more you pay to maintain them.
Posted by Todd November 10, 08 03:47 PM

6. This is a class big government, no accountability hack move. The Turnpike Authoritory was a profitable hack's paradise until they loaded it up with all the Big Dig debt (that it has no part in creating btw). Even firing a good amount of the patronage folks couldn't save the agency, but they never intended to do that. They just needed some nameless government entity (or one that everyone disliked already) to take the fall for the Big Dig mismanagement.
Now the shell game continues. Let's burden MassPort with the problem and kill that agency in 5 years.
Posted by Scott November 10, 08 03:53 PM

7. I've read somewhere that the tolls west of 128 don't cover the costs of collecting them. Apparently, some of the some of the toll booths in western MA don't collect enough to pay the tolltakers needed to staff them.
So you save money by eliminating a lot of tolltakers and the remaining ones work at the I-84 stop, which is certainly profitable enough to keep open. Not sure how profitable the toll on the NY/MA border would be, but there must be a lot of truck traffic that enters the Pke there from NY.
I don't like the idea of Massport getting control of the Boston area highwways. Why can't it all be lumped into Mass Highway as a way to save money. That's what the original justification was - have a single highway department. Why wouldn't they do this? Smells like a political deal was made here.
Posted by Raise the bar November 10, 08 04:03 PM

8. Makes sense (cents I hope) to have fewer state agencies collecting tolls. It is not fair, however, to make east/west drivers pay for north/south users of the big dig. The only fair way for Massachusetts motorists to pay for the big dig and highway infrastucture repair is an increase in the gas tax. Gas tax money is easy to collect...tolls have a much higher cost per dollar of revenue generated. The problem is the gas tax money will likely be placed in the general fund to be used by legislators for whatever earmarks they decide...a horrible waste of more tax money.
Posted by frenchfries November 10, 08 04:03 PM

9. Pay the 2.2 billion debt with toll money, let me figure this out.....
add the 2 , carry the one....ahhh yes , it will only take 543 years.
Posted by joemac22 November 10, 08 04:05 PM

10. I'm tired of hearing people complain about the tolls in the western part of the state. You chose to live there knowing there are toll roads, as well as non toll roads, to commute to and from the city. As a resident of the South Shore, I didn't have a choice when the MWRA decided to make me pay to clean Boston Harbor. The fees have gone through the roof. Everyone in the state shares the pain, but it looks like the folks in the greater Boston are will take on a larger piece very soon. This is not fair. Who is fighting for us?
Posted by South Shore November 10, 08 04:11 PM

11. This new "solution" reeks of unfairness...and politics
1. Raise tolls (Again) on Mass Pike to/from Weston and TWT...but no impact (Again) for those who use 93N from South Shore or 93S from North Shore/NH??? Ridiculous. Where is the fairness in this "Commonwealth" ???
2. Give Mass Turnpike Authority to MassPort. Is this the same Massport that charges $22/day to park a car?
As an alternative, why not finally get smart? Fix the Roads, Fix the Bridges, Remove the Tolls. Add a nickel (or maybe a dime) to the gas tax.. A nickel adder is 2% on $2.49/gallon be shared by those who actually use the Roads and Bridges. Even with the adder, MA gas is still cheaper than CT or NY, and the roads and debt are financed. Done.
Posted by Philip Carens November 10, 08 04:14 PM

12. How about selling snacks and drinks at the Toll booths- even lottery tickets! I'm on a roll...........
Posted by NM November 10, 08 04:27 PM

13. Scott, if you're right then that is just fine with me. End result, two fewer useless state bureaucracies than we started with. It won't fix the big dig fiasco, but it will fix some other problems.
As for highway finance, tolls on 93 are the ONLY equitable way to cover the debt service (in addition to keeping the existing metro highway tolls, east of 128).
Posted by SJB November 10, 08 04:35 PM

14. Many of you are talking about slapping on a gas tax...the Federal governemnt is also considering that, oh maybe a whole dollar....that plus an additional Mass gas tax brings us where? Right back to 3.30 to 3.60 a gallon.....then what ....we stop driving again and revenue decreases......
Then what? Right back here again.....
Posted by chris November 10, 08 04:47 PM

15. Wow, what a great idea...seems like i heard it before, oh yeah, when Gov Romney wanted to do it, only to be stopped by the legislature who care more about politics than the citizens of the commonwealth.
Posted by Tom B November 10, 08 05:12 PM

16. The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority didn't create the "Big Dig Debt", it inherited it.. Once a "Cash Cow", the "Dig" along with economic bad times has made the MTA an easy target. The MTA had always been one of if not the most profitable Authorities in the State, but the cancerous Dig will soon kill it, Tolls will increase inside the 128 belt. So what you think is going to happen? You still need people to collect and manage the tolls. There are a lot of good people only doing their jobs, collecting tolls, taxes, for the people of this state. They will be absorbed by MASSPORT, legatee of the BIG DIG, and rightfully so. MASSPORT Collects Tolls on the Tobin Bridge, and their union scale is higher than MTA, The Patrick Administration should take a real look at all agencies. This State is like an iceberg: the 10% that is in view of the public, MTA, MPA, MBTA, MWRA... are constantly under fire. Look at the other 90% and see the real waste. Walk into any state building, 1 Ashburton Place, pick a registry of deeds, and you'll see your real hackerama! MTA is Deval Patrick's Big Smokescreen.
Posted by John November 10, 08 05:43 PM

17. I live close to exit 1 (West Stockbridge). I would absolutely have no problem with tolls being reinstated on the western part of the turnpike. Most cars I see on that stretch of road have either NY or CT plates on them. Why should they get a free ride?
Posted by Angelo November 10, 08 06:11 PM

"Patrick seeking turnpike shakeup: Wants Massport to take control; Favors ending tolls west of Route 128"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, November 11, 2008

Governor Deval Patrick would eliminate most tolls west of Route 128 and transfer control of the Big Dig to the agency that runs Logan International Airport as part of a plan to dismantle the debt-laden Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and financially resuscitate the state's transportation system.

The plan, which the administration will present to the Legislature in January, would rid the state of the agency within 12 to 18 months, but do nothing to prevent drivers in the Greater Boston region from paying more at the tollbooths much sooner, under a toll increase that will be debated Friday.

"The governor has been pushing to simplify the transportation structure in Massachusetts," said Alan LeBovidge, executive director of the Turnpike Authority. "We're a perfect place to start."

Patrick's plan would turn over the Big Dig and highways within 128 to the Massachusetts Port Authority, an agency that has primarily focused on air and sea travel, and give the Massachusetts Highway Department re sponsibility for the turnpike west of 128. All tolls west of the 128 booths would be eliminated except those in Sturbridge and Stockbridge, the gateways to New York and Connecticut.The tolls at 128 would likely end only for West-bound commuters though that has yet to be finalized according to a state official. But even as word of the sweeping legislation began circulating around Beacon Hill, several crucial questions remained unanswered: Is Massport financially, legally, and logistically capable of taking on one of the world's most complicated tunnel projects, with maintenance costs of at least $100 million a year? Will the independent board that oversees Massport agree to assume that responsibility? How can the state afford to reduce tolls west of 128 amid a financial crisis that is hitting transportation agencies especially hard? And who would assume the Turnpike Authority's $2.2 billion debt, incurred mostly by the Big Dig?

"If you don't have the tolls, which now support the debt, who pays the debt?" asked Representative Joseph Wagner, the Chicopee Democrat who cochairs the transportation committee.

Massport has some experience operating a toll road - it now oversees the Tobin Bridge - but Patrick's plan would catapult the airport and seaport agency into one of the state's major road, tunnel, and bridge operators. If a takeover takes place, the agency would also have to ensure it complies with federal rules, which forbid it from diverting money collected from airlines - to operate runways and terminals - to unrelated expenses.

Massport issued a tepid statement yesterday, promising to work with Patrick.

"We are working to accomplish this as we review how it will impact the Authority's financials and not compromise the safety and security of our airport and seaport assets," the statement said. "Any and all decisions regarding this require Massport Board approval."

The turnpike west of 128 accounts for about $100 million in tolls each year, but carries more than $200 million in debt and long-term maintenance needs. The elimination of some toll-takers and other employees would make up some of the lost revenue, LeBovidge said, but he acknowledged that the state highway department would effectively be taking on more costs with fewer revenues than the turnpike currently collects. LeBovidge said he does not know how many of the Turnpike Authority's 1,100 employees would be transferred to other transportation agencies, rather than laid off.

Similar questions are being raised about the eastern portion of the turnpike and the Big Dig, where the Turnpike Authority carries more than $2 billion in debt. The debt, accumulated during Big Dig construction, has crippled the authority, leaving it constantly in need of toll increases and unable to pay all of its maintenance costs.

"You've got to find a way to deal with the debt," said Steve Silveira, a lobbyist who headed a prominent state committee on transportation finance.

The authority board raised tolls in January, but members knew then they would likely have to revisit costs again this year. Since then, the agency's finances have only declined, with some commuters turning to public transportation when gas prices rose, old investments turning sour during the credit crisis, and a continued inability to keep up with increasing debt. The authority has been reviewing toll options all year and will likely be asked to vote on a plan at Friday's meeting. LeBovidge yesterday said that he would probably recommend an increase, but was still not sure how high.

Even as the evolving plan gathered some skeptics yesterday, few were backing the Turnpike Authority, long criticized as inefficient and bloated.

"Let me tell you with glee how happy I am," said Senator Mark C. Montigny, the New Bedford Democrat and longtime critic of the authority. "Don't let the door hit you on the way out. It's long overdue."

Montigny, like others, said the details will be important, especially the question of who pays the debt and whether Massport will invite public scrutiny of how it runs the toll road.

"I don't want to go from one opaque dumping ground to the next," he said.

House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi gave initial support to the plan, saying, "It's by necessity, need, and it's going to be agreed upon by everyone."

"The governor has been working on this for a very long time," said DiMasi, discussing the plan with the governor and Senate President Therese Murray. "Something drastic needs to be done, and if it's the dismantling of the Turnpike Authority, I for one may tend to agree with that."

"My sense on this is, fairly or not, the turnpike has become a symbol of government gone bad in the minds of many and getting rid of it has become the cause celebre for others," said Silveira, a Republican.
Staff writer Mathew Viser contributed to this report. Noah Bierman can be reached at

"Big Dig debt challenges Massport: Load nearly sinks Turnpike Authority"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, November 12, 2008

In the mid-1990s, state lawmakers were desperately searching for a way to pay the state's share of escalating Big Dig costs. To borrow the billions they would need, they found a financially stable government agency with a consistent source of income: the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.

More than a decade later, the authority is unable to afford needed maintenance, has a credit rating just above junk bond status, and is in such a shambles that Governor Deval Patrick is drafting a plan to split it into parts and wipe it from the face of state government.

Under Patrick's plan, the details of which began to surface this week, most of the authority's responsibilities, including the Big Dig, would be shifted to the Massachusetts Port Authority, the entity that runs Logan International Airport, a financially stable government agency with a consistent source of income.

Will history repeat itself?

"No one is going to want to repeat the mistakes of the past," said James Aloisi Jr., an informal Patrick adviser and one of two Patrick appointees on the seven-member Massport board. "And one of the mistakes is that in the mid-'90s, we burdened the turnpike with excessive amounts of debt. And I don't believe anyone is contemplating anything like that in this plan."

Aloisi should know. He was the Turnpike Authority's lawyer from 1989 through 1996 and drafted the law that made the agency responsible for the Big Dig's finances. He now regrets that decision.

Aloisi suggested yesterday that the turnpike's $2.2 billion debt could be spread among several entities, but did not offer specifics on how it might be allocated.

"What the governor's done is he's given us an opportunity to have a fresh page, a new chapter, and getting it right," Aloisi said.

The Patrick administration has been silent on who would take on the debt, which now costs the turnpike about $100 million a year, hindering its ability to provide necessary maintenance for a major toll road and one of the world's most sophisticated tunnel systems.

The western end of the turnpike, which carries much less debt, would be taken over by the state Highway Department under Patrick's plan. The governor has proposed abolishing all tolls west of Route 128, except those at Stockbridge and Sturbridge, which collect money from New York and Connecticut visitors. That fulfills a promise by the state to remove western tolls, a pledge that some argue should have been fulfilled as far back as the 1980s, but is currently scheduled to take place in 2017.

Talk of merging the rest of the Turnpike Authority with Massport raises significant questions about the potential effects on Massport's strong credit rating and its overall stability. Massport has been focused primarily on running the airport, with secondary responsibility to run the seaport and the Tobin Memorial Bridge, a toll road that generates $10 million to $20 million in surplus every year. That money is now divided between bridge rebuilding projects and funding the seaport.

Despite its relative financial health, Massport faces its own challenges: dealing with a decadelong decline in its share of the region's air travel business, cutting its expenses this year as the airline industry weathers the national economic downturn, and attempting to build a $450 million rental car facility on its property.

An analyst for Moody's Investors Service said in an e-mail yesterday that the impact of a merger with the Turnpike Authority on Massport's credit rating would depend on details worked out by lawmakers.

"I don't think anyone wants [control of] the turnpike," said Senator Steven A. Baddour, the Methuen Democrat who co-chairs the Legislature's Joint Transportation Committee. "I've always said Massport is not a road agency. Their primary role is the airport. Let's not forget where 9/11 emanated from."

Despite the security challenges highlighted by the 2001 terrorist attacks, Baddour calls Massport the state's best-run authority and does not want to see it turned into "the next Turnpike Authority."

Like others, he maintains that he is open to reform possibilities. "I'm not critical of what the governor's trying to do, because there's no easy solution," he said.

Alan LeBovidge, the Turnpike Authority's executive director, said Monday that the Patrick plan would create a separate division within Massport to run the Big Dig, the Tobin Bridge, and the turnpike.

That structure could protect the authority from running afoul of federal law, which prohibits airports from diverting the fees they collect from airlines that are supposed to be spent on maintaining runways and terminals. But it also reinforces the possibility that the state would simply be creating another Turnpike Authority with a new name.

The chairman of Massport's board, John A. Quelch, declined an interview request yesterday and released a statement through Massport's communications department.

"We are currently conducting detailed analysis to explore whether and how we can help the administration in a way that will add value and efficiencies to the people of the commonwealth," Quelch said.

Patrick's spokesman, Kyle Sullivan, would not comment on specifics yesterday. "This plan is the start point, not the end point, in a broad, long-range reform initiative that will begin to be spelled out in the weeks ahead," he said in an e-mail.
Noah Bierman can be reached at

"Pike board approves toll hike"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, November 14, 2008, 2:24 PM

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority board voted 4-1 today in favor of an unprecedented toll increase, approving a 75 cent hike at the Weston and Allston-Brighton tollbooths and a $3.50 surge at the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels.

The plan would increase the charge at Weston and Allston-Brighton to $2 from $1.25 and at the tunnels to $7 from $3.50. Fast Lane users would pay $1.50 at Weston and Allston-Brighton and $6 at the tunnels. The steepest spike would be felt by taxi riders coming from Logan International Airport, where the charge for cabs at the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels will jump to $9 from $5.25.

The proposed toll increases are still subject to public hearings and the increases would not take effect until February or March, after a final vote. The measure would raise an estimated $100 million a year, closing the Turnpike Authority's staggering budget deficit. Governor Deval Patrick outlined a plan to dismantle the beleaguered agency in an op-ed piece in Thursday's Globe as he acknowledged that "there is simply no way around an increase in the short term."

The vote today occurred after more than two hours of discussion and public testimony at the monthly board meeting of the Turnpike Authority. Board member Michael P. Angelini said that between the financial troubles and the burden of maintaining the Big Dig, they had no choice but to raise tolls.

"There's just no free lunch," Angelini said. "We have to operate on the assumption that the governor's plan might not be adopted."

State Representative David P. Linsky, a Natick Democrat, leads a caucus of lawmakers from the western suburbs that argue that the tolls unfairly punish their constituents and commuters coming from the North Shore. There are no tolls south of Boston.

"The reality is there is a free lunch," Linsky said after the meeting. "The South Shore commuters eat that free lunch. And the toll payers from the North Shore and western suburbs pay for that free lunch."



"Turnpike OK's hefty toll hikes: East-west commuters take hit; Fees at tunnels would double"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, November 15, 2008

Daily commuters from the western suburbs would be forced to spend $250 to $500 more a year to help pay off Big Dig maintenance and debt under a set of steep toll increases approved yesterday by the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority,

The cost of driving through the Allston-Brighton and Weston tollbooths would rise to $2 for cash customers early next year, up from $1.25, if the increases are given final approval after a series of public hearings.

Leaving Logan International Airport, already the most expensive drive in town, could become one of the pricier trips in the country. Tolls at the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels would double, from $3.50 to $7 for cash customers and from $5.25 to $9 for taxicab drivers, who must pay a commercial fee.

That means that, with other start-up fees tacked on, the cost of taking a cab from the airport into downtown Boston would cost $13.85 before the trip begins.

"You can almost rent a car for that in some cities," said Kristin Cowdin, a New Yorker waiting for a cab yesterday at Logan.

"This is ridiculous," said Jack Freker, a Medford resident returning from a business trip. "This is 'Don't increase the taxes, but [we'll] tax you a different way.' "

The toll increases will not become final until February or March, after the Turnpike Authority board holds a series of public hearings and takes a second vote.

It will be the second toll increase in as many years, but much heftier than the 25-cent and 50-cent increases imposed in January.

The burden would be less on Fast Lane users, who would see tolls rise 50 cents at Allston-Brighton and Weston, to $1.50, and from $3 to $6 at the tunnels. This means that driving from Weston or beyond would cost an extra $2 a day to get to downtown Boston for Fast Lane users, and an extra $3 for cash customers.

The increases are so significant that local officials, including Mayor Thomas M. Menino, believe that other roads will be clogged by commuters attempting to circumvent tolls.

"Everett's going to be a parking lot," said Representative Steven M. Walsh, a Lynn Democrat.

Turnpike Authority board members and managers, who began discussing new increases even as the last hike took effect, said they took no pleasure in raising tolls again. But they were forced to, they said, by a series of financial problems at the agency, including questionable investments, $2.2 billion in debt (mainly from the Big Dig), and a budget deficit that makes it difficult to maintain the complicated series of tunnels and bridges that fall under its purview.

Residents from the western suburbs who depend on the turnpike and residents of the North Shore who often use the Logan tunnels to head north on Route 1A showed up at yesterday's monthly meeting demanding a different solution: a gas tax increase that would spread the cost among more residents.

But Governor Deval Patrick's office reiterated that "a gas tax increase is not his first option, particularly at a time of fluctuating fuel costs."

"We were left with a set of very bad choices," said Bernard Cohen, Patrick's transportation secretary and chairman of the Turnpike Authority board. "There was no rabbit we could pull out of our hat today."

The increases are intended to raise $90 million to $100 million annually, which would close the authority's deficit and solve most, though not all, of its long-term maintenance needs. Cohen said he is hoping the size of the increases will prevent further hikes for another four or five years, depending on how many cars drive through the booths.

One member said the board had to act because there is no free lunch for the problem-plagued agency, which gained authority over the Big Dig in the 1990s.

But an angry group of politicians and residents from the western suburbs and North Shore said their commuters were being singled out to pay for the Big Dig because of the route they happen to drive, while others on Interstate 93 pass through the project's main tunnel and the Zakim bridge without paying anything.

"The reality is there is a free lunch," said Representative David P. Linsky, a Natick Democrat who leads a caucus of legislators from the western suburbs. "The South Shore commuters eat that free lunch, and the tollpayers from the North Shore and the western suburbs pay for that free lunch."

Linsky and other legislators from the west and the North Shore said yesterday that an increase in the state's 23.5 cent per gallon gas tax would spread Big Dig costs more equitably. That solution was endorsed last year by a special state commission and received further support from board members yesterday, but it has been opposed by several key legislators who are loath to raise taxes.

Though Patrick is working on a plan to abolish the Turnpike Authority, the tolls in Greater Boston are expected to stay in place for the foreseeable future, because there is no other source of money identified to pay the agency's debt and maintenance costs.

Under his plan, Patrick would remove most tolls west of Route 128 within 12 to 18 months. In the meantime, those tolls will not go up, though Alan LeBovidge, executive director of the Turnpike Authority, said they may be raised in July 2009 if Patrick is unable to get his plan approved by the Legislature before then.

When it approved the last toll increase last year, the authority warned that another increase would soon be needed unless the Legislature passed a series of changes proposed by Patrick, streamlining the state's transportation agencies.

But the Patrick administration failed to propose anything to the Legislature, leaving the toll debate lingering.

Patrick renewed the effort over the past two months and confirmed several key details this week. His plan would put the Big Dig and eastern portions of the turnpike under the Massachusetts Port Authority and dismantle the Turnpike Authority. Patrick has yet to spell out who would take over debt and maintenance costs, though Cohen suggested that Massport would be at least partly responsible.

The situation at the Turnpike Authority has become so tenuous that the authority's credit rating is on the verge of junk bond status. If it were to fall another notch, it would have to immediately pay a lump sum of $30 million to $40 million because of a risky investment.

Board member Mary Z. Connaughton had been pushing the authority to move faster on the toll hike, fearing that the bond rating will fall further. But she opposed the increase yesterday, instead favoring a smaller increase that would pay off less of the maintenance needs. She also proposed a freeze on hiring and salary increases for authority employees. Neither of her ideas was taken up by the board.

Though officials do not rank toll levels across the country, citing different tolling methods, the tunnels in Boston appear to be among the most expensive.

The Verzanno Narrows Bridge in New York costs more, at $10 for cash customers. Bay area bridges around San Francisco cost $4. The Miami-Dade Expressway costs $1.25 and the Pell Bridge in Newport costs $2.
Globe correspondent Anne Baker contributed to this report. Noah Bierman can be reached at


"Big Dig pushes bottlenecks outward: Artery has cleared, but commutes longer on several major routes"
By Sean P. Murphy, Boston Globe Staff, November 16, 2008

Susan Scribner was pumping gas just off Interstate 93 and getting ready to rejoin the sea of red brake lights flowing north. She had already been inching along the highway for 30 minutes.

"Look at it - traffic is worse than ever," said Scribner, an accountant who, since 1994, has commuted between her home in North Reading and Cambridge. "It's worse since the Big Dig - totally worse."

She's right.

A Globe analysis of state highway data documents what many motorists have come to realize since the new Central Artery tunnels were completed: While the Big Dig achieved its goal of freeing up highway traffic downtown, the bottlenecks were only pushed outward, as more drivers jockey for the limited space on the major commuting routes.

Ultimately, many motorists going to and from the suburbs at peak rush hours are spending more time stuck in traffic, not less. The phenomenon is a result of a surge in drivers crowding onto highways - an ironic byproduct of the Big Dig's success in clearing away downtown traffic jams.

The worst increase has been along I-93 northbound during the evening commute. In 1994, before the tunnels were dug, it took, on average, 12 minutes at peak evening rush hour to go the 11 miles from the Zakim Bridge to the Route 128 interchange in Woburn.

Now it takes 25 minutes, double the time.

Traffic is also three minutes slower during the evening rush on the Southeast Expressway, heading south out of the Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. Tunnel, and five minutes longer going west on the Massachusetts Turnpike. In the mornings, delays have grown by almost three minutes from the north, by more than five minutes from the south, and by about four and a half minutes from the west.

The upshot is that Massachusetts, for the $15 billion invested by the state and federal taxpayers, got a gleaming new highway system that has made zipping beneath Boston and Boston Harbor much easier. It increased overall mobility by allowing more people to travel at peak times. But most travelers who use the tunnels are still spending time in traffic jams - just not in the heart of the city, where bumper-to-bumper was a way of life on the old elevated artery.

The Globe developed its findings by analyzing state drive-time data collected in 1994 and 2006 - before and after the Big Dig tunnels and connector roads opened. The data is regularly collected by state employees who drive the highways and time their trips and is then used by the state Executive Office of Transportation to help set policy.

State traffic specialists say the data is the most up-to-date and best available for measuring the impact of the Big Dig. The data was collected before a ceiling collapse in the connector tunnel in July 2006 killed a motorist and prompted months-long closings of some portions of the Big Dig tunnels.

The Globe findings provide a fuller picture of the traffic situation than a state-commissioned study done two years ago, in which the Big Dig was credited with helping to save at least $167 million a year by increasing economic productivity and decreasing motor vehicle operating costs. That study did not look at highways outside the Big Dig construction area and did not take into account new congestion elsewhere.

The findings also call into question the promises made when ground was broken in 1992. At the time, state officials said in a promotional mass mailing to the public that, when it was all done, "people will find the commute to their jobs faster and easier than ever."

Frederick P. Salvucci, the former state transportation secretary who pushed the project in the 1970s and 1980s, now says that he and others anticipated that there would be bigger delays outside the city, unless transit options expanded significantly. He says he made the point at public meetings.

"This isn't a surprise - we saw this coming," he said of the Globe findings. "We knew there would be more bottlenecks within Route 128."

"I still believe it was the right thing to do," Salvucci said of the Big Dig. "We fixed the worst bottleneck."

Alan LeBovidge, executive director of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which operates the Big Dig, said he agrees that there is an increase in congestion on highways outside the Big Dig, which he said reflects the region's economic vitality, but disputed any connection between those delays and the Big Dig.

"It's just that the highway system is overstressed," he said. "There is more congestion, but it has nothing to do with the Big Dig. We just have a lot of people using the highways."

The Big Dig removed the chronic clogs in Boston, made access to Logan Airport a snap, spurred economic development along the harbor waterfront, and made the Rose Kennedy Greenway possible, he said.

"This was a worthy investment," he said. "I wish it could have been done for half the cost, but in the end the project really helped the region."

The cause of the delays on highways that lead into the Big Dig is, perhaps not surprising: more cars and trucks. On I-93 north of the city, for example, 202,000 motor vehicles drive past Roosevelt Circle in Medford, 38,000 more than in 1987, a 23 percent increase, according to state data.

Similarly, there are about 250,000 motor vehicles daily on the Southeast Expressway near Neponset in Dorchester, a 22 percent increase. It is the most heavily traveled section of highway in the state. On the Massachusetts Turnpike, daily volume is about 138,000 vehicles east of the Allston-Brighton tollbooths, an increase of 29,000, or more about 27 percent.

Two factors contribute to the surge. Overall, people are driving more, increases in gasoline prices notwithstanding. Also, drivers who once avoided the I-93 corridor, choosing instead to drive around Boston on Route 128, for example, now are willing to plunge ahead into the city, said Jeff Larson, general manager of SmartRoutes Systems Inc., who has tracked traffic patterns in Boston for 18 years.

"The Big Dig was not some magic wand that was going to make traffic congestion all over metropolitan Boston disappear - that was never the claim," said Larson, who says the overall traffic picture is improved.

"What has happened is the bottlenecks have moved, to just outside the Big Dig," Larson said. "It's sort of a case of 'If you build it, they will come.' "

Carrie Russell, staff attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation, said the Globe analysis of commuter times shows "we can't pave our way out of congestion."

"Adding more traffic lanes only attracts more people to highways and the roads leading to those highways," she said. "Suddenly, it's attractive to drive through the downtown tunnels, because they are relatively clear of traffic, and that's causing a pile up of traffic on the thresholds to the tunnel."

When the Big Dig was proposed in the 1980s, the Conservation Law Foundation challenged it on environmental grounds and wrung out a settlement that called for the state to expand public transit, including the Greenbush commuter rail and the yet to be completed expansion of the MBTA's Green Line into Medford.

Russell said to get people out of automobiles, and therefore to reduce emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases, public transit must be expanded.

Salvucci also remains a firm advocate of further expansion of the MBTA and a lowering of fares to attract more transit riders.

"You can not expand highways enough to end congestion," he said.

The numbers clearly show that commuters are no longer bedeviled by the elevated Central Artery, the 1.7-mile stretch between the Charles River and South Station that was once considered the worst bottleneck in the nation's 41,000-mile interstate highway system. Traversing the central city underground can usually be done now in about 3 minutes, compared to 15 minutes at its worst in 1994, according to the data. What's more, congestion on the Central Artery once slowed traffic to a crawl for up to14 hours daily. Today, the tunnels are almost always passable.

On Route 1, the effects have been mixed. In the morning, it actually takes five minutes less to get into the city (the only case that shows a shorter commute after the Big Dig, perhaps because more motorists are using the Ted Williams Tunnel rather than the Tobin Bridge). Going home, however, takes 10 minutes longer.

During an informal survey of a dozen commuters arriving at a downtown Boston parking garage one morning last week, a consensus seemed to emerge that while the downtown commute is better, the "prong" roads are problematic.

"It's as long as it's ever been, if not longer," said Peter Ferrelli of Winchester, who works downtown in investor services, of his commute on I-93.

Afternoon commutes are almost always miserable, he said, while he has detected some improvements in the mornings.

"I just don't know if it has been worth billions," he said.
Sean Murphy can be reached at

"Big Dig firm lands airport project: Hiring of Parsons Brinckerhoff is assailed by critics"
By Jenifer B. McKim and Casey Ross, Boston Globe Staff, November 21, 2008

The Massport board yesterday approved a $30 million contract with Parsons Brinckerhoff Americas to design and manage construction of a Logan Airport parking complex, prompting criticism from those who said the state should not do business with a company that paid millions of dollars to settle complaints about its work on the Big Dig.

Parsons Brinckerhoff was part of a consortium that oversaw design and construction of the $15 billion Big Dig tunnel project, which was plagued by cost overruns, leaks, and a 2006 ceiling collapse that killed a Jamaica Plain woman.

"There is absolutely no excuse to do business with the major culprits with this disaster," said state Senator Mark Montigny, a New Bedford Democrat and part of a group lawmakers who unsuccessfully tried to bar Parsons Brinckerhoff from ever doing work in the state again. "Fifteen billion dollars and loss of life ought to be enough to convince any management or board that you don't do business with the devil. There are companies all over this country dying to do business here."

Parsons Brinckerhoff officials declined to comment on the contract and referred questions to the Massachusetts Port Authority.

Massport officials defended their selection, saying the company designed and oversaw the expansion of Logan's central garage, a 2004 project that was completed under budget and ahead of schedule.

Matthew Brelis, Massport spokesman, said Parsons Brinckerhoff did not submit the lowest bid, but it made the strongest presentation and had the best overall team to lead the $377 million parking project. Its plan was chosen from at least five proposals considered by a committee of six outside professionals and five Massport officials, Brelis said.

Services covered under the contract include preliminary and final design, and management of construction, Massport said.

"It's a completely different set of engineers" from the company's Big Dig team, Brelis said. "If we didn't hire any company that did work on the Big Dig, more than 80 percent of the companies that do design work and construction could never get a job here."

The five-level parking facility, scheduled to be completed in 2012, is intended to consolidate the airport's eight rental companies at one location, reducing the need for shuttle buses and cutting down on road congestion and air pollution. The garage will include 3,800 parking spots for rental cars and 1,900 commercial parking spots.

Anatoly Darov, president of the Boston Society of Civil Engineers, said the $30 million design fee is typical for a project as large as the parking complex. He added that construction planning near Logan is especially complicated because of congestion and the airport's proximity to East Boston neighborhoods.

"There's a ton of traffic and logistical issues to manage on such a cramped site," Darov said.

In January, Parsons Brinckerhoff and a group of other companies involved in Big Dig design and construction agreed to pay $458 million to settle an inquiry into the ceiling collapse that killed Milena Del Valle.

Christy Mihos, a former Massachusetts Turnpike Authority board member, said he was "stunned" to learn that Parsons Brinckerhoff has been hired by Massport. The Turnpike Authority was in charge of the Big Dig and operates the tunnel system.

"Past is prologue," Mihos said. "I know for a fact we still have a system and a tunnel system that has systematic problems."

Senator Bruce Tarr, a Gloucester Republican, questioned why the bidding process didn't take into consideration the problems that occurred at the Big Dig.

"They were charged with oversight and preventing cost overruns and clearly did not succeed," Tarr said.

Senator Steven Baddour, a Democrat from Methuen, said that while he was disappointed by the decision, Parsons Brinckerhoff can legally work in the state. But he added, "I hope that Massport pays more attention to their oversight role of Parsons Brinckerhoff than the Turnpike Authority did during the years of the Big Dig."
Jenifer McKim can be reached at Casey Ross can be reached at

"Tolls rising. So are salaries for 13 Pike managers"
November 21, 2008, 1:07 PM, By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority raised wages for 13 managers by as much as $31,000 over the past year, as the cash-strapped agency was gearing up for a major toll increase. The increased salaries totaled $162,531.

“In my mind there’s really no salary increases. The only people that have changes in salaries are promotions,” said Alan LeBovidge, executive director of the authority.

LeBovidge said in most cases, the increases went to employees who took on multiple jobs when they were promoted. He provided the Globe with a chart showing what he characterized as a $1.8 million overall savings because the salary increases came in conjunction with eliminating management jobs.

As an example, LeBovidge cited the agency’s chief financial officer, who was promoted from comptroller and now serves as chief financial officer, comptroller, and director of financial management. He was given a $20,000 raise in March, for a new salary of $145,000. The move resulted in a net savings of $200,000 for the turnpike, LeBovidge said.

LeBovidge has been under pressure to cut costs at the authority. His board voted last week to raise cash tolls to $2 at the Allston-Brighton and Weston toll booths and to $7 at the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels. Fast Lane users get a discount. The increases would become final after public hearings and a second vote and could take effect in April.

Board member Mary Z. Connaughton had suggested a salary freeze for turnpike managers as a condition of the toll hikes. Connaughton suggestion was not taken up by other board members. She said that many people who work in the private sector are being asked to do more work for less money during the current economic downturn and that the authority should follow suit.

“While some of these raises may have merit, it certainly sends a conflicting message in light of the imminent toll hike," Connaughton said.


"Massport chief voices concerns on takeover"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, November 21, 2008

The chief executive officer of the Massachusetts Port Authority said yesterday that he "hoped to get some sort of agreement in principle" next month to take over the Big Dig and the eastern portions of the Massachusetts Turnpike, but urged caution on Governor Deval Patrick's plan to fix the financially struggling transportation system.

"There's just so many moving pieces to this," Thomas J. Kinton Jr. said in his first public comments since Patrick announced his plan this month. The plan would transfer the eastern portion of the Turnpike Authority to Massport, which runs Logan International Airport, while the state highway department would take over the portion west of Route 128.

Kinton also said yesterday that there would be no immediate increase in tolls on the Tobin Bridge, even as the Turnpike Authority voted last week to raise other tolls in the area.

The Tobin is the only toll road in Greater Boston not controlled by the Turnpike Authority. The turnpike's board gave preliminary approval last week to increasing tolls at the Allston-Brighton and Weston toll booths, and doubling tolls in the Ted Williams and Sumner tunnels.

"We're not prepared to do anything just yet," Kinton said about the Tobin Bridge. "Obviously, everything is on the table."

Tolls at the Tobin cost $3 for drivers coming into Boston who pay cash, with a 50-cent discount for those who pay electronically using either Fast Lane or EZ Pass. The turnpike also has discounts for Fast Lane users, though not for those with out-of-state EZ Passes. Massport doubled the Tobin rates to $2 in 2002 and went up another dollar in 2004.

If the Tobin is significantly cheaper than the tunnels, drivers from the North Shore might change their route, which could lead to back-ups on the bridge.

Kinton acknowledged that concern, but said financial issues would probably be the catalyst for any future increases on the Tobin. Money collected on the bridge could help cover some of the debt and maintenance costs on the turnpike roads if Massport takes them over, Kinton said.

Kinton said he continues to negotiate with the Patrick administration on the takeover, including who would cover the turnpike's $2.2 billion debt, which is mostly a result of the Big Dig.

He said he hopes to work out an agreement next month so his board can vote on it before the beginning of the legislative session.

"We've got to get this right," he said. "Let's not be back at the table again in three or four years."

Kinton said Massport is negotiating with two principles in mind: Massport cannot let the new responsibilities detract from its primary aviation and seaport mission, and "history must not be allowed to repeat itself" by forcing another agency to take on more debt than it can handle.

"Everyone seems to agree that it makes little sense to address the problems of one failed agency by creating another," he said.

Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen, who serves on the Massport board, agreed with Kinton's negotiating principles. "I'm confident that we are going to have a deal," he said.
Noah Bierman can be reached at

"Turnpike Authority spent $160,000 on 13 managers' raises"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, November 22, 2008

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority spent more than $160,000 to raise the wages of 13 managers over the past year, even as the cash-strapped agency was gearing up for a major toll increase.

Alan LeBovidge, the Turnpike Authority's executive director, said the raises were given to employees who were promoted to take on the responsibilities of positions that had been eliminated. The savings from eliminating such jobs far outweighed the cost of the promotions, he said.

"In my mind, there's really no salary increases," LeBovidge said. "The only people that have changes in salaries are promotions."

Eight of the Turnpike Authority's pay increases were awarded within the past three months, for a total of $89,000.

LeBovidge said that, in most cases, the increases went to employees who took on multiple jobs when they were promoted. He provided the Globe with a chart showing what he characterized as $1.8 million in overall budget savings, including elimination of 18 positions and the expectation that the agency would spend $419,635 less on outside labor lawyers this year by assigning more work to an in-house lawyer who got a raise.

As an example of the savings, LeBovidge cited the agency's chief financial officer, Joseph F. McCann, who was hired as comptroller and now serves as chief financial officer, comptroller, and director of financial management. He was given a $20,000 raise in March, for a new salary of $145,000. The move resulted in a net savings of $200,000 for the authority, LeBovidge said, because two jobs were eliminated from the budget.

LeBovidge has been under pressure to cut costs at the authority and said he has frozen other nonunion salaries. His board voted last week to raise tolls at the Allston-Brighton and Weston toll booths and to double them at the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels. The increases would become final after public hearings and a second vote, possibly in early April.

Motorists and political leaders have been lining up in opposition to the toll increases, which are intended to raise $100 million a year. The timing of the increases, rather than their merit, drew a mild rebuke from some officials and observers.

"On the one hand, it sends an unfortunate signal to the public when these huge toll increases are proposed," said Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation and a close observer of the agency's finances. "But on the other, these individuals have assumed much broader responsibilities, and it's critical that the turnpike have strong management during these difficult times."

During last week's meeting, Turnpike Authority board member Mary Z. Connaughton suggested a salary freeze for Turnpike Authority managers as a condition of the toll hikes. Connaughton's suggestion was not taken up by other board members. She said that many people who work in the private sector are being asked to do more work for less money during the current economic downturn and that the authority should follow suit.

"While some of these raises may have merit, it certainly sends a conflicting message in light of the imminent toll hike," Connaughton said.

One longtime critic of the Turnpike was less conciliatory, raising questions about how one person could fill two or three jobs. "Unless they're working 10 days a week, I don't know how they could be doing that," said Senator Mark C. Montigny, a New Bedford Democrat. "In this climate, there should be an absolute freeze."

In August, the MBTA rescinded across-the-board cost of living raises for its managers after criticism from Bernard Cohen, the transportation secretary who chairs the MBTA's board and the Turnpike Authority's board. In his August letter asking the MBTA to rescind the raises, Cohen said it was important to "leave no stone unturned in restoring fiscal health to all transportation agencies."

Yesterday, a spokesman for Cohen said LeBovidge's job consolidations saved the agency money and praised him for saving $15 million since he took over management of the agency.
Noah Bierman can be reached at

BOSTON, Massachusetts

The Boston Globe, New England in brief, November 22, 2008

"Big Dig contractor faces US charges"

Island Lath and Plaster Inc., a New York company that did work on a Big Dig contract, was charged yesterday with submitting false claims on a federal highway project, according to a statement from the Department of Justice. The company is charged in US District Court with conspiracy to defraud the United States. According to the charges, the company did work on behalf of Adams Management Group Inc., a subcontractor to McCourt Construction Co., from 2002 though 2006, and overbilled the Central Artery/Tunnel project an undetermined amount of money by billing on a time and materials basis as opposed to a fixed price for the work under contract. The two firms allegedly also obstructed the Department of Transportation's Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program because the work was mostly performed by Island even though Adams was the minority subcontractor.


A Boston Globe Editorial, Short Fuse, November 26, 2008

"Transportation: Let this be a lesson"

As if the state's transportation finance troubles weren't daunting enough, now comes word that, if financial markets keep spiraling downward, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority may be on the hook for an extra $353 million. Starting in 1999, the Pike raised cash for its Big Dig debt by getting involved in complex credit swaps with investment banks - but assuming substantial risk if market conditions soured. Now lawmakers and the Patrick administration are talking about reorganizing transportation agencies, restructuring debt, and identifying new funding sources. As they weigh the options, they should remember that there are no free lunches, and that financial gimmicks are no substitute for simply paying the bills.


"Deval Patrick’s buddy could help ea$e pain on Pike"
By Howie Carr, Wednesday, November 26, 2008,, Columnists

I can sum up this latest Pikescam to raise the tolls in eight words: The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

Once the hacks’ reckless, risky scheme to jack up the tunnel tolls to $7 and those on the Pike Extension to $2 backfired, they had to double down on their bets and inflate the debt even more. So here is their new number: $353 million, because of the “swaptions” the Turnpike engaged in a few years back.

Bill Galvin, the secretary of state, has gotten back millions from these assorted Wall Street bunco outfits. The Pike could ask Galvin for assistance, but that wouldn’t really get the job done, would it? This isn’t about $353 million, it’s about $7 - at the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels.

Still, if the kleptocrats at the State House are serious about resolving this alleged problem, I have a suggestion.

Have the governor make a call to his dear friend Robert Rubin, the former Treasury secretary who’s now on the Citigroup board. They’re pals from the Clinton administration, and hey, Rubin’s got plenty of walking around money these days. Citigroup has just been handed a $350 billion bailout.

Our alleged debt of $353 million is a mere one-tenth of 1 percent of what Citigroup is getting. You’ll never miss it, Mr. Rubin.

The reason I bring up Rubin and Citigroup is that just last year Deval called the greedhead “uberfixer,” as the Wall Street Journal described him yesterday, asking for a bailout of Ameriquest, a subprime mortgage lender. See, Deval served on the board of Ameriquest, for $360,000 a year, so picking up the phone was the least Deval could do for such a fine, upstanding company.

If you’d like to know more about Ameriquest, just Google their name and “predatory lending.”

Now, I know Deval is planning a swell Thanksgiving down in Atlanta, but surely he can find the time today to call his chum Rubin - and congratulate him on his big score, chuckle about how he didn’t even need to wear a mask for this holdup. And finally hit him up, pretty please, for a “loan.”

Deval, tell him we’re going to pay him back, just like Citigroup is going to pay us back. Wink, wink nudge, nudge.

By the way, did I mention the Pike’s deal with Lehman Bros. was engineered by Paul Haley, a former state rep and close crony of Felon Finneran. Haley sold it to then-Turnpike chairman Fat Matt Amorello, a former state senator whose patron was a gentleman known as the Corrupt Midget.

Haley and Amorello had something else in common. Both had close relatives who worked at Massport (Amorello’s future wife and Haley’s brother). It’s a small world, isn’t it, and in these days of trillion-dollar bailouts, what’s $353 million among friends?

Get on the phone, Deval!
Article URL:

"Leasing Pike may pay off, but at cost: Lawmakers cautious of a quick debt fix"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, December 3, 2008

Private investors from Australia and Spain paid the City of Chicago $1.83 billion for a 99-year lease on a toll bridge three years ago. The State of Indiana took in $3.8 billion for its main toll route. Governors in New York and Florida, desperate for cash, are considering similar deals.

Now, as Massachusetts ponders leasing the turnpike and the Big Dig tunnels to the highest bidder, questions are being raised about whether an abundant short-term gain would outweigh the long-term loss of one of the state's most valuable assets with the likelihood of frequent, incremental toll increases for decades to come.

Senator Steven A. Baddour, who will preside over a public legislative hearing on privatizing the turnpike today, believes that such a plan must be considered as the state tries to decide how to fund its financially troubled transportation agencies. He and other Senate leaders have proposed privatization as a way to minimize a recently proposed toll increase and avoid a gas tax hike.

"If there's a way for the Commonwealth getting billions of dollars in up-front money that allows us to pay off the Big Dig debt and allows us to make a dent in the MBTA debt, we should at least take a look," said Baddour, a Methuen Democrat and cochairman of the Legislature's Joint Transportation Committee.

But many urge caution. Though popular in other parts of the world for decades, lease contracts on existing US highways have been limited to about a half-dozen very recent cases, whose full impact is unclear.

Opponents worry about losing control of public property and point to deals with private firms that have soured in the past when desperate politicians failed to anticipate long-term risks. Even proponents say lawmakers need to clearly understand what they want out of the partnerships and make sure they are getting good advice when they sit across the negotiating table from some of the world's most sophisticated multinational companies.

One 2005 report estimated the state could collect $5 billion to let someone else collect tolls and maintain its main east-west route for the next century. But no one really knows what the road would fetch on the open market.

The Patrick administration spoke with financial advisers and investment bankers early last year about the potential to lease the turnpike. But officials did not take the discussions further, in large part because of concerns about losing control of a major asset for a long period, said Jay Gonzalez, undersecretary of administration and finance. Gonzalez said the administration remains open to the idea, but pointed out that a big cash infusion depends on contracts that would allow tolls to increase for decades.

"What are you letting them do in return for that up-front payment?" Gonzalez said.

The City of Chicago was the first American government to lease an existing road, the 7.8-mile Chicago Skyway, in 2005.

The agreement allowed the private consortium to raise rates yearly, with hikes tied roughly to the rate of inflation.

That is far less than the recent proposal favored by the Patrick administration, which would double tolls at the Ted Williams and Sumner tunnels early next year.

Private deals can prevent toll rates from spiking erratically because the contracts often require steady increases. That can be attractive to public officials because they no longer have to immerse themselves in politically difficult decisions to raise tolls every few years.

But that also means tollpayers have no recourse once the contracts are signed. And it guarantees that tolls continue for 50, 75, or 100 years, depending on the life of the lease.

The Massachusetts Turnpike's bonds are scheduled to be paid off in 30 years, but the state could eliminate tolls before that if it found another way to pay them off.

Whoever agrees to take over the turnpike would also have to consider the price of maintenance, estimated at $1 billion over the next 10 to 20 years.

Robert Poole, a transportation specialist with a free market think tank that supports such projects, said the state could make more money by allowing a private vendor to add electronic tolls to the Tip O'Neill Tunnel, timed to charge more during peak driving hours. In addition to increasing potential bids, it could tame congestion in future years as traffic volume increases in the tunnels, he said.

"I know it would be politically difficult, but it would really make sense," said Poole, of the Reason Foundation.

But suggestions to add tolls have helped to make private partnerships a tough sell. Commuters worry they will pay more, and lawmakers say that if someone is going to make more money on tolls, it might as well be the state.

In September, a deal to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike for $12.8 billion fell through, despite support from Governor Edward G. Rendell, after the Legislature refused to endorse it.

"What a lot of us here determined was that we in fact are selling one of our most valuable assets for a bargain-basement price," said Joseph F. Markosek, a Pennsylvania state representative who leads the Transportation Committee there. "Yeah, we get 8, 9 billion net up-front here, . . . but that has to last us 75 years."

The long-term implications also trouble Representative Joseph F. Wagner, a Chicopee Democrat and House chairman of the Transportation Committee.

He points to the Turnpike Authority's decision in the late 1990s to enter into complicated financial deals with investment bankers called swaptions, agreements that crumbled with the financial markets and has put taxpayers at risk of owing hundreds of millions.

"There was a time when that idea just seemed terrific," Wagner said. "But nobody is talking about that today. When you are talking about state assets and the leveraging of those state assets for cash, I think you need to, A, be thoughtful and, B, be careful."

The hearing is at 1 p.m. today in Room B-1 at the State House.
Noah Bierman can be reached at

"Lawmakers announce hearings on tolls, taxes, aiding Turnpike"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, December 2, 2008

House and Senate leaders yesterday announced a series of public hearings on tolls, taxes, and other methods of raising money for the state's troubled transportation system, as they launched what will probably be the most intense debate of the upcoming legislative session.

Governor Deval Patrick had been hoping his ideas to reorganize the bureaucracies that oversee the state's roads, tunnels, and bridges would be foremost on the Legislature's agenda. But his delay in releasing a reorganization plan that he first promised last year has motivated members of the Legislature to introduce competing ideas.

"There is some level of frustration by a good many of us in the Legislature about the pace at which transportation reform is moving along, with concern about the way in which it appears to be moving forward," said Representative Joseph F. Wagner, a Chicopee Democrat who is cochairman of the joint transportation committee.

Proposed ideas include: increasing the state gas tax, leasing the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority to a private company, and freezing toll increases. In a joint statement, Wagner and his counterpart in the Senate, Steven A. Baddour of Methuen, expressed "reservations about increasing the state gas tax and increasing tolls to the level proposed by the turnpike authority." Patrick backs the toll hike but has not supported raising the gas tax as a short-term solution. "Clearly, I think, there hasn't been a comprehensive plan put forth by the administration, but we're working with them as well," Baddour said.

The hearings begin tomorrow at 1 p.m., with a discussion of leasing out the turnpike and the Big Dig to private companies in exchange for up-front payments. On Dec. 9, the committee will discuss Patrick's reorganization ideas, which he outlined last month, and on Dec. 17, it will turn to tolls and the gas tax. On Jan. 6, there will be a fourth hearing, on recommendations submitted by a state commission on transportation finance more than a year ago.

Patrick's communications director Joe Landolfi said that the administration has been working on a series of cost-saving issues for the past year and that a comprehensive plan to dismantle the turnpike authority would be fleshed out this month and submitted to the Legislature in detail in January.

"We think we, along with the Legislature, have begun to address more than a decade of neglect," Landolfi said, promising to participate in the hearings.
Here is the schedule for tomorrow's (12/3/2008) hearings:
WHAT: Joint Committee on Transportation Informational Hearing on Public-Private Partnerships
WHERE: State House, Room 222
WHEN: Wednesday, December 3, 2008 at 1:00PM
The second oversight hearing will be on the status of the Patrick Administration’s plans to reform transportation agencies:
WHAT: Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight Hearing on Patrick Administrations transportation plans
WHERE: State House, Room TBD
WHEN: Tuesday, December 9, 2008 at 11:00AM
WHAT: Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight Hearing on Tolls and Gas Tax
WHERE: State House, Room TBD
WHEN: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 11:00AM
WHAT: Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight Hearing on Transportation Finance Commission Recommendations
WHERE: State House, Room TBD
WHEN: Tuesday, January 6, 2008 at 11:00AM
Noah Bierman can be reached at

"Trouble coming down the pike"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Friday, December 05, 2008

No Pike Hike, No Gas Tax Hike, Not One Cent More," read a sign held by one of the many attendees of Wednesday's Statehouse hearing on how to address the massive Big Dig debt saddling the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, or whatever its successor organization will be should it be eliminated. If none of those things, then what is the solution? It's not enough to just say no.

As if it wasn't bad enough that Boston's Big Dig turned out to be the most costly public works project in the nation's history, the Turnpike Authority buried itself in long-term debt by signing on to complex payment schemes that exploded in cost when Wall Street went belly up. Governor Patrick has proposed substantial toll increases on roads north of Boston, which residents and legislators argue with merit is unfair. The argument has also been made to privatize the Turnpike, which would arguably make it more efficient. However, a similar strategy employed in Chicago and Indiana resulted in major toll hikes, which addressed operating costs successfully, but in the case of the Big Dig, would not address the debt crushing the Authority.

The best and most equitable solution continues to be the gas tax hike proposed by House Speaker Sal DiMasi. The state's gas tax has barely budged in 16 years and is half that of neighboring Connecticut and New York. A modest increase would be shared by all residents who drive and would benefit all residents who drive if retirement of the Big Dig debt succeeds in freeing funds for neglected highway and bridge projects across the state.

It's naive and unrealistic to pretend that billions of dollars in debt can be resolved without inflicting pain somewhere. A gas tax would be a burden but a fair one that promises a solution to a problem that has burdened the entire state for far too long.


"Take the lead, governor"
December 23, 2008

GOVERNOR PATRICK didn't exactly try to rally the public to his new transportation secretary last week. Quite the opposite: He announced his choice of James Aloisi in the middle of a snowstorm on a Friday afternoon. Perhaps the governor wasn't eager to draw attention to a controversial pick.

Yet the new agency chief will be in the public eye soon enough. Transportation is shaping up to be a huge issue in the new year. The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority is considering a package of eye-popping toll hikes. Huge debts are crushing the Turnpike Authority and the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority. Maintenance woes will demand an extra $19 billion or so over 20 years. These problems won't get fixed unless Patrick takes the lead.

As the issue has come to dominate discussion on Beacon Hill in recent weeks, the Patrick administration has been maneuvering with particular caution. The Aloisi appointment carries political risk: While supporters of the former Turnpike Authority general counsel credit him with institutional knowledge and political savvy, skeptics paint him as an enabler of the Big Dig - the budget-busting project that lies at the heart of the state's transportation finance woes.

The question now is whether Aloisi and Patrick can map out a strategy to get the transportation system in good shape - and get that strategy through the Legislature. The way to hold tolls down while addressing other transportation troubles is to increase the gas tax, the most broad-based revenue source available. While Patrick has said some toll hike on the Mass. Pike is inevitable, he has stopped short of endorsing a gas tax hike, stressing reform of the transportation bureaucracy over new revenue.

Yet lawmakers grumble that the long-promised proposal to reorganize the transportation bureaucracy has yet to materialize. (Patrick's team promises it early in the next legislative session.)

In the meantime, the Legislature's Joint Committee on Transportation has taken the initiative by holding hearings in recent weeks on toll hikes, gas tax hikes, and road privatizations. In the absence of a concrete plan from the Patrick administration, there's a risk that bad ideas will fill the vacuum; at a hearing last week, one lawmaker floated the idea of raising the gas tax just enough to eliminate all tolls on roads and bridges in the state - without addressing other needs.

But there were also glimmers of hope. What was remarkable at the hearings was how many lawmakers and interest groups see a higher gas tax as the least unpalatable option. A new Boston Globe poll indicates that a plurality of state residents feel the same way. The public will still need persuading. But Patrick has the chance to fix a mess that's been in the making for years.


"State's $20B transportation funding gap grows"
January 6, 2009, 1:47 PM, By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff

The state's $20 billion transportation budget shortfall has continued to grow, according to a commission that first identified the 20-year funding gap.

"Every time you turn around the numbers keep coming back to us," said Stephen J. Silveira, chairman of the state's Transportation Finance Commission. "Nothing has changed for the better."

Members of the commission testified at a public hearing today on the eve of a legislative session in which transportation is expected to be a priority. To keep roads and public transportation in good repair, commission members urged lawmakers to enact a package of 22 reforms and increase the state's gas tax.

Commission members also issued a "word of caution" regarding plans to combine various transpiration bureaucracies, including a proposal floated by Governor Deval Patrick that would eliminate the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.

"They're almost always oversold. At best, they create some efficiencies and very little savings," said Michael J. Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation and a member of the commission.

Widmer said he worried about putting too many more responsibilities on already overburdened public agencies.



Dear Berkshire Eagle,

Do you remember the Letters to the Editor you used to publish around a decade ago. Like your Editorials, I forewarned taxpayers that real problem in Massachusetts was the "Big Dig".

The news article, below, states that the state's $20 billion transportation budget shortfall is getting WORSE! This was by a commission doing follow-up work on Massachusetts transportation problems and crises. It is very frustrating for me because, like your Editorials, my decade old Letters to the Editor pointed out today's terrible transportation reality many years ago: The "Big Dig"!

The Legislature, after giving themselves a pay raise, are expected to raise the gas tax and enact dozens of "reforms" to keep the state's roads and bridges in good stead.

That is going to be the biggest policy joke of 2009! Dozens of "reforms" and an increase in the gas tax...compared to the ongoing fiasco: The "Big Dig". That is like comparing an ant hill to Mount Greylock!

The sad outcome of the state's growing transportation deficit is that there are just about as many billions of dollars in the red as proposed "reforms". Moreover, the "Big Dig" has never been "reformed" and goes onto to rob Berkshire County and other regions of Massachusetts of their much needed transportation dollars!

In Dissent!
Jonathan Melle


"Turnpike may face $400m payment"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, January 10, 2009

Swiss financial giant UBS took a crucial step this week toward forcing the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority to hand over nearly $400 million to pay off a risky investment that turned sour.

The agency is disputing the basis of the company's demand, which could lead to a court battle if the sides cannot reach agreement.

Authority executive director Alan LeBovidge said he was surprised by a letter he received from UBS this week but does not believe the turnpike is in imminent danger of having to pay the lump sum.

"They just kind of called and said, 'Red Rover, Red Rover, We're sending a letter right over,' " LeBovidge said.

The letter from UBS, sent midweek, puts the authority on notice that it has 30 days to fix a credit problem or it will owe UBS a lump-sum payment to settle a complex investment the two parties agreed on in 2001. UBS spokesman Doug Morris declined to comment last night.

The notice comes as the authority is struggling with financial problems that have triggered a large and unpopular toll increase, now under debate.

As of Monday, the value of the potential payment to UBS was $397 million, LeBovidge said, but it fluctuates depending on the financial markets. For several years, the authority has regretted the UBS deal, and others like it, entered into by previous administrations.

The UBS deal earned the agency about $29 million in immediate cash to pay Big Dig debts, but came with great risk: a large lump-sum termination fee that has grown with the credit crisis. Critics of the agency have seized on it as an example of poor choices that have pushed the authority into a state of financial peril.

"This is just the start of a long process," LeBovidge said. "The turnpike doesn't have $397 million to give them. I've got a lot of bridges I could sell them."

LeBovidge said the authority and its lawyers believe UBS does not yet have the contractual right to send the letter because a set of financial triggers have not been met.

The central dispute is over the turnpike authority's insurer, Ambac Financial Group Inc., whose credit rating has been sinking. Under the terms of the contract, the lump-sum termination payment could be triggered if this rating gets too low - a condition that UBS said has been met. The authority believes, however, that Ambac's rating from one of two national credit agencies would need to drop another notch before UBS can request payment.

But even if UBS is correct in its interpretation, the contract gives the authority 30 days to find an alternate source of credit backing. Authority lawyers have been working with UBS to accept a measure passed by the Legislature last year that guarantees the debt using the Commonwealth's credit.

But that has complications. The state law extending credit to the Turnpike Authority expires Thursday, meaning the Legislature may have to pass an extension, LeBovidge said.

"I think that one way or another, this situation will be resolved favorably," said Mary Z. Connaughton, a turnpike board member.

But she said Governor Deval Patrick's administration should have worked more quickly to resolve the issue. "It shouldn't come up at the eleventh hour."

The complexity of the deal with UBS has helped keep the deal mysterious to the public. It involved a lump sum payment made to the authority in 2001. In exchange, the authority agreed to swap interest rates with UBS on debt payments. The authority expected deals with other banks would act as a balance, preventing the authority from losing money. But the international credit crisis shattered those expectations.

Beginning this month, the authority has had to pay UBS $2.2 million per month under terms of the contract. Last month, LeBovidge was able to settle a separate deal made with the former Lehman Brothers by paying the bank's receivers $3.4 million.

"I'd like not to have this cloud hanging over the turnpike's head," LeBovidge said. "We're going to deal with it, like we deal with all the other issues."
Noah Bierman can be reached at

"Massachusetts governor outlines goals of any gas tax hike"
By Steve LeBlanc, Associated Press Writer, January 12, 2009

BOSTON --The drive to increase Massachusetts' gas tax is gaining momentum on Beacon Hill, with Gov. Deval Patrick saying the tax hike could be a "serious alternative" to dramatic toll increases on the Massachusetts Turnpike.

In comments made online and to reporters outside his office Monday, Patrick outlined a set of three conditions under which a gas tax hike would be acceptable to him -- although he did not say exactly how much the increase should be.

First, Patrick said, the gas tax would have to be high enough not just to avoid the latest round of Turnpike toll hikes, but to remove the toll booths altogether or avoid other dramatic toll increases in the future.

"If all we are talking about is a gas tax that enables us to avoid this round of toll increases, we're just asking people to pay more money for the status quo," he said.

Patrick said any extra gas tax revenues should be dedicated solely for transportation needs, including putting the MBTA on more solid financial footing, "so it doesn't get diverted to some other good idea that comes along later."

He also said any increase in the gas tax should also be part of a larger transportation reform effort designed to simplify and consolidate the state's various transportation agencies.

"If the gas tax has a role in making that all work and we can get consensus in the building then we may be there, but we'll have to see," Patrick said.

The administration has already floated one plan to dismantle the Turnpike Authority.

The plan would eliminate tolls west of Route 128 except at two state border crossings, raise tolls closer to Boston to pay off Big Dig debt and turn over operations of the Turnpike within Route 128, the so-called Metropolitan Highway System, to the Massachusetts Port Authority.

Consensus behind a gas tax hike appears to be growing.

In November, House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi endorsed the idea of raising the gas tax, calling it "a fairer way to share our costs" than nearly doubling tolls on the Massachusetts Turnpike and the tunnels leading to Logan International Airport.

DiMasi echoed those comments Monday.

"I think a gas tax is necessary instead of tolls and I understand that the governor said something similar today so hopefully we're riding in the same car now," DiMasi said.

The current state gas tax of 23.5 cents a gallon has not changed since 1991. The national average is 30 cents.

Part of the momentum driving talk of a gas tax hike is the proposal to dramatically increase tolls.

The Turnpike board voted in November to nearly double most tolls -- from $3.50 in Boston tunnels to $7, for example -- to generate about $100 million in additional annual revenue to cover the pike's debt, most of it related to the Big Dig.

A final vote is needed before the tolls take effect.

Opponents of the toll increase have ramped up pressure on lawmakers, arguing that the gas tax is a fairer way to spread out the cost of the Big Dig rather than saddling Turnpike drivers with skyrocketing tolls.

Turnpike board member Mary Connaughton said any gas tax hike should go hand-in-hand with the elimination of toll booths, which she said would prove too tempting for future lawmakers and governors.

"As long as there are toll booths, state leaders will look at them as sources of revenue," she said. "The gas tax should go up, the tolls should go down and the Big Dig burden should be shared by all residents of the commonwealth."


"Massport must be accountable"
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Governor Patrick's determination to dissolve the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority is admirable, but his plan to have some of its duties transferred to the Massachusetts Port Authority is worrisome. It should definitely concern the Legislature as it works with the governor in the months ahead to sort out the state's transportation problems and oversight issues.

Massport would assume oversight of the Big Dig, the Boston construction project that has drained bridge and highway financing from every section of the state, including the Berkshires. Massport, which runs Logan airport and the state's seaports, is strong financially and has an excellent credit rating, neither of which applies to the Turnpike Authority. However, the quasi-private body operates with little oversight and in relative secrecy, qualities which led to the Big Dig abuses that have so adversely affected the state.

The Massport board historically meets in executive session more often than it does in open session and only recently began providing its agendas in advance of meetings. According to a Boston Globe analysis, the board or committees of the board have met six times since September to discuss the possibility of taking over Turnpike Authority duties, each time meeting in secret. Massport argues that its independence from the Legislature enables it to operate more efficiently and quickly than purely public agencies, but this also protects it from scrutiny by officials elected by voters.

Later this month, the Patrick administration is expected to unveil a comprehensive transportation reform plan that will among its provisions describe how Massport is to operate with its expanded duties, which also includes oversight of some toll roads in the eastern end of the state. This plan can't fly unless the agency has far more accountability to legislators and the public than it does currently.


"Massport looks to trim $17M from budget", January 23, 2009

BOSTON --The agency that oversees Logan International Airport is considering layoffs and other cost-saving measures in an effort to trim $17 million from its budget in anticipation of a drop in passenger traffic.

The Massachusetts Port Authority is looking for ways to offset an expected 5 to 6 percent decline in passenger traffic in the first six months of this year, compared with the same period in 2008.

Logan served more than 26.1 million passengers last year, a 7 percent drop from the record of 28.1 million passengers in 2007.

The agency has already reduced its $377.7 million spending plan for the 2009 fiscal year by 3.4 percent, or $13 million.

Massport chief executive Thomas Kinton says he hopes passenger traffic picks up in the second half of the year.


"Patrick asks bids for Pike plazas: Revenue from 11 service areas to boost agency"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, January 14, 2009

The Patrick administration said yesterday that it will let private companies bid on the right to buy or sign long-term leases on 11 service plazas alongside the Massachusetts Turnpike, hoping to reap "a significant upfront payment" for the cash-strapped agency that runs the toll road.

The plan to put all of the Turnpike Authority's well-placed gas station and fast food plazas in private hands follows similar proposals floated by others, including Patrick's rivals, over the past six years. Advocates of privatization have said in the past that the plazas could fetch $300 million on the open market, but Patrick officials said they have not conducted an analysis and would not be confident in the plazas' worth until they receive bids.

Patrick's new transportation secretary, James A. Aloisi Jr., said privatizing the plazas would not on its own eliminate unpopular toll increase proposals for the turnpike and tunnels east of Route 128. He said it would be up to the Turnpike Authority's board to decide whether to ultimately accept bids and, if so, how to use the proceeds.

But the latest announcement, just a day after Patrick called raising the gas tax a "serious alternative," underscores the fast and furious pace among political leaders to demonstrate they are trying to fix the state's broken transportation system as they contemplate higher tolls and taxes.

"This is a concrete, tangible example" of reorganization, said Aloisi, who also chairs the Turnpike Authority board in his new job. "I want to get past the theory. . . . We'll find out if there's a market out there."

Critics, including Senate President Therese Murray, called the announcement "another example of the piecemeal, disjointed approach," instead of a comprehensive plan Patrick has been promising for more than a year. Murray is planning to release a Senate transportation plan this afternoon.

Many transportation plans are coming in from Beacon Hill as the issue has become a top priority. Representative David P. Linsky, a Natick Democrat, filed a bill yesterday that would raise the gas tax by 29 cents per gallon and eliminate all tolls, while protecting the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority from insolvency.

"All of these pieces need to work together," said Linsky, who leads a caucus of legislators from the western suburbs whose constituents would be hit hard by hefty toll increases set to go before the Turnpike Authority board next week. "And if there's enough savings out of reform and restructuring, then maybe the gas tax doesn't have to go up by as much."

The Patrick administration has previously pledged to get rid of most tolls west of Route 128 and to put the Massachusetts Highway Department in charge of maintaining that part of the highway, where all the service plazas are located. Aloisi said the authority's board would have to decide how to use money from the plazas if it approves a privatization deal.

The turnpike is legally divided at Route 128, and it is generally forbidden to use money raised on the western part of the toll road to pay debts or expenses on the eastern portion. The authority has said recently that it has more than $200 million in debt and long-term maintenance needs on the turnpike's western portion.

Aloisi said the money raised from privatization might go to enhance safety, rebuild infrastructure, or address other needs that would help drivers. He said he knows of no specific interest from private companies, but is hoping the bidding process will begin as soon as next week, giving the authority answers to that question in a few months.

The Turnpike Authority gets significant income by leasing the plazas directly to vendors. Gulf Oil's 10-year-lease, signed in 2000, paid the authority $6.2 million last year. McDonald's paid $11.6 million last year as part of a 25-year lease, which expires in 2025. The yearly payments are scheduled to rise in future years of the lease.

Aloisi would let a single operator control all 11 properties long term, in exchange for an up-front payment. He said he was not sure what restrictions, if any, the authority would place on gas prices at the plazas, which have unrivaled access to motorists driving across the state.

Christy Mihos, a former Turnpike Authority board member and rival of Patrick for governor, proposed a similar plan in 2003, saying the plazas could generate at least $300 million on the market. He suggested paying off the western turnpike's debt, eliminating tolls west of Route 128, and asking the Legislature to use remaining money to ease the burden on eastern toll payers.

"It's a great move," he said.

A similar plan came up in 2006, when Governor Mitt Romney proposed abolishing western tolls and borrowing $86 million on the future value of the service plazas.

At the time, state Inspector General Gregory W. Sullivan cited concerns about any plan that would sacrifice long-term proceeds from service plazas in exchange for upfront payments.

A spokesman for Sullivan, Senior Assistant Inspector General Jack McCarthy, said yesterday that the office stands by its 2006 opinion, but would need to see Patrick's bid proposal before commenting on whether the same criticisms apply.

Others said they would like to see not only what the Turnpike Authority can get from a deal, but also how privatization would fit into a larger plan to repay billions in debt owed by the Turnpike Authority and the MBTA.

"There are so many moving pieces to the transportation puzzle," said Michael J. Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, who served on a high profile transportation finance committee with Aloisi that disbanded last year. "It really requires a comprehensive approach rather than taking some small piece and doing it alone."
Noah Bierman can be reached at

"State Senate would create transportation superagency"
January 14, 2009, 2:45 P.M., By Boston Globe Staff

State Senate leaders today unveiled a proposal to restructure the state’s transportation system that would bring the Turnpike, the MBTA, and the state Highway Department, under one agency titled the Massachusetts Surface Transportation Authority.

The new quasi-public agency would also oversee roads and bridges managed by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Tobin Bridge, which is owned by Massport.

The new superagency would simplify operations and reduce costs, with potential savings of up to $6.5 billlion over 20 years, the leaders said in a statement.

“The idea is to streamline, eliminate redundancies between agencies, and make sense of the current system,” said Senate President Therese Murray. “We think this plan does that.”

“As the Senate has stressed all along, we need to look at all opportunities to reform the current system and make the best decisions for the Commonwealth. Creating the most efficient system must be our first priority,” Murray said in a statement.

Governor Deval Patrick has said he is working on his own proposal to restructure the state's transportation system, but no details have been released.

The Senate proposal comes as financial problems loom over both the Turnpike and the MBTA. The Turnpike has preliminarily approved a steep toll hike, inspiring some lawmakers to search for alternatives, including an increase in the gas tax.

Murray and Senator Steven A. Baddour, chairman of the Transportation Committee, said the Turnpike should freeze the tolls while the Legislature works on a broader solution. At the same time, the Senate plan did not call for a gas tax increase. Murray said the Senate was emphasizing "reform before revenue."

Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei said in a statement that the plan was the first that "fully addresses the complicated financial and structural problems we are facing."


"UBS withdraws its demand of $400 million from Turnpike Authority"
January 14, 2009, 2:22 P.M., By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority has received a verbal agreement from Swiss financial giant UBS to withdraw the termination of a risky investment that could have cost the agency nearly $400 million, according to an administration official.

Last week, the company sent the Turnpike Authority a letter, putting the authority on notice that it has 30 days to fix a credit problem or it will owe UBS the lump-sum payment to settle a complex investment the two parties agreed on in 2001.

The agency disputed the basis of the company's demand, which appeared headed to a court battle if the sides could not reach agreement, according to a Globe article published on Saturday.

The notice comes as the authority is struggling with financial problems that have triggered a large and unpopular toll increase, now under debate.

As of last week, the value of the potential payment to UBS was $397 million, according to agency officials, but it fluctuates depending on the financial markets. For several years, the authority has regretted the UBS deal, and others like it, entered into by previous administrations.

The UBS deal earned the agency about $29 million in immediate cash to pay Big Dig debts, but came with great risk: a large lump-sum termination fee that has grown with the credit crisis. Critics of the agency have seized on it as an example of poor choices that have pushed the authority into a state of financial peril.

The central dispute is over the turnpike authority's insurer, Ambac Financial Group Inc., whose credit rating has been sinking. Under the terms of the contract, the lump-sum termination payment could be triggered if this rating gets too low - a condition that UBS said has been met.

The authority believes, however, that Ambac's rating from one of two national credit agencies would need to drop another notch before UBS can request payment.

It was not immediately clear what led to UBS's change of heart.



"Critics: Chief’s a golddigger"
By Hillary Chabot, Thursday, January 15, 2009,, Local Politics

New transportation secretary James Aloisi has made big money off the Big Dig debacle, rolling up in the past two years nearly $1 million in his law firm’s consulting fees from the Turnpike Authority while taking a $31,000 a year pension from the state agency.

Critics blasted the transportation chief - who was profiting as a consultant from the $22 billion boondoggle as recently as last year - for taking $343,000 in pension payments while also working for the state.

“It’s an all too common practice that I think needs to stop,” said Sen. Robert L. Hedlund (R-Weymouth). “This should be part of any pension reform we put forward. The pension is supposed to be a safety net, in theory.”

Aloisi, who’s been on the new job for four days, worked for the state and the Turnpike Authority for almost 18 years combined, and began taking early retirement in 1996. Shortly afterward, he went to work for the now defunct law firm Hill and Barlow, which was a Big Dig consultant. Aloisi also collected consulting fees when the Turnpike later hired his firm Goulston and Storrs, taking in a total of $3 million off the project.

The Turnpike paid Goulston and Storrs, charged with cost recovery efforts, $874,000 in 2007 and $4,489 last year.

While state retirees can work only 960 hours before they jeopardize their pensions, Aloisi was legally allowed to accept his pension and the state payments because he was a consultant.

Nevertheless some critics say that in accepting pension payments and consultant fees, Aloisi blurred an ethical line.

“It’s getting so bad, but nothing surprises me at all,” said former Turnpike board member Christy Mihos. “These guys are just marbled into the fabric of Beacon Hill, and they keep on getting hired back.”

Both Aloisi and Gov. Deval Patrick, who appointed Aloisi last year, declined comment.

Aloisi waived his pension payments when he became transportation secretary, and he must file a disclosure form with the Ethics Committee within the next month.

He won’t be able to use his salary or time as the transportation secretary toward his pension.

The recent Big Dig payments also further cement Aloisi to the troubled project, which was riddled with cost overruns and claimed the life of a Jamaica Plain mother when a cement ceiling slab collapsed onto the car in which she was riding.

Patrick recently launched a back-handed defense of Aloisi’s history with the project, saying, “He knows where the bodies are buried.”
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"Pol betting on casinos to ea$e Pike burdens"
By Hillary Chabot, Wednesday, January 14, 2009,, Local Politics

A top Beacon Hill lawmaker is hoping two resort-style casinos could bail out the struggling Turnpike Authority and possibly avoid a toll hike by developing one of the cash cows on state-owned land.

Sen. Michael Morrissey (D-Quincy) will file a casino bill today as Gov. Deval Patrick and other legislators floated alternatives to the controversial Pike toll hike.

“If we signed a long-term lease. that would bring money that the Turnpike desperately needs,” said Morrissey about one of the proposed casinos, which under his legislation would be developed on Pike-owned land in Warren.

Patrick has said he doesn’t know if he will refile his controversial casino legislation after House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi effectively croaked his plan last year.

Rep. Martin Walsh (D-Boston) signed onto yet another bill being filed today, similar to Patrick’s, that would legalize three casinos with revenues going to local aid and substance abuse programs.

Morrissey’s bill would place a second casino in southeastern Massachusetts, giving the state bargaining power as a casino proposal by the Wampanoag tribe gains steam.

“I’m expecting half a dozen pieces,” said Morrissey of other casino bills. “But we have to have something filed, at least to give us some bargaining power should the (Wampanoag project) ever get off the ground.”

A spokesman for Patrick declined to comment on the bills, saying he hasn’t seen them.

As Morrissey suggested selling Pike-owned land to casino developers, new Transportation Secretary James Aloisi yesterday pitched the sale of 11 service plazas along the highway that could bring in $300 million.

The Pike is facing $2.2 billion in debt brought on by the Big Dig, and a company that lent money to the agency moved last week to collect a $450 million loan. Pike officials currently lease the rest stops to several different gas and food vendors that bring in at least $17 million a year.

Senate President Therese Murray blasted Aloisi’s proposal yesterday, calling it “disjointed and piecemeal,” even as she prepared to roll out transportation reform plans of her own.

Meanwhile, toll-hike foe Rep. David Linsky (D-Framingham) suggested hiking the gas tax to 50 cents up from the current 21-cent tax to pay off Big Dig and MBTA debt.

“The bill would eliminate all tolls in Massachusetts and meet all of the commonwealth’s infrastructure needs that are pressing,” Linsky said.
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The governor’s office voiced confidence that James Aloisi Jr. will be able to make long-term transportation changes.

"Transportation chief sees potential conflict: Aloisi says recusals may be necessary"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, January 22, 2009

Governor Deval Patrick's new transportation secretary has acknowledged he may have to recuse himself from some policy decisions because of the extensive financial ties between his former law firm and the agencies he is now being asked to overhaul.

That firm, Goulston & Storrs, where James A. Aloisi Jr. was a partner, collected $2.8 million from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and $1.6 million from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority over the past five years, Aloisi's spokesman disclosed in response to written questions from the Globe last week. Aloisi, now chairman of both agencies, declined to be interviewed yesterday.

Neither Aloisi nor his spokesman elaborated on which decisions, if any, he may have to avoid. But significant limits in his participation could jeopardize his ability to direct a complicated and controversial transportation reorganization that has become a top priority on Beacon Hill. In his new job, which he assumed last week, he is expected to lead Patrick's push to restructure and bail out the bureaucracies that run roads, tunnels, bridges, subways, buses, trains, and airports.

The potential for conflicts of interest underscores Aloisi's deep roots in the state transportation culture,as well as the advantages and disadvantages of his appointment to the top job in that realm.

Patrick's spokesman, Kyle Sullivan, said in a written statement that the administration has full confidence in Aloisi's ability to make long-term changes and that any recusals he may need to take will not impede that goal.

Aloisi's private sector career as a lawyer was focused on transportation and government work. That followed an 18-year public career in which he last served as the turnpike authority's general counsel and was credited with writing the law that set up the Big Dig's funding and operations.

Most of the state's transportation agencies are struggling financially, in large part because of debt from the Big Dig and high operating costs.

Aloisi resigned from Goulston & Storrs Jan. 12, the day he took charge of the state's vast transportation system, and he retains no financial stake in the firm, according to written responses to Globe questions by Klark Jessen, spokesman for the Executive Office of Transportation.

The state's conflict-of-interest laws place specific limits on public servants who return to the private sector, regulating the contact they may have with their former agencies. But there are fewer rules about private-sector employees moving into public life, as long as they do not retain financial interest in their former employment.

In most cases, only disclosure is required, even if they may make decisions that could affect the finances of former business partners and colleagues or projects in which their old companies are involved. Once they disclose the connection, the person who appointed them must decide whether to limit their participation. In Aloisi's case, Patrick is responsible for setting the boundaries.

Aloisi has gone from public to private and now back to the public sector and has promoted his public service background while in private practice.

His official biography, formerly posted on the Goulston & Storrs website, highlighted his experience with the Big Dig. His role in the $15 billion project and his subsequent work in the private sphere made his recent appointment a contentious one.

"People are going to say this is kind of funky," said Pamela H. Wilmot of Common Cause. "But I think there's been a public discussion of those concerns, and you're going to have that any time people are crossing these lines between government contractor to government work."

Wilmot said it is up to Patrick and his staff to pay close attention and asserted that they are "taking this matter seriously."

Jessen said in response to the Globe's questions that Aloisi is "cataloging potential matters" in which he may have to recuse himself because of potential conflicts of interest and will assess with Patrick "what future measures may be required." He speculated that there "may be matters from time to time" in which he cannot participate.

Before his appointment as secretary, Aloisi faced questions about a potential conflict of interest, as a member of a public board discussing one of Patrick's key transportation initiatives.

Last year, Patrick appointed Aloisi to the Massachusetts Port Authority board, which oversees Logan Airport, the seaport, and the Tobin Bridge. Patrick wants Massport to assume responsibility for major portions of the turnpike, as well, as the central part of a restructuring plan he announced in November.

Before he was appointed secretary, Aloisi participated in five Massport meetings during which the restructuring plan was discussed, before Massport's attorney, David Mackey, suggested that Aloisi should review whether he has a conflict of interest. Because Goulston & Storrs represented the Turnpike Authority, Aloisi could have been seen as having a financial interest in protecting its interests. The board has not voted on restructuring.

Aloisi had not previously raised the potential for conflict. Jessen told the Globe the law firm's work for the Turnpike Authority was not related to the potential merger with Massport.

"Although the firm's billings to the turnpike during the firm's last fiscal year amounted to less than 1 percent of its total revenues, out of an abundance of caution, he made a disclosure of the potential conflict" to Patrick, Jessen wrote.

Patrick's office, in a Dec. 11 letter, advised Aloisi to recuse himself from the matter.

Jessen said that because Aloisi has divested from his firm, he does not anticipate any ethical issues in discussing the merger going forward.
Noah Bierman can be reached at

"Vote on Pike toll increases may be delayed"
January 22, 2009, 09:30 AM, By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority is poised to delay a long-awaited vote on a toll increase, listing the issue as "discussion only" on an agenda for this afternoon's monthly board meeting.

Patrick administration officials declined to comment earlier this week about the meeting, but they have been hinting in recent weeks that they were looking for alternatives to the unpopular increase in tolls. The Turnpike Authority's board meeting had already been pushed back a week, as Governor Deval Patrick scrambled to deliver a transportation plan to the Legislature.

"Tolls are on the agenda as a discussion item, but the board has full discretion, should they choose, to vote on any motion made," Turnpike Authority spokesman Mac Daniel said in an e-mail message earlier this week. He declined to answer further questions.

But several legislators took the agenda as a sign that the administration is planning a delay while officials continue working on a broader plan that could reduce or eliminate the need for a toll increase.

"It would appear this is a step back, at least temporarily," said Representative Joseph F. Wagner, a Chicopee Democrat and cochairman of the Legislature's Transportation Committee.

The falling price of gasoline, combined with the threat of toll hikes that could add hundreds of dollars in annual commuting costs for many drivers, has helped build support for raising the gasoline tax as an alternative. Lawmakers have also been floating ideas to lease out turnpike property or make other changes that some argue could ease the burden on the financially struggling authority.

The agency is facing a deficit and lacks the money needed for hundreds of millions of dollars in repairs; its bond rating is on the verge of junk status. The toll increases, recommended by the board in November, would double cash fees to $7 at the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels and raise them from $1.25 to $2 at two booths inside Route 128.

"There are a lot of people, both in the Legislature and the administration, who are working very hard to come up with a solution other than tolls," said Representative David P. Linsky, Democrat of Natick, who filed a bill to raise the gasoline tax.

Turnpike Authority board member Mary Z. Connaughton said she also expects the vote to be pushed back to give Patrick and the Legislature time to work out an alternative.

Since his administration recommended the toll increase in November, Patrick has stood by the decision as a painful but necessary step. But in recent weeks, he has also said there may be alternatives.

And last month, after Patrick appointed James A. Aloisi Jr. as his new transportation secretary, Aloisi said he would reevaluate the toll proposal.

"It does look like the governor's been flip-flopping a little on the issue," said Michael Kelleher, a toll-increase opponent from East Boston. "It gives us optimism that, hopefully, our leaders will lead us into a new plan, as opposed to a ridiculous toll hike."
Noah Bierman can be reached at



"Top pay just the ticket for turnpike troopers"
By Joe Dwinell, Friday, January 23, 2009,, Local Coverage

As the Mass Pike shifts into crisis mode over how to wipe out $2.2 billion in debt, new payroll figures obtained by the Herald show almost 200 employees pulled in more than $100,000 last year.

And, nine state troopers assigned to the plum Pike beat top the list of the highest-paid in 2008 with all earning more than $200,000, payroll records show.

Out of the 196 Pike employees earning six-figure salaries, 157 are state troopers, records show.

The Troop E heavy load, the Herald is told, includes pay for overtime, detail, fitness and Quinn bill stipends. As the Herald previously reported, state troopers earn a one-time 2.5 percent pay boost for passing a fitness test.

It all adds up to an arresting $108.3 million payroll for the toll road in 2008, according to the Pike payroll records obtained by the Herald through a public records request.

Pike board member Mary Connaughton of Framingham said the salaries are heading in the wrong direction.

“In these tough times when people are struggling to pay for the necessities, it’s difficult to reconcile these high salaries,” Connaughton told the Herald last night.

Pike spokesman Mac Daniel, who earned $103,000 last year, told the Herald “the Pike has to honor the contracts with the state police.”

Sources within the Patrick Administration say state trooper pay may be moved off the authority’s books as part of sweeping reforms being sought to pull the Pike out of the red.

Yesterday, the Pike board of directors delayed a planned toll hike until next month as lawmakers consider a gas tax to bail the toll road out of the fiscal breakdown lane.
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The Boston Globe, Editorial: Short fuse, January 25, 2009

"Mass. Pike: 'Reform before revenue' doesn't fly"

The Turnpike Authority's executive director, Alan LeBovidge, made a dramatic presentation to the Pike board last week, saying that all the fine transportation reforms proposed by the Patrick administration and the Legislature won't save enough money to avoid a toll hike. LeBovidge said the Pike's debt load and the state's deteriorating infrastructure were problems that "cannot be solved via reform." For the most part, we agree. But a better idea than a heavy toll increase, or a nuisance 50-cent monthly fee on Fast Lane transponders, would be a simple increase in the gasoline tax. That is the fairest way to get the revenues the transportation system badly needs. Reforms are good, but they shouldn't be used to hold revenues hostage.


"Pol wants Deval Patrick to ban Big-Dig firms: Blasts governor for not going far enough"
By Hillary Chabot, January 31, 2009,, Local Politics

A top Beacon Hill lawmaker yesterday slammed Gov. Deval Patrick for allowing discredited Big Dig contractors responsible for a fatal tunnel ceiling collapse to continue doing business with state government.

Patrick recently blasted Massport officials for hiring Parsons Brinckerhoff even though MassHighway has paid the controversial firm more than $300,000 for engineering work since the governor took office, the Herald disclosed yesterday. However, the department has rejected or frozen bids from the contractor issued in fiscal 2008 for four state projects, including a bridge project in Amesbury.

“It’s one thing to say, ‘I don’t want to use the company.’ I give him credit for stepping up (and avoiding new contracts), but in order to prevent this, debarment was his only option,” said Transportation Committee Chairman Sen. Steven A. Baddour (D-Methuen).

MassHighway also shelled out $358,000 in fiscal 2008 to Gannett Fleming Inc., which designed the Interstate 90 Seaport connector tunnel in which the ceiling collapsed, killing a Jamaica Plain mother.

The National Transportation Safety Board found both Parsons Brinckerhoff and Gannett Fleming to be at fault in the ceiling collapse.

MassHighway paid about $5 million to various other Big Dig contractors, including HNTB Corp. and DMJM & Harris Inc., in fiscal 2007 and 2008, according to records obtained by the Herald.

All contracts with the Big Dig consultants, except one with HNTB, were entered into before Patrick took office, according to MassHighway officials.

Baddour was part of a bipartisan committee that asked Patrick in 2007 to bar Parsons Brinckerhoff from doing any more business with the state.

Patrick, who has the power to start the debarment process, deferred to Attorney General Martha Coakley, who was in negotiations with the companies. Patrick later supported Coakley’s settlement agreement to collect $458 million from the faulted contractors in exchange for not debarring them.

“He can’t be held responsible for issuing those contracts, but where he opens himself up for criticism is the debarment issue,” Baddour said.

“If we’re not going to debar them, then they can do work here. We can’t just keep talking ourselves into a circle. If they don’t ban them from working here, there’s no way we can keep them from state projects,” Baddour said.


Linda Neil fills up at the Xtra Mart on Ashland Street in North Adams. The state of Massachusetts is proposing a 29-cent per gallon gasoline tax.

"Taxing times: Area officials concerned over state's proposed gas tax hike"
By Scott Stafford, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Debate is heating up over a proposed 29-cent hike in the state's gasoline tax — an attempt to raise revenue to pay off the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority's $8 billion debt and the $2.3 billion owed on the Big Dig.

The proposed gas-tax increase was a response by some legislators to a call from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority for a range of toll increases along the Mass Turnpike and the Big Dig, up to $7 per car in some locations.

The 29-cents per gallon hike would result in a total of 50 cents per gallon in state taxes on gasoline in Massachusetts.

Many Berkshire County legislators say they are unhappy with the proposal and contend that it would put an undue burden on the Western Massachusetts populace, who have little access to mass transit and are more dependent on their cars and trucks for their income.

Closer to home, North Adams Mayor John Barrett III said he is dead against any increase in the gas tax unless the revenue raised in Western Massachusetts remains here to pay for roads and bridges.

"We're gonna pay for the Big Dig, after we went without projects for years because all the federal money in Massachusetts was going into the Big Dig? Now they want to share their pain with us? Well, they can share their own pain, because that's crazy," Barrett said. "They want us to pay again and it's ridiculous."

He said the state should be instituting tolls on the western end of the turnpike, where use between Springfield and Lee is currently free.

"If I use it, I should pay for it — that's how we've had to run our cities and towns for a long time," Barrett said. "I don't want to pay for someone else's mistakes. There's got to be a better way."

Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto said any increase in the gas tax should be part of a combination that includes higher tolls along the turnpike and Big Dig, otherwise it would be an unfair burden on rural areas of the state.

"I think a combination of both is the best approach," he said, "because I think users who are getting a disproportionate amount of government investment into the highway system in and around metropolitan Boston should be expected to accept increases."

At the Statehouse, Western Massachusetts legislators are trying to deflect the proposed gas-tax increase by finding other ways to cut spending.

State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, said new revenue streams should be identified only after comprehensive reform — and possible consolidation — of the state's various transportation agencies has been considered.

A proposal to merge the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, MassHighway and the Department of Conservation and Recreation's roadway management and maintenance arm into one entity is expected to be filed later this week, Downing. The new entity would be called "Mass Trans," or Massachusetts Transportation.

"These are fiefdoms that have built up over time and, in being allowed to continue to exist, they've cost the taxpayers money in the form of duplication of services," Downing said.

"We in the Senate don't think it's responsible or appropriate to talk about revenues until we have established that the transportation system we have in the commonwealth is the most effective and efficient possible."

Downing argued that consolidation would result in fewer personnel getting more done for less money, more efficiency in planning and executing projects, and less spending on equipment and supplies. Once that has been achieved, then "the most equitable" sources of revenue could be identified to close the transportation funding gap.

State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, is a member of a new House task force that is studying the state's transportation issues.

"Right now I am adamantly opposed to any increase in the gas tax whatsoever," he said. "I don't think we can tax ourselves out of this problem. And unless we get our fair share of it in the Berkshires, I will not vote for one."

The debts incurred by the Big Dig and the MBTA should be fully investigated before substantial revenue sources can be identified, Pignatelli said.

"Until we get to the root of the problems of what caused this financial mess to begin with, I think a tax is the wrong message to send at this point," he said.

Gov. Deval L. Patrick maintains that any talk of gas-tax hikes or increased tolls must be part of a discussion on comprehensive, multi-year transportation reform, according to administration spokeswoman Rebecca Deusser.

The newly appointed transportation secretary, James A. Aloisi Jr., is in the process of hammering out a reform package that is likely to be unveiled this month, said spokesman Clark Jessen.

A local environmentalist, who noted that, while taxes will increase the price of gas and therefore reduce its demand, it is also a regressive tax, likely to hurt lower-income families who can't afford the additional burden.

"In principal, I ... feel that a very good way of controlling greenhouse gases is to make the emissions more expensive by increasing the price of carbon-based fuel," said Tom Stokes, coordinator of the Climate Crisis Coalition based in Lee. "However, we have to recognize that this puts working people at a disadvantage because they pay a relatively higher amount of their household income toward fuel."
To reach Scott Stafford: or (413) 664-4995.

"Turnpike plazas may be history"
By Trevor Jones, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Saturday, February 07, 2009

LEE — In an effort to offset billions in accumulated debt in its transportation system, the state is seeking bids to purchase or lease the Massachusetts Turnpike service plazas, including the two located in Lee.

The plan was put forth by Transportation Secretary James Aloisi Jr. through a directive from Gov. Deval L. Patrick. The 11 Interstate 90 plazas — all located west of Route 128 — are owned and operated by the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. The state wants to either sell or lease the properties, and proposals are due by March 25.

The idea of selling the plazas has been tossed around for years, but the state's debt-laden Turnpike Authority is looking for cash.

"There is potential for a large up-front payment by selling to a bidder interested in gaining access to that lucrative revenue stream," said Aloisi. "A request for proposals to acquire the service plazas shows our seriousness in moving quickly and our willingness to consider all innovative ideas, including public-private partnerships, to find significant revenues within reform."

But critics say the short-term benefits of selling the properties are far outweighed by the long-term losses in revenues the plazas generate annually.

Selling the plazas "makes no sense whatsoever," said State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli. The Lenox Democrat was recently appointed to a special transportation task force to look at cost-saving measures for the state's flagging transportation system.

"For the life of me, I don't understand why the state or the Turnpike Authority would give up a steady stream of income for a one-time revenue. Once the plazas are sold, it's gone," said Pignatelli.

Pignatelli said the Turnpike Authority is between $2 billion and $3 billion in debt and understands its need to reduce that. But revenue from selling the properties would only cover a small portion of debt and would cost the state revenue down the road, he said.

"It might be nice to get an injection of cash, but what do we do in five years? What do we do in 10 years?" Pignatelli said.

Pignatelli added that selling the properties would be complicated for a number of reasons, foremost being the state's current 10-year lease with Gulf Oil and its 25-year lease with McDonald's.

Those leases currently bring the state $17.2 million a year in revenue.

Turnpike Authorities declined to comment for this story on how much the sales would bring in or how much overall profit the plazas currently generate.

A Turnpike spokesperson responded to The Eagle's questions in a terse statement: "We will know much more once the bids come in."

The two Turnpike plazas in Lee are currently assessed at a combined $4,194,000 and would generate $51,041 in annual property tax revenue for Lee if privately owned. The sale of the properties would not garner more revenue for the town, however, since the current lessees already pay an equivalent amount.

Lee Town Administrator Robert Nason declined to comment, saying it is too soon to speculate on any sale or revenue related to the plazas.

According to the Turnpike Authority, 90 million vehicles travel the portion of I-90 where the plazas are located, with locations in Lee, Blandford, Ludlow, Charlton, Westborough, Framingham and Natick.

Once all bids have been received, the Turnpike board of directors will be responsible for authorizing any leases or sales.
To reach Trevor Jones:, or (413) 528-3660.

"Bay State's governor endorses I-93 tolls at Salem/Methuen line"

Boston – Gov. Deval Patrick conceded today he has shifted position in favor of supporting a toll on Interstate 93 at the state's border with New Hampshire, but he said the change was testament to the unfolding gravity of the transportation funding challenges in Massachusetts and the need for new revenue.

The governor also defended his administration for considering proposing a 27-cent hike in the state's gasoline tax, saying no decisions had been made but any such jump would have to be accompanied by a pro-consumer reform of state transportation bureaucracy and practices.

The Associated Press reported Monday the hike, which when added to the existing 23.5-cent levy would give Massachusetts the highest gas tax in the nation at 50.5 cents, was included in the draft of an overhaul plan Patrick will unveil as early as next week.

"I am not going to ask the people of Massachusetts to pay more money for the status quo," Patrick told reporters during a news conference in his State House office. "The range of options is all about how much reform we're prepared to pay for."

Patrick declared he would not seek a gas tax hike without removing at least some toll booths within Massachusetts, starting with those west of Route 128.

"The level of gas tax has a whole lot to do with whether we can have lower tolls or no tolls," he said. "My paradigm is to have no tolls."

Yet one place where tolls would not only remain but possibly expand is at the state's borders.

Patrick said Massachusetts would likely maintain the toll booths it already has near the New York and Connecticut borders, while seeking federal permission to erect similar ones on highways leading into Massachusetts from Vermont, Rhode Island and New Hampshire.

Such a change would likely take years, and New Hampshire officials have talked about reciprocating with their own toll booths.

The governor and his staff had previously dismissed any such talk - even publicly rebuking a state transportation official who said last year an I-93 toll was being considered. But Patrick told the Massachusetts Municipal Association last month he supported border tolls in part as a new source of revenue and a matter of equity. Both New York and New Hampshire already charge border tolls on some roads coming in from Massachusetts.

Asked whether that was a shift in position, he said Tuesday, "Yes."

Then he added: "I have a clearer idea every day of how serious the challenge is before us."

A study last year said the state would need $15 billion to $19 billion over the next 20 years to maintain its decaying transportation infrastructure. Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has $5.1 billion in debt and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority has another $2.3 billion in debt, much of it inherited repayments costs for the $15 billion Central Artery project.

Turnpike directors voted in November to double some tolls, including increasing the Boston Harbor tunnel fees from $3.50 to $7. That prompted a public outcry and talk of a more equitable alternative such as increasing the state gasoline tax. One MetroWest lawmaker has filed a bill for a 29-cent increase, 2 cents greater than the one Patrick is considering.

Patrick told reporters he would consider a gasoline tax increase only if it resolved lingering transportation issues and was accompanied by bureaucratic streamlining and reforms.

The state would meld its disparate transportation agencies into Highway, Rail and Transit, Aviation and Port and Registry of Motor Vehicle divisions. The state would also create a transportation trust fund used to preserve transportation revenues for transportation purposes.

The draft plan also calls for implanting a chip in motor vehicle inspection stickers so the state can eventually replace the gas tax levy with a direct user fee for driving.

Patrick said such chips could also be used like Fast Lane transponders for so-called "open road" tolling at highway speeds, but aides later said the governor did not support new tolling sites within the state -- only at its borders.

NH should really stick it to Mass. and put up a deluxe casino at Rockingham and hire NH residents only.

This would help with the budget shortfall and would really stick it to Mass.
- Scott, Pembroke

How about this. All the liberals in NH move to Mass. and all the Mass. conservatives move to NH and then we will build a fence at the border. Then lets see which state survives on its own. Want to guess which state it will be?
- Sam Hajj, Salem

I live in Salem NH and work in MA and this is just one of many reasons I moved out of Taxachusetts 8 yrs ago. I will just go around the toll booths and laugh at Deval all the way . I will add 10-20 minutes to my day before I give him any more of my money .
- Rich, Salem,NH

A toll is fine with me as it won't affect me. Remember, you didn't care when they taxed my smokes, as it didn't affect you. What goes around.....
- VC, Derry

What about the MA State Gov. thinking about inter-structure? Yes jobs so there revenue comes from state tax on employees income. Put people back to work or cut your budget like the rest of us have. A luxury tax on all the toys like large boats, snowmobiles, ATVs , sports cars over $100K, property tax on estates, and other unnecessary things that would not hurt the working class. A gas tax or tolls only hurts the working class, but this is the MA Gov again not working for the middle class like NH is doing too. Tax small business out who needs them.
- Ed, Center Harbor

Governor Patrick wants to improve the efficiency of Massachusetts by imposing new taxes to pay to create those efficiencies? Too bad George Orwell is dead. He'd love this!
- Skip Morgan, Ossipee

Husband and I both commute from Litchfield to Bedford and Waltham. If anyone thinks we are going to pay tolls to enter this state (MA) you have another think coming! Bad enough we already have to pay non-resident income taxes, but I'll be da**nd if we give more money to MA just to get to work.
- KF, Litchfield, NH

This is a good thing. New Hampshirites commuting to Massachusetts ought to pay their fair share for using the state's roads.
- Brian Peppers, Swanzey, NH

Looking back at all of the improvements made to the Everett Tpk, I have to wonder why the State Highway Dept decided to charge Merrimack residents (the only town in NH that is billed for tpk use) separate taxes rather than placing a toll booth at the border as was originally planned.

I would think that they got greedy rather than being pragmatic. Now Mass. is going to build their toll booths where NH should have and NH is screwed. Another shrewd decision by NHs politicians. Now what are you going to do?
- Dennis, Merrimack, NH

So it is perfectly all right for us to suck money out of Mass residents to support our failing schools and infrastructure but when they want some of it back it is just Socialist Taxachusetts again.
- Bob, Deerfield

Well lets see how many of MA shoppers come up to NH now to shop TAX FREE.
- nicole, derry nh

If you live in NH and go to MA for anything at all, you know how to go around I-93. I do it all the time. It might add 20-30 minutes to your trip, plan ahead and stick it to Deval.
- Phil, Northfield, NH

So he won't try to take more money from Mass residents but he will triple dip NH and other state residents contributing to the MA. economy with Income tax, gas tax and border tollbooths. Massachsetss is clearly the first in the nation again...this time in trying to dismantle the basic tenets of inter-state commerce, free trade through protectionist policies...
- Ray, Manchester

Last week when Deval stated he was trying to tax the businesses, I stated it was a front to take the focus off of the tolls. It looks like I wasn't too far off the mark. I orginally opposed any tolls going in on 93, but if I'm going to have to pay, I would much rather pay NH than the screwed up state of Mass.
Deval you are way over your head on this issue as well as most of the others you are involved in. Straighten out your own mess!!!
- John S., Hooksett

Yeah, more MA fee's for NH residents. First the Town Fair Tire issue, now a Big Toll Both for all folks that will go to MA for dinner or sport events in Boston. Maybe Deval should start sending bills to NH residents who live near the border for an Oxygen Use Tax.
- Peter, Amherst, NH


"Matt Amorello fined over sick leave buyback policy"
By Jessica Fargen, February 11, 2009,, Local Coverage

The State Ethics Commission this morning fined former Big Dig chief Matt Amorello for violating state ethics laws for his role in a new sick leave buyback policy at the Mass Pike that the commission ruled he knew could net him a windfall of thousands of dollars.

The Commission ordered Amorello to pay a $2,000 civil penalty, the maximum that can be imposed for a violation of the conflict of interest law, according to a statement the commission released.

Despite being unemployed and publicly whacked with a $2,000 fine, Amorello, 50, said he feels “vindicated” by today’s decision.

“The allegations when I left (in 2006) were accusations of featherbedding and taking care of myself,” he told the Herald. “That wasn’t found in the ethics commission (decision).”

Amorello agreed with the commission that he “technically” violated ethics law. He will pay the $2,000 fine.

State law bars a state employee from participating in “any particular matter in which, to his knowledge, he has a financial interest.”

The commission found that Amorello, who was the Mass Pike chairman at the time, participated in decisions in 2006 involving a new sick leave buyback policy that could have netted him more than $73,000 for more than 600 unused sick days when he left the scandal-plagued agency.

“The Commission has determined that Mr. Amorello should not have discussed and approved changes to a policy that changed his employee benefits so close in time to when he could have availed himself of those benefits,” Ethics Commission Executive Director Karen L. Nober said in a statement. “By doing so, Mr. Amorello participated in a matter in which he had a reasonably foreseeable financial interest. Such self-dealing is prohibited under the conflict of interest law.”

The commission did not find enough evidence to support two related alleged ethics allegations.

According to the commission’s opinion:

Pike human resources director Norman Chalupka informed Amorello in July 2006 that he had changed the Pike’s sick leave buyback policy for non-union members who left without retiring from zero percent to 100 percent, and for those retiring from 20 percent to 100 percent cash value of sick days.

Amorello was “outraged” at that decision, and told Chalupka to come back with a more reasonable policy. Chalupka then reduced the benefit from 100 percent to 50 percent.

The ethics commission opinion states that even though Chalupka reduced the benefit to 50 percent after Amorello’s objections, Amorello could still have been eligible to receive more money than under the previous policy.

“He knew he had a financial interest,” commissioners wrote in the opinion.

Amorello told the Herald that while he participated in decision-making on a new sick time buy-back policy, he did not do so with an eye on financially-benefiting himself.

“I really, honestly was not thinking of myself at all,” he said.

Amorello resigned in disgrace in the aftermath of a fatal Big Dig tunnel collapse in July 2006. He is currently unemployed.

Tom Kiley, who represented Amorello in front of the commission, pointed out that the commission failed to prove two of the three ethics violation accusations. Allegations that Amorello tried to secure an unwarranted privilege and acted in a manner that would cause an appearance of impropriety were not held up.
Article URL:

"Amorello violated ethics laws, panel rules: Former Pike chief will pay $2,000 fine"
By Sean P. Murphy, Boston Globe Staff, February 12, 2009

After two years, multiple hearings, and hundreds of hours of legal and investigative work, the State Ethics Commission ruled in a decision released yesterday that former Turnpike Authority chairman Matthew J. Amorello violated ethics laws.

All told, the case cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars to prosecute.

But it will cost Amorello only $2,000, the maximum allowable under laws not updated in more than a generation.

Cases like this one have some lawmakers calling for an increase in the maximum fines for ethics violations to as much as $10,000 per violation.

"There's no question the law needs updating," said Senator Michael R. Knapik, Republican of Westfield. "People are really upset about what's happening on Beacon Hill. The ethical lapses have really hit home with people."

Knapik is a member of 13-member task force appointed by Governor Deval Patrick last fall to recommend changes in the state's ethics laws.

One of the central recommendations made by the bipartisan panel was an increase in the maximum penalty, from $2,000 to $10,000 per violation.

"With fines as low as they are, they are viewed by some as a cost of doing business, instead of an effective deterrent to misconduct," said Senator Benjamin B. Downing, Democrat of Pittsfield. "It's important to sent a message that this conduct will not be tolerated."

Another member of the panel - Andrew Tarsy, a senior executive with Facing History and Ourselves, an education group that promotes diversity - said, "You can't legislate morality, but the penalties should be as serious as the issue of trust in government."

The panel was chaired by Ben Clements, Patrick's chief legal counsel.

Amorello led the Turnpike Authority, which had oversight of the Big Dig, for about five years, before being forced out by Governor Mitt Romney in 2006 after a portion of a Big Dig tunnel ceiling collapsed, killing a woman who was a passenger in a car in the tunnel.

After it became apparent Amorello would be forced out of his position in July 2006, the agency made a flurry of policy changes, with Amorello's input, that granted departing employees large reimbursements for unused sick time, the Ethics Commission concluded.

As a result, Amorello was eligible for as much as $73,000 in extra pay.

Amorello did not take the money when he resigned, but left it "in the custody" of the Turnpike Authority, leaving open the possibility he would claim it later, the commission found.

Amorello, who had been accused of using his official position to gain unwarranted privileges and of creating the appearance that he could be unduly influenced in the performance of his official duties, violated the conflict-of-interest law by participating in those policy-making decisions while knowing that he had a financial interest, the commission found.

The commission said that Amorello committed no other violations.

In an interview yesterday, Amorello said that he "technically" violated ethics laws, but that the overall finding of the commission "vindicated him."

"I didn't feather my own nest, and I did not take care of my pals," he said.

Amorello said he would not contest the charges any further and would pay the $2,000 fine.

"I am happy to get this behind me and to move on," he said.
Sean Murphy can be reached at

"MBTA faces fare hikes, cuts in service: Drastic options weighed to pay down $5.2b debt"
By Megan Woolhouse, Boston Globe Staff, February 13, 2009

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will have to increase public transit fares by as much as 25 percent, severely cut back services, or lay off employees unless the agency can figure out how to pay down the agency's crushing debt, the state's top transportation official warned yesterday.

"If we don't get help by June, we're likely to make the cuts," James A. Aloisi Jr. said at a meeting yesterday with the MBTA board. "The damage will be significant."

The bleak message may be a prelude to the release of Governor Deval Patrick's plan to reorganize the state's transportation system and rescue the two chronically cash-strapped state transportation agencies, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

Patrick's much-anticipated plan could include an increase in the state gas tax of as much as 29 cents. The Turnpike Authority board, which Patrick controls, has already proposed a steep toll increase, which could be lessened or possibly eliminated if a gas tax increase is approved.

Aloisi has been a key player in the creation of Patrick's plan, which is expected to be released by the end of the month.

Aloisi and the MBTA board painted a dire picture yesterday of the agency's finances. MBTA fares have gone up four times since 1991. Commuter rail parking rates have increased, and the agency's debt payment this year alone exceeds $367 million. The agency's total debt is $5.2 billion, or higher with interest included.

Aloisi asked the board to reduce spending and shun "sacred cows."

One of those sacred cows could be the hot-button issue of employee pensions. The T grants full pensions to all retirees after 23 years of service, regardless of age. A Senate bill under consideration would keep that benefit for current employees, but force new hires to wait until they are at least 55 to get a full pension, as do other state employees.

Additionally, the T's current healthcare program allows employees to choose more expensive health plans instead of HMOs without paying higher individual premiums, even though it costs the T thousands of dollars more for each employee.

"We can and must save millions more by aggressively pursuing additional reforms and bringing the MBTA's out-of-scale pensions and healthcare coverage in line with other state workers," Aloisi said in a statement released after the meeting.

According to the MBTA, the agency will spend more than $385 million on employee salaries and $170 million on fringe benefits for employees in the current fiscal year.

The agency could also be forced to eliminate its subsidy for commuter boat service, which operates out of Hingham and Salem. The MBTA's suburban bus subsidy, and a van service known as RIDE that offers transportation for the disabled could also be eliminated, Aloisi said.

Board member Ferdinand Alvaro, who gave a PowerPoint presentation on the MBTA's finances, said he found the cost of the RIDE and ferry services, $61.5 million in the current year, to be startling.

"These are enormous amounts of money to spend on those services," he said.

Alvaro said the T is not bankrupt or going out of business, despite rumors that he has heard in recent months.

"The T is very much in business," he said. "We are optimistic the combined effort of the board and our friends on Beacon Hill will help us continue to be in business."
Woolhouse can be reached at

"Revenue? Reform? Try both"
February 17, 2009

ON SOME LEVEL, the idea of a stiff hike in the state's gas tax seems outrageous. People are hurting, and Congress is giving billions of dollars to states in part to avoid tax hikes in the depths of a recession. But the federal stimulus doesn't change the dire arithmetic for Massachusetts. Maintaining the existing transportation system will cost up to $19 billion more over two decades than the state can generate with current revenues. And rising Big Dig debt payments mean that state officials need to look for money sooner rather than later.

A hike in the gas tax is the fairest way to raise the money needed to keep Massachusetts moving. Governor Patrick's long-awaited transportation reform plan is due out this week. Let's hope he takes the plunge.

An increase would allow the state to raise money for repairs, pay off Big Dig and MBTA debt, hold off T fare hikes, and cut turnpike tolls, which unfairly burden commuters from Boston's western suburbs. But a gas tax hike carries a political risk. There was an uproar among legislators recently when it leaked out that Patrick was even considering a hike of up to 29 cents. Then again, such a change wouldn't lift gas prices to where they were last summer, when motorists were paying $2 more a gallon.

Arguing that the transport system needs "reform before revenue," Senate leaders have offered a plan of their own. Significantly, they commit to the recommendations of the Transportation Finance Commission, including reining in benefits for MBTA workers. They also call for merging the state's numerous transportation agencies, which by their estimates could save tens of millions of dollars each year. And to be sure, if the Commonwealth were to rebuild the bureaucracy from scratch, the organizational chart would look a lot like what the Senate is proposing.

But reform and revenue can't be separated so neatly. Year after year, the Highway Department and Executive Office of Transportation have used borrowed money to pay some employee salaries. By some estimates, this costs the state upwards of $100 million a year. Ending the practice would reduce debt costs but would also require the state to identify recurring revenue.

Past governors and legislatures have resorted to fiscal gimmicks instead of asking the public for the money for transportation. Patrick himself has flirted with at least one questionable idea - putting up tolls at the state border. But motorists from New Hampshire and Rhode Island aren't the problem.

Commonwealth residents will end up paying one way or another: if not through a gas tax, then through stiff turnpike and tunnel tolls, through repair costs for broken axles, through the time they spend waiting in traffic or on broken-down trains. Why not get ahead of the problem, and guarantee a transportation system that works?


Governor Deval Patrick's proposed increase in the gasoline tax could avert an increase in tolls at the Ted Williams Tunnel to $7 that is under consideration by the Turnpike Authority. (DAVID L. RYAN/GLOBE STAFF/file)

"Patrick seeks hike of 19 cents in gas tax: Proposal could avert turnpike toll increase; Would also reorganize state transit agencies"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, February 20, 2009

After months of private rumination and public mixed signals, Governor Deval Patrick will propose a 19 cent increase in the state's gasoline tax today, in an attempt to solve the increasingly complex maze of problems confronting the state's aging and debt-ridden transportation system.

Patrick's plan would give Massachusetts one of the highest gas taxes in the nation, but it may avert an unpopular increase that would have raised the cash toll at the airport tunnels to $7, according to two administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The increase would nearly double the state's gas tax, which is now below the national average, from 23.5 cents to 42.5 cents per gallon. Adding in the 18.4 cent federal levy, drivers would have to pay just under 61 cents in taxes on every gallon of fuel they purchase.

The proposal, which would raise about $500 million a year, would help the MBTA stave off a threatened combination of drastic fare increases and service cuts, strengthen regional bus and rail systems, and wean the state from a constant stream of borrowing to pay for basic road and bridge operations, the officials said.

The proposal would also reorganize the state's transportation system, putting all the bureaucracies that run roads, buses, trains, and airports under the governor's control in an attempt to reduce overlap and inefficiency.

Patrick would also adopt numerous structural changes proposed by an influential state panel, including cuts in future MBTA fringe benefits that have been especially costly. The Turnpike Authority, a continual target of public anger, would disappear.

The secretary of transportation, who reports to the governor, would oversee four divisions: highway, rail and transit, aviation and port, and the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

The current Massachusetts Port Authority would retain some independence within the rail and port division, including the Massport board of directors, in order to meet obligations under federal aviation rules, according to administration officials.

The plan, which Patrick is scheduled to formally unveil in a speech this afternoon, will be filed with the Legislature in a more detailed bill in the next few days, the officials said.

If approved, the gas tax increase would be the second since 1991.

But even as Patrick supports freezing tolls on the turnpike, the authority's board may be forced to vote on an increase Tuesday. The board has been putting off a vote, but members have said they need to approve some type of increase this month to avoid what could be a costly downgrade by credit rating agencies.

A two-step toll-increase plan, discussed at last month's board meeting, is on the agenda that was delivered to board members yesterday.

The plan would impose a 25 cent increase at the Allston-Brighton and Weston booths, bringing the cash toll to $1.50, and a $2 increase at the Ted Williams and Sumner tunnels, bringing it to $5.50.

Those rates, effective at the end of March, would be repealed if the Legislature passes a gas tax increase before that deadline. But if the gas tax does not go up by then, the board would raise cash rates even further, to $2 at the booths and to $7 at the tunnels in July.

"The Turnpike Authority has run out of time," said Mary Z. Connaughton, a board member who supports eliminating tolls entirely and replacing them with a higher gas tax.

Representative Joseph F. Wagner, a Chicopee Democrat who cochairs the Joint Committee on Transportation, said late yesterday that he had yet to read a specific plan and was skeptical of anything pulled together so soon before an unpopular toll vote.

"This has been talked about since the fall of 2007," Wagner said. "I think it should have been put together well ahead of now."

Patrick has struggled with the state's transportation crisis since he took office in 2007, with billions of dollars in inherited debt, much of it from the $15 billion Big Dig, hanging over the transportation agencies.

The Turnpike Authority and MBTA are burdened by high operating costs that continue to grow with generous pension benefits and salaries won by unions over the years.

A state report said the state would need an extra $15 billion to $19 billion over the next 20 years for its transportation system.

Neither a gas tax nor toll hikes are popular among commuters, according to a Boston Globe poll conducted in December.

But the gas tax was the most palatable among the unpopular options.

When asked to choose between raising tolls or the gas tax, respondents chose the gas tax by 48 percent to 42 percent.

Support has been building in the Legislature for a gas tax increase, but many lawmakers worry that higher taxes would be hard for residents to absorb during a recession.

"Most likely, we will [need a gas tax increase] at the end of the day, but we're not willing to go there yet," Senate President Therese Murray said in January as she announced a similar reorganization plan.

Tax opponent Barbara Anderson called the whole debate a "silly game" meant to scare people with the threat of high tolls to build support for a gas tax increase.

But many transportation advocates and government specialists say the tax increase is inevitable, given the scope of the problem.

"Our transportation system's in desperate shape," said Michael J. Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation and a member of the state Transportation Finance Commission.

"Two authorities are teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. The roads and bridges across the state are in desperate need of repair."

Patrick first promised in 2007 to deliver a transportation overhaul that would consolidate the various transportation bureaucracies in an attempt to save money and run them more efficiently.

That plan never materialized.

Last fall, with the threat looming of $7 tunnel tolls, he promised to eliminate the Turnpike Authority and shift many of its functions to the agency that runs the seaport and Logan International Airport.

That plan has been abandoned because fixing the system "requires a more aggressive step," an administration official said. "We're not fooling around on the edges."

As the transportation debate has continued, the problems have grown worse. The MBTA is now projecting a deficit next year of more than $150 million.

The agency has canceled contracts to buy new commuter train equipment and was told recently that the federal government would not fund a key expansion project until finances improve.
Noah Bierman can be reached at

"Straight talk on transportation"
February 21, 2009

THE STATE'S dysfunctional transportation system can't be fixed without bold leadership. Governor Patrick provided that yesterday. He offered a comprehensive plan to squeeze out waste, reorganize a tangle of agencies, and bring in much-needed new money - via a 19-cent hike in the gasoline tax - to maintain infrastructure and pay down debts.

Given a better choice, no one would dream of asking for a tax hike now; Patrick himself plainly doesn't like doing it. But the cost to maintain the current system has ballooned to perhaps $19 billion beyond existing revenue streams, precisely because past administrations resorted to quick fixes and fiscal games as Big Dig costs swelled and the MBTA sank deeper in debt.

At some point, responsible adults need to step in and deal with the problem honestly.

In his speech yesterday, Patrick noted the reforms his administration has put through - most notably an end to the wasteful practice of using police details on all road construction projects. And he promised more: a crunching of numerous agencies and authorities into a streamlined transportation agency, as the state Senate has suggested; changes to the MBTA's overly generous "23 years and out" pensions; and other cost-saving recommendations made by the Transportation Finance Commission.

The tax hike would, among other things, help pay off debts, support MBTA services, and raise money for regional transit agencies, road improvements, and rail projects outside Boston.

The plan isn't perfect. Commuters in Boston's western suburbs have long been paying too much of the costs of the Big Dig, and they deserve at least some toll relief. Patrick's gas tax plan isn't big enough to provide that. Then again, it would avert an imminent round of toll increases.

Patrick summarized the problem nicely: "It really doesn't matter that we got here under somebody else's watch," he said, "or because of somebody else's short-sighted judgments. This is where we are. And we are all here together." His plan will bring discomfort to drivers, public-employee unions, and legislators, who have a tough vote ahead. But it is a genuine, well-thought-out effort to solve a horrendous problem.


The Boston Globe, Op-Ed, ANTONIO F.D. CABRAL
"Don't forget the rest of the state"
By Antonio F.D. Cabral, February 21, 2009

OVER THE PAST two decades, Greater Boston has enjoyed the benefits of the most expensive public works project in American history. More than $15 billion poured into Boston, most of it state dollars, providing tens of thousands of jobs and transforming the core of the city's transportation network.

The Commonwealth borrowed most of the billions of dollars needed to complete the Big Dig. That bill is now coming due. Those who most benefit from the project should pay it.

Some have suggested that we eliminate tolls on the Massachusetts Turnpike and the Boston Harbor tunnels in favor of a higher gas tax, which would spread the costs of servicing the Big Dig debt and maintaining the turnpike and tunnels evenly across the state. Some even suggest covering the MBTA's massive debt service this way.

As the transportation debate unfolds on Beacon Hill, we must remember this: Imposing new statewide taxes to fund Greater Boston's transportation infrastructure would constitute a massive shift of wealth - from the rest of the state to Greater Boston - and would be outrageously unfair.

For 20 years state government ignored the transportation needs of communities outside of Greater Boston as the Big Dig, overdue and over budget, became a crisis. Projects that could have relieved the economic stagnation of Western and Southeastern Massachusetts - including new rail service for New Bedford, Fall River, and Springfield - were put on hold, with promises that the Commonwealth would turn its attention to the rest of the state's needs as soon as the Big Dig crisis had passed.

Additionally, those of us who receive no MBTA service - more than half of Massachusetts - already pay 1 cent of our sales taxes to the T under state law.

Now that the Big Dig is built, those of us outside Greater Boston are being asked to forget those decades of neglect, help pay the interest on the Big Dig's debt for the next 20 years, and help maintain the turnpike and harbor tunnels that we only use occassionally.

This isn't just a question of regional equity. By failing to invest in public transport during the decades of the Big Dig, we missed our chance to provide alternatives to highway commuting that would have saved commuters money, given Massachusetts an edge in attracting business investment, and reduced our contribution to climate change.

The results have been predictable.

First, Boston has thrived at the expense of the rest of the state. As the group MassInc. determined in a report last year, the total number of jobs in Greater Boston increased by 467,000 in the last three decades, while 11 large, older cities outside Greater Boston had a net loss of 11,000 jobs.

Second, our lack of investment in public transit is overloading our highways and bridges, making Massachusetts less attractive to businesses. As the Beacon Hill Institute reported last year, only three other states' commuters endure longer commute times.

The state must keep its promise to attend to the transportation needs of the rest of Massachusetts. To be both fair and a good investment, changes in the way we finance transportation must recognize this history, consider the regional equities implicit in all transportation decisions, and improve the entire system, rather than simply maintain the roads and bridges of the last century. Public transit investments outside of Boston should be a priority.

A new system should contain incentives to use public transit and promote smart growth in all regions of the state. To accomplish this, a portion of any increase in the gas tax should be placed in a segregated fund dedicated solely to rail. We should similarly dedicate the proceeds from a new green registration fee for cars and trucks, scaled according to vehicles' carbon footprint. Other smart-growth revenue options, such as a mechanism called district-improvement financing, could be included. Yesterday Governor Patrick announced a creative approach that acknowledges these priorities.

We need an equitable transportation finance system that spreads investments to those areas most in need and provides incentives to shift to public transportation. As the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation has stated, "Finding the funds for costly transit projects will be extraordinarily difficult, but the consequences of inaction would be severe."
Antonio F.D. Cabral, Democrat of New Bedford, is a state representative.

"Massport quietly raises parking rates: No public hearing, notice of increase"
By Sean P. Murphy, Boston Globe Staff, February 23, 2009

The state agency that runs Logan International Airport has responded to plummeting revenues at its garages by raising the parking fees it charges, even while keeping its 75-member garage staff at full strength and awarding one of its unions a 7.5 percent pay increase over two years.

The moves by Massport demonstrate how the agency, where the managers frequently boast of operating like a private business, can use its monopoly on public parking to help it survive tough times.

Although it has avoided the type of layoffs that have swept the private sector and some corners of state government, Massport officials said the agency has undergone some belt-tightening. A hiring freeze has resulted in 61 vacant positions by attrition, saving $4 million a year, which is less than 1 percent of its budget. And officials at the agency, which employs a total of about 1,100 workers, said layoffs remain a possibility.

Without a hearing or public notice, Massport raised the parking rates an average of 7.7 percent - which translates, for most motorists, to an extra $1 every time they use the garage. The per-day rate remains the same at $24 per day. The new rates, which went into effect Feb. 1, are expected to bring in $1 million more in revenue.

The new rates firmly position Logan at the top of the parking price list among comparable national airports. To park for up to 3 hours at Logan is now $16; at LaGuardia in New York, $12; at Los Angeles International, $11; at Chicago's O'Hare, $4; and at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International, $4, according to airport websites. At the regional T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, R.I., it would cost $9.

Because of the recession, parking revenues at Logan fell $4.2 million during the last eight months when compared with the previous year, according to Massport figures obtained under the state public records law.

"The decision to raise the hourly rate was not done in a vacuum," said Danny Levy, Massport spokeswoman. "Massport employees are dedicated and aware of the financial constraints under which the authority is operating and realize that layoffs may be possible."

Managers, on Jan. 16, signed an agreement with dozens of service and maintenance workers giving them 3.7-percent wage increases in each of two years, retroactive to July 1, 2008, according to a copy of the contract. A separate contract covers the parking workers.

Parking revenue accounts for almost 25 percent of Massport's revenue, while tolls on the Tobin Bridge, landing fees, and rents of its facilities account for the remainder. Massport receives no direct state tax dollars.

The Massport board of directors never voted directly on the $1 increase in rates. Instead, the board voted on Nov. 20 to give Thomas Kinton Jr., Massport's executive director, and other managers the authority to "adjust" parking rates "if market demand and price tolerance dictates," board meeting minutes say.

Nowhere in the meeting agenda or the minutes is the word "increase" used. According to the minutes, the unanimous vote of the board to allow managers to "adjust" rates came without discussion from board members, including James Aloisi, who has since become Governor Deval Patrick's secretary of transportation. Aloisi, through a spokesman, declined to comment.

By contrast, the MBTA board of directors on Oct. 10 voted directly to increase fees by $2 at its parking facilities. The vote authorized the MBTA to put the new rates into effect a month later, on Nov. 15.

Signs were posted at the MBTA facilities before Nov. 15 announcing the rate increase, MBTA spokesman Joseph Pesaturo said. The proposed increase was widely covered by the news media.

The last time Massport raised the parking rate, in 2007, the plan was announced a week before the board voted on it and three weeks before the new rate was scheduled to go into effect.

Instead of making a public announcement this time, Massport on Jan. 26 issued an internal memo setting out the rate changes, a copy of which was obtained by the Globe. While no public notice was required, the increase - and the way it was done - did not sit well with some airport users.

A recent, informal survey of about a dozen users of the airport's central garage found only one person aware of the increase.

"It's a slap at the ordinary people," said Michael Albertson of Arlington, who was returning to this car. "They hope we wouldn't notice, but it really impacts us," he said. "In Massachusetts, the little guy always pays while the politicians and their friends take care of themselves."

Massport said raising rates was one of several painful steps the agency has taken. Levy said Massport plans to cut another $17 million in its budget in the next six months and will delay $100 million in capital projects.

The rates push the fees for 30 minutes or less from $3 to $4; for 31 minutes to one hour from $6 to $7; for one hour to 90 minutes from $9 to $10; for 91 minutes to two hours from $12 to $13; for two hours to three hours from $15 to $16; and for three hours to four hours from $18 to $19.

For those who leave their automobiles more than 24 hours, the one day rate remains $24.

The recession has cut deeply into air travel. The number of passengers flying out of Logan declined by 7.1 percent in 2008, compared to 2007, according to Massport, which operates the airport, the port of Boston, and the Tobin Bridge.

The downward slide continued last month, with parking revenues off 10 percent, or almost $800,000 for the month.

At the Massport board of directors meeting in January, Kinton predicted monthly declines in passengers of 5 percent to 6 percent for much of 2009.
Sean Murphy can be reached at

"Turnpike board set to vote toll increase"
By Associated Press, Tuesday, February 24, 2009,, Local Politics

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority’s board of directors planned to vote today on a toll increase, but the question was whether the change was going to be temporary or permanent.

The board’s agenda called for a vote on an interim plan to raise eastern Massachusetts tolls to $1.50 at the Allston-Brighton and Weston booths, and $5.50 at the Boston Harbor tunnel crossings. That increase would take effect March 29.

The proposal called for a second increase to $2 at Allston-Brighton and Weston and $7 at the tunnels, effective July 1. Those tolls currently are $1.25 and $3.50. Tolls in western Massachusetts would be unaffected.

Both proposed increases would be rolled back if the Legislature approves Gov. Deval Patrick’s plan to increase the state’s gasoline tax by 19 cents per gallon. The governor proposed the gas tax hike as an alternative to a doubling of tolls initially approved by the Turnpike board in November.

That touched off a wave of public protest and calls for a more equitable means of spreading transportation costs. The Pike is the main route into Boston for MetroWest commuters, while the tunnels are frequented by residents of East Boston, South Boston, Winthrop and the North and South shores.

Rep. Joseph Wagner of Chicopee and Sen. Steven Baddour of Methuen, co-chairmen of the Joint Committee on Transportation, urged the board to delay the toll increases pending legislative action.

Baddour also chided Patrick for urging swift action on a comprehensive transportation overhaul that includes the gas tax hike even though he has yet to file the bill.

"We vote on legislation, not PowerPoint presentations," Baddour said Monday. "It’s been 510 days since the governor first started talking about a transportation reform package."

Transportation Secretary James Aloisi said the toll increases are needed to preserve bond ratings for the Turnpike. It is saddled with $2.2 billion in debt from the Big Dig project.

"A two-phased toll increase will allow time for reform bill to be passed without the full impact of the Turnpike.../end/.
Article URL:

"Between the Lines: From Big Dig to Gas Tax: Governor Deval Patrick is lecturing--and punishing--the wrong people."
By Tom Vannah, The Valley Advocate,, Thursday, February 26, 2009

I see Deval Patrick on TV, see those intelligent eyes burn with anger when he talks about the mess his predecessors left him.

And maybe he's right. The dilapidated state of the commonwealth's infrastructure may be the result of prior administrations' "avoiding the truth and the consequences" of a transportation system rife with mismanagement, waste and misplaced priorities—just as the governor said in his speech last week announcing his new Transportation and Economic Security Plan. To put a finer point on it, Patrick reached for a powerful symbol: the Big Dig. The governor blames the state's crumbling transportation system—deteriorating roads and bridges, aging commuter rail systems—on the "Big Dig culture."

If the governor is half as mad at the Big Dig culture as folks here in Western Massachusetts are, he must be pretty darn mad. Out here in the 413 area code, we watched as billions in federal transportation funding poured, with little oversight or regard for fiscal responsibility, into the greater Boston economy, triggering and sustaining (for a long while) a boom inside Route 495, enriching everyone from high-priced lawyers like Patrick to the lowliest hot dog vendor working pushcarts outside the Fleet Center. If you compare the sustained double-digit rise in home values in greater Boston to the relatively flat home prices in places like Springfield and Holyoke during the Big Dig years, it's fair to say that the Valley felt little benefit from that bloated and corrupt project.

But let's not make this a regional thing. Surely we don't want to line up with the naysayers who carp at Patrick's plan to hike the gas tax by 19 cents a gallon. "Don't just criticize from the sidelines and watch the situation get worse, as those before us have," Patrick admonishes the body politic. Let's not whine about how unfair his plan is to the western-most region of the state—a place where driving long distances to work is necessitated in part by the lack of state investment in public transportation.

The governor and his experts peg the cost of revivifying our neglected transportation infrastructure at $19 billion over the next 20 years. He proposes a 19-cent-per-gallon hike in the gas tax—"The average driver would pay the equivalent of about one large cup of coffee a week, less than $8 per month," Patrick said last week—knowing that it won't be popular. "It is a crummy time to ask people to contribute more," the governor said. "That is just one of the reasons I have come so reluctantly to support increasing the gas tax."

It's swell that the governor isn't more enthusiastic in proposing what is, in the truest sense, a regressive tax "to address the full cost of neglect and inaction over the last 16 or more years." Perhaps it was that reluctance that forced him to back away from his initially proposed 27-cent-per-gallon hike.

Still, gas taxes are regressive, taking exactly the same amount per gallon from the poorest citizens as they do from the wealthiest. A minimum wage earner who needs to drive to work bears a disproportionate burden, spending a significantly greater percentage of her annual income to pay the tax than someone who makes more money and consumes the same amount of gasoline.

Perhaps more troubling than the tax hike itself is Patrick's apparent effort to hold anyone who gases up a vehicle in the state responsible for "the Big Dig culture." True, Patrick has responded to calls from the state GOP to reform the state's bloated, inefficient transportation bureaucracy. "Reforms are vital and therefore central to our plan," he said last week, picking up on the "reform before revenue" mantra coming from his critics. "But we cannot secure our economic future and the public's safety on the roads, rails and bridges with reforms alone."

Patrick may be right that reform, alone, won't solve the problem. But his critics have every right to be extremely dubious of the governor's commitment to reform, let alone his distance from the Big Dig culture he claims to revile. His appointment of James Aloisi to the Massachusetts Port Authority—Aloisi had been on Patrick's short list for Transportation Secretary—has infuriated many who view the politically connected lawyer as a central figure in the Big Dig debacle. Aloisi's client list includes the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, and the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

When Patrick comes up with a plan to revive the transportation system that doesn't unfairly burden lower wage earners and reward political hacks who helped drag that system down, we should all support his efforts to fix the mistakes of his predecessors. Until then, we're better off living with old mistakes than allowing Patrick to make new ones.


"Obama's Reaganesque challenge"
By William F. Weld and John B. Stimpson, February 28, 2009

AS PRESIDENT Barack Obama struggles with the Herculean economic and foreign challenges facing the country, he should consider how another newly elected president, Ronald Reagan, weathered a similar storm.

In 1981, the United States was in the midst of what President Jimmy Carter had labeled a "national malaise" and a "crisis in confidence." The country was in recession, unemployment was moving toward 10.8 percent - the highest rate since the Great Depression - and inflation was 11.8 percent.

Today the country's malaise is deeper. Major financial institutions have gone bankrupt or have been taken over by the government. A record number of homes have been foreclosed, trillions of dollars of wealth have been lost in the stock market, and millions of workers have lost their jobs.

The government's approach to fixing the economy today is strikingly different from that of 1980-'81. In his inaugural address, Reagan proclaimed, "In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." Reagan signed into law across-the-board tax cuts, broadly deregulated industries, and believed that Adam Smith's invisible hand of self-regulating markets, and not government intervention, would lift the United States out of recession.

Today it is widely believed that government is not the problem, but instead the only solution. At the close of George W. Bush's administration, the Department of the Treasury purchased hundreds of billions of dollars of equity in financial institutions as part of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, and provided unprecedented loans to unprofitable automakers.

Obama has expanded government's reach far more, signing into law the $787 billion fiscal stimulus bill, the largest in history. The stimulus package will fund new infrastructure projects and increase government programs on a level not seen since Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal.

Internationally, America is at a crossroads not dissimilar to that of 1981. When Reagan took office, the aftermath of Vietnam and Watergate, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the Iranian hostage crisis had left Americans feeling demoralized, cynical about their government, and anxious about the future. "America in retreat" was the watchword.

Today we face comparable insecurities about our position in the world, but their genesis is quite different. Now it is the United States, and not the Soviet Union, fighting a long, drawn-out war in Afghanistan. And now our standing in the world has been badly damaged by our unilateral actions in Iraq, and a seemingly go-it-alone policy on global warming and climate change.

At a time when there was great cynicism across America, Reagan stood firm against our adversaries - namely the Soviet Union - whether in Grenada, Nicaragua, or Eastern Europe. His "Peace through Strength" approach to foreign policy made Americans feel proud again, and enabled the United States to regain its status as a superpower and, ultimately, drive the Soviet Union into bankruptcy.

Obama faces a more complex task in renewing American primacy in the world community. Reagan had to rebuild America's strength, but Obama has to rebuild the trust of other countries and the confidence of the American people. And whereas Reagan focused his energy on one nemesis, the Soviet Union, there will be no "tear down that wall" speech from Obama, as our adversary this time, terrorism, is a faceless enemy splintered across the globe with no geographic boundaries.

Reagan broadly transformed America in his first term. GDP went up, unemployment and inflation went down, and the world began to see the face of a stronger, more confident America. His success and perpetual optimism were perhaps best described in his 1984 campaign commercial, "Morning in America." In a reassuring voice, the narrator listed Reagan's accomplishments in resuscitating the economy, compelling the conclusion that Americans were better off in 1984 than they had been in 1981.

Obama's optimistic "Yes We Can" slogan and charismatic persona are highly "Reaganesque." Only time will tell if his brand of change for America can similarly restore confidence to markets, renew the American spirit, and lead us out of a national malaise. But certainly Americans are praying, indeed the world is hoping, that in four years we will look back and say that we are better off in 2012 than we were in 2008-2009, and that Obama will have found his own "Morning in America."
William F. Weld was governor of Massachusetts from 1991 until 1997. John B. Stimpson served as his aide.


In case anyone missed it, Bill Weld had an op-ed in today's Boston Globe:

Weld praises President Ronald Reagan for his supply side economic policies that boosted the corporate elite's financial institutions' bottom line. When Bill Weld was Governor, I asked my 1991-1992 Pittsfield High School Economics teacher Mr. Gardner who was if Mr. Weld or Mr. (Jack) Welch was the Governor of Massachusetts. He replied, "Jonathan, Mr. Weld is our Governor, but both are very wealthy." I replied, "What do you mean?" He replied, "Well Jonathan, both Weld and Welch are so rich neither need to work." I said, "Oh, O.K." From that day on, I knew Mr. Weld was my Governor and Mr. Welch was the CEO of GE.

I then went on to follow both Mr. Weld and Mr. Welch though their careers in politics and business, respectively. On Mr. Weld, his family came to America on the famed Mayflower. There is a Weld Hall at Harvard University where Mr. Weld graduated with the highest honors, and Mr. Weld's family gave him an $80 million trust fund. On Mr. Welch, his family grew up outside of Boston, like me he attended U Mass Amherst, he went onto become CEO of GE and was a very brilliant businessman who grew his corporation's earnings far above the S & P average.

As Governor, Mr. Weld was a fiscal conservate (supply side economics), but a social liberal (pro-choice, etc.). In 1997, I gave a speech at Georgetown University on homelessness in America -- a subject that should no longer be a problem, but is now worse than ever, with my Sociology Professor from Siena College outside of Albany, NY, where the then Nobel Peace Prize winner from Indonesia also spoke (and I got to shake his hand). As I was walking past the Lincoln Memorial, I ask my professor about Mr. Weld. I said, "How come Mr. Weld is so Republican on economics, but so Democratic on social issues?" He responded, "It seems that Mr. Weld believes that the Corporate Elite matters more than the people. Weld does not really care about the social public policies, so long as the people allow him to win on the economic ones."

Later that Summer of 1997, Mr. Weld resigned his seat as Governor to fight for an ambassadorship to Mexico, which was blocked by then US Senator Jesse Helms. Mr. Weld had ran for US Senate against John Forbes Kerry (another multi-million dollar trust fund baby) the year before and lost in a Bill Clinton reelection sweep. After Weld was denied his ambassadorship, he moved to New York City and started a private equity venture capital business and practiced law. That Summer, the NY Times wrote of the patrician governor's return to New York City.

During Bill Weld's tenure as Governor of Massachusetts, "the Big Dig" doubled in cost from about $5 billion to over $11 billion. For all of Mr. Weld's writings and speeches on supply side Reaganomics, he mismanaged well over $5 billion of taxpayers' money. During Weld's tenure, Massachusetts cut taxes, but the state government became one of the top debtor states in the nation. Weld was NOT a supply side economic politician, but rather, he was a borrow and spend one like Presidents Reagan, Bush I and Bush II. Supply Side economics was, is and always will be a myth! Neither Reagan nor Weld practiced it. It is all Republican Party propaganda to redistribute taxpayer money from the have nots to the corporate interests!

I wonder what William Floyd Weld would believe in if he did not come from a Boston/New York City blue blood old wealth family who gave him an $80 million trust fund. My guess is he would be more for social entitlements for the people and less for the rich. Moreover, I do not believe Mr. Weld was a good governor for Massachusetts. He cost the taxpayers many billions of wasted taxpayers' dollars!

Jonathan A. Melle

A BOSTON GLOBE EDITORIAL: Short fuse, March 1, 2009

"Contracts: Shocking indeed at Massport"

The Massachusetts Port Authority is finally seeking bids for a contract to promote airline and port business in China - but only after the Globe reported on the existing no-bid contract last month. Massport has paid $1.5 million over eight years to consultant Jiansheng Li, without conducting performance reviews or setting minimum requirements for how many hours Li should work. The strongest evidence for the consultant's effectiveness is his own glowing self-evaluations. In one memo obtained by the newspaper, he touted an "incredible achievement" that "has shocked Massport's competitors." What's really shocking, though, is that until now Massport never saw fit to shop around.


"Aloisi's truth won't set anyone else free"
By Joan Vennochi, Boston Globe Columnist, March 1, 2009

THE TRUTH may set Jim Aloisi free. But it's going to cost Massachusetts taxpayers.

Aloisi, the new state transportation secretary, argues passionately that the gas tax hike promoted by Governor Deval Patrick is urgently needed to make up for "sins of the past," which include covering up Big Dig costs.

As lawyer to the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, Aloisi knew the sins and the sinners. But, "It wasn't my job to tell people the truth," he said during a visit to the Globe last week. Now, he declared, "I am liberated."

A liberated Aloisi admits it was wrong for Big Dig champions to ask the Turnpike Authority to "bankrupt itself" to pay for the project's ever-escalating costs and wrong for the Turnpike Authority to go along with the request: "It bankrupted itself . . . Congratulations."

Today, Aloisi labels it bad policy for board members to do what he did: arrogantly decide to run a public authority without transparency or accountability to the people or the governor they elect.

Now, he calls it "a disgrace" that state transportation officials increased MBTA fares over the years instead of getting behind a politically painful gas tax increase.

"I was part of the thinking of the '90s," said Aloisi. "I don't come in here as Caesar's wife."

Confession may be good for his soul. It remains to be seen how good it is for Patrick's transportation package, which includes a 19-cents-per-gallon gas tax hike. The increase would make the state's gas tax one of the highest in the nation.

Years of excessive spending and borrowing to cover it have bankrupted the state's transportation system. New revenue has to come from somewhere, the experts say.

But Patrick is entrusting a tough political sell to a compromised salesman. It's Aloisi's job to prod reluctant lawmakers into going along with a plan to reorganize and raise revenue for the system he helped to undercut.

Getting lawmakers to back a tax increase isn't easy in the best of times. And from a fiscal or political standpoint, these times are especially tricky.

The global economic meltdown is taking its toll on Massachusetts, too. The unemployment rate is up to 6.9 percent. Home sales and prices are down to their lowest point in years.

The state faces a $3 billion budget deficit. At the same time, taxpayers are angry about Beacon Hill's culture of tolerance for ethics and campaign finance violations and pension abuse.

The governor promised a transportation overhaul in 2007 but never produced a plan. For months, he sent mixed signals about his willingness to back a gas tax increase. In the meantime, he replaced one transportation secretary, Bernard Cohen, with Aloisi, a consummate insider.

Patrick also lost the most prominent backer of a gas tax hike when Salvatore F. DiMasi resigned as speaker of the House. The new House speaker, Robert A. DeLeo of Winthrop, faces a delicate task. As one of his first initiatives, he must convince lawmakers from Central and Western Massachusetts their constituents should pay more at the pump for the Big Dig, a Boston highway project they resented from the beginning.

Meanwhile, Senate President Therese Murray hails from Plymouth, a town whose distance from Boston makes any increase in the price of gas a killer for commuters.

Lawmakers were furious last week when the Patrick administration failed to stop the Turnpike Authority board from approving staggered toll hikes that could be eliminated if they increase the state gas tax. The toll hike plan comes in two steps. The first, effective March 29, brings cash tolls to $1.50 at the Allston-Brighton and Weston tolls and to $5.50 at the Ted Williams and Sumner tunnels. The second, effective July 1, brings cash tolls to $2 at the booths inside Route 128 and $7 at the tunnels.

They saw it for what it is: blackmail. Hike the gas tax or accept the toll hikes. All to cover the sins of the past.

"We do have a lot of explaining to do," said Aloisi.

Yes, he does.
Joan Vennochi can be reached at

Ben and Jill Kaplan of Newton traveled with their sons Graham and Ian (in green) and lots of luggage at Logan International Airport. Ben Kaplan said using public transit would be difficult: ''We'd be more likely to take a cab.'' (Boston Globe Staff Photo / David L. Ryan)

"Logan parking costs may soar: Governor proposes adding $2 'carbon fee' to lot, garage rates"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, March 2, 2009

In the same month that Logan International Airport hiked its parking rates by $1, Governor Deval Patrick is asking for another $2 parking "carbon fee" as part of his transportation overhaul filed this week.

The carbon fee, described on page 137 of Patrick's 141-page bill, would that mean a 20- or 30-minute trip to pick up a relative at Logan could cost $6 in parking alone, not including tunnel tolls, which could rise to as much as $7 if legislators fail to pass Patrick's other proposal to raise the gas tax. Three hours in a Logan garage would cost $18; all-day parking in a garage would run $26.

Boston's short-term rates are currently higher than those in the nation's largest cities - from New York's LaGuardia to Los Angeles International, to Chicago's O'Hare.

"It makes me never want to park here," said Pam Nagy of Sutton, who was hauling luggage into Logan on Friday.

Patrick's transportation secretary, James A. Aloisi Jr., said he will be glad if people stop parking at the airport and use public transportation to get there, a sentiment that has led several environmental groups to endorse the parking fee.

"It should not be inexpensive to park at convenient facilities in the middle of Logan Airport," Aloisi said. "We need people to understand that there are better ways to get to Logan."

He wants the parking fee - which requires approval from the Legislature - to be used for improvements to airport-related transit projects, including a proposal to build a new tunnel under South Boston to speed up the Logan-bound Silver Line bus service, and the initial phases of a long-term plan to build a transit loop around the city. Based on Logan's most recent parking figures, the new fee would probably raise about $5.4 million per year.

But many who travel to the airport come with bulky luggage or young children, making public transit a harder sell, if not an impossibility.

Ben Kaplan pulling a cart piled high with luggage and accompanied by his wife and two young sons, said taking public transit would be tough for his family. "We'd be more likely to take a cab," he said.

Cab rides to and from Boston usually cost a minimum of $20 to $30, depending on traffic, luggage, and tolls, which are higher for taxis. The rates are substantially higher for suburban trips.

Aloisi's comments, and Patrick's proposal, represent a shift for Massachusetts, just 14 months after the state finished building a $15 billion tunnel project designed in large part to improve driving access to Logan.

Aloisi said the plan is also designed to get the agency that runs Logan, the Massachusetts Port Authority, to do a better job of dealing with public transportation from the city to Logan, "to have some skin in the game." The plan takes the Tobin Bridge out of Massport's control, using the $10 million in toll profits it generates every year to fund statewide transportation.

In turn, the state would pay Massport about $185 million, but that money would also be set aside for airport-related transit improvements.

Aloisi said he expects resistance from Massport, though he would not say from whom.

"I anticipate that the naysayers and the people who want to stay in isolation will try to raise all kinds of concerns and questions," Aloisi said. "They're going to make it difficult because people don't like their cozy little worlds disturbed."

Aloisi said that with "real reform . . . cozy, little worlds don't exist anymore."

State Senator Steven A. Baddour, a Methuen Democrat who cochairs the Legislature's transportation committee, supports taking the Tobin Bridge out of Massport's hands.

He proposed the same change in a Senate transportation bill submitted before Patrick's plan was unveiled.

But adding another parking fee would result in diminishing returns, he said.

"We can't just price ourselves out of the reach of working families," he said. "There's still working people that have to go to Logan to travel."

Baddour said he frequently flies out of Manchester, N.H., a competing airport, "in part because of convenience, but it's also cheaper."

Logan's cheapest economy parking lots charge rates similar to the terminal garages for short-term parking. It is now $7 in lots and garages for an hour and would go up to $9 if the $2 fee passes.

The day rate at the economy lots is $18, which would rise to $20.

Massport's chief executive, Thomas J. Kinton Jr., declined a request for an interview. Spokeswoman Danny Levy said Kinton would not discuss the bill before his board has reviewed it.

Aloisi, a lawyer, has tailored the plan to avoid conflicts with Federal Aviation Administration rules, but it could still face legal challenges.

Charles Erhard, manager of the FAA's airport compliance division, said he has not reviewed Patrick's and Aloisi's plan, and would not comment on it directly.

In general, fees collected by airports must be used in the airport or for facilities "owned or operated by the airport owner or operator" that are related to air transportation of passengers and cargo.

Whatever happens with Patrick's plan, some travelers have already opted out of Logan's garages.

"We never park here. It's too expensive," said Fay Kelley, a Northborough resident who was returning from Florida with her husband last week. "We take a limousine. It's cheaper than parking here and they pick you up right at your house."
Globe correspondent Stewart Bishop contributed to this article.

The Boston Globe
"GOP lawmakers want Fast Lane audit"
March 2, 2009

BOSTON, Massachusetts

Republican lawmakers are demanding that the state audit the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority to see if it is mistakenly overcharging some Fast Lane users. Senator Richard Tisei of Wakefield and Representative Brad Jones of North Reading have asked Auditor Joseph DeNucci for the audit after an internal Turnpike review found some Fast Lane users were overcharged because their cars were electronically mistaken for trucks. Turnpike officials blamed the problem on outdated technology that can misread the number of axles on cars. Tisei and Jones say they want DeNucci to determine how many times drivers have been overcharged, what's the best way to issue refunds, and how best to prevent overcharging. (AP)


"Massachusetts Turnpike challenges pay raises in court"

By WHDH-TV Staff and Associated Press, updated 10:50 a.m. ET, Tues., March. 3, 2009

BOSTON - The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority has gone to court to challenge arbitrator-awarded pay raises to unionized employees that could cost the debt-ridden agency $3.5 million per year.

The lawsuit filed last month challenges retroactive 3 percent raises for 2007 and 2008, and a 4 percent pay raise for 2009 given to more than 800 workers.

The judgment also says the state should honor the award even if the Turnpike is dissolved as part of Gov. Deval Patrick's transportation overhaul plan.

Colin Durrant, a spokesman for the Executive Office of Transportation, tells the Boston Herald the award violates state law because it restricts the right to reorganize government.

Union president Robert Cullinane says the Turnpike should honor the arbitrator's ruling.


"Massport to drop parking fee hike: Patrick's office had voiced opposition"
By Sean P. Murphy, Boston Globe Staff, March 4, 2009

Under pressure from Governor Deval Patrick, the state agency that operates Logan International Airport agreed yesterday to rescind a $1 increase in parking fees it imposed just one month ago.

The announcement by the Massachusetts Port Authority, effective Friday, marks a sharp turnaround for an agency that has long been accustomed to setting policy without intervention from the governor.

On Monday, Patrick's transportation secretary, James A. Aloisi Jr., released a letter written to Massport blasting the parking fee increase. Aloisi's letter accused Massport of hitting airport users with higher rates without first looking at trimming its $550 million budget. Aloisi also had strong words for the manner in which Massport imposed the fee hike, saying it was done "devoid of public input."

The letter brought a quick response yesterday from Thomas Kinton Jr., Massport executive director, and John A. Quelch, its board chairman.

"The governor asked us to rescind the $1 hourly parking increase and we will do so," Massport said in a statement released yesterday afternoon.

Massport said that, without the $1.5 million in additional revenue the fee increase was expected to raise, the agency will cut $7.5 million in its five-year budget for capital improvements at the airport.

Massport asserted, however, that the increase was justified to make up for revenue lost because of a recession-related slowdown in air travel. Parking revenues are down about $4.2 million in the last eight months.

"Our decision to raise the hourly parking was not done in a vacuum," the statement said. Already, the agency has let 61 positions go unfilled, about 5 percent of its employees, saving $4 million, the statement said.

The agency has not trimmed its 75-member parking crew, however, and recently awarded one of its unions a 7.5 percent pay increase over two years.

The fee rollback will be a welcomed relief for airport users, but its effect may be short-lived.

Aloisi is pressing for a separate $2 "carbon" fee to be tacked onto Logan parking rates. He said that fee is intended to discourage air travelers from driving to the airport and to encourage use of public transportation. Such a proposal would require the Legislature's approval.

"We appreciate Massport's willingness to work with us to identify comprehensive transportation reforms," Aloisi's office said in a statement yesterday.

Logan's parking rates are already among the highest of airports nationally. To park for up to 3 hours, for example, drivers will pay $15 at Logan once the rates return to their preincrease level Friday. That compares with $12 at LaGuardia in New York, $12 at Los Angeles International, $11 at O'Hare in Chicago, and $4 at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International.

Massport gave no public notice of the rate increase, which became public only when the Globe, citing an internal memo it had obtained, reported the fee hike last week.

Massport and the governor's office increasingly appear to be on divergent paths. Patrick's proposal this year to consolidate the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority with Massport was met with a cool reception from Kinton.

Patrick is getting closer to taking control of the board of Massport, which is a quasi-public agency with a board of gubernatorial appointees. Two seats on the seven-member board are vacant, and Quelch's term expires in June. Filling those seats would give Patrick three appointees. Aloisi is also a voting member of the board because he is transportation secretary.
Sean Murphy can be reached at

The Boston Globe, Op-Ed, JOAN VENNOCHI
"Pivotal chapter for Patrick"
By Joan Vennochi, Boston Globe Columnist, March 8, 2009

FOR GOVERNOR Deval Patrick, the gas tax fight is an important chapter on the need for political courage in times of fiscal crisis.

Best of all, he can write it.

A year ago, Patrick inked a $1.35 million book deal to recount his journey from Chicago's Wabash Avenue to the Massachusetts State House. The autobiography, said his publisher, would offer "a series of lessons and insights on life and leadership."

Imagine Patrick tapping out the lessons and insights on life and leadership arising out of the current economic meltdown.

The main character is, of course, the Bay State's first African-American governor and the first Democrat elected to the office in 16 years. A newcomer to the Massachusetts political scene, he beats an incumbent attorney general and wealthy businessman in a Democratic primary. Then, he wins the governor's office with inspiring talk of hope and change.

Grand ideas and new programs evaporate as the economy and state revenue tumble. The governor faces a devastating budget gap. He is forced to make tough but necessary spending cuts, disappointing liberals who elected him.

Meanwhile, the state transportation system teeters on bankruptcy, weakened by years of borrowing to pay the costs of the $15 billion public works project known as the Big Dig. The governor boldly confronts years of bad policy and craven political decisions, and proposes a 19-cents-per-gallon increase in the gasoline tax.

The handful of Republican lawmakers blast the proposal. But Democrats who control the Legislature are unhappy, too. The new speaker of the House must embrace an unpopular tax hike as his first order of business. The Senate president is calling for "reform before revenue."

One poll shows the governor's approval rating plummeting like the Dow. The political sharks start to circle. The state treasurer, a fellow Democrat with a lean and hungry look, and even leaner policy propositions, has the chutzpah to go public with his desire to run for governor. Charlie Baker, the well-regarded head of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and a top official under two Republican governors, confirms his interest in a possible gubernatorial run.

The business community stands behind Patrick and gives him more cover by proposing a 25-cents-per-gallon increase. Business leaders are criticized for being out of touch with working men and women. In Patrick's book, those businessmen become unlikely heroes.

The villains will be plentiful if Patrick traces back the origins of the state's transportation crisis.

A succession of Republican governors, from Bill Weld to Mitt Romney, turned the idea of commonwealth and collective responsibility for doing the right thing into a dirty concept. Meanwhile, they watched as the state sunk deeper into debt to pay the ever-escalating costs of the massive public works project. During the 1990s, Repubublican governors helped to keep the Big Dig's bloated costs hidden from the public. In 2006, tons of concrete fell in a Big Dig tunnel, crushing to death a passenger in a car. Only then did state officials finally confront another cost of their willingness to look the other way. The passenger, Milena Del Valle, died because of poor engineering decisions and a lack of oversight by government and the people hired to provide it.

If Patrick is honest, this chapter must also turn a critical eye on fellow Democrats. The Big Dig started on their watch and its cost to taxpayers was always underestimated. Once Weld won, Democratic lawmakers were terrified of any gas tax talk. They knew that over time, borrowing to pay for the Big Dig would ultimately backfire. But they were cowed by the anti-tax crowd. They let the Big Dig drain the state of resources, at the expense of critical road and bridge work across Massachusetts.

Those Democrats are now being asked to stand up and pay for some of their own sins. The governor who is asking them to do it is up for reelection in 2010, the same year his autobiography is due out.

Patrick, the author, will have a lot to say about Patrick, the governor.

But voters get the last word on their definition of political courage.
Joan Vennochi can be reached at

Gov. Deval Patrick visits Salem to meet with citizens and talk about his transportation bill. He gestures to a questioner. (Wicked Local Photo by Robert Branch)

"Gov. visits Salem to advocate for transportation bill, gas-tax hike"
By Kerry Halley-Skelton,, Friday, March 06, 2009, 4:13 PM EST

Salem - In an effort to generate support for a controversial 19-cent gas tax increase, Gov. Deval Patrick spoke to a group of more than 60 people in Salem on Thursday morning. The Witch City is one of several communities Patrick is visiting as he lobbies for his transportation and economic security plan, which includes the gas hike.

Concerned citizens gathered for Patrick’s talk in the Children’s Room of the Salem Public Library, along with state Reps. John Keenan and Mary Grant, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, Beverly Mayor Bill Scanlon and a representative from Sen. Frederick Berry’s office.

After an introduction from Mayor Driscoll, Patrick acknowledged that a tax increase is the last thing anyone wants during tough economic times like these, but told the audience that Massachusetts can no longer put off dealing with its transportation system.

“It’s broken and it needs to be fixed,” he said.

According to Patrick, the last three Massachusetts governors did not comply with bond initiatives that were used to pay for the Big Dig and other road projects. Not only were some transportation employees’ salaries paid out of those bonds, but the governors also did not follow the gradual toll increase schedule that went with these bond initiatives. This is why toll increases have been so dramatic over the past few years, he said.

The state will need to repay these bonds starting in April, Patrick said, and the money is not there. The 19-cent gas hike, coupled with reforms, is the most reasonable solution to end the long succession of disregard and inaction, he said.

The governor detailed his plans to spend the gas-tax revenues as follows.

• 4 cents to roll back the toll increase on the Massachusetts Turnpike, thereby stabilizing it, and to maintain tunnels. (Tolls will still increase eventually, but not so steeply and suddenly.)
• 6 cents to maintain MBTA services and avoid fare increases over the next few years.
• 1 1/2 half cents to help fund regional transit authorities. (Money for a new Salem MBTA garage could fall under this category, although no funding has been promised.)
• 1 1/2 cents to spend on targeted regional road projects.
• 3 cents for rail projects south, west and north of Boston.
• 1 cent for innovative gas and toll solutions. (As alternative energy is developed, gas consumption will eventually drop, which means the cost of gas will also decrease, according to the governor.)
• 2 cents to help stop the costly practice of paying for transportation personnel from capital funds (getting them back on the regular payroll).

After his speech, several audience members wanted to know what the governor has been doing to curb government spending. Patrick told them he has cut 1,000 jobs out of 30,000, has taken more than $2 billion out of this year’s budget and plans to cut $3 billion from next year’s spending.

As far as governmental reforms, he said under the state’s current transportation system there are six different agencies, who hardly communicated with each other until recently. He wants to change that by consolidating them into one entity.

Under that one agency, Patrick said, there would be four divisions: one to deal with the highways, another for aviation and port, a third for public transit and one for Registry of Motor Vehicles operations.

The governor also wants to reform the T’s pension plan, which has been dubbed “23 and out.” The current policies allow someone hired by the MBTA to work for 23 years, receive their pension the very day they retire, and then get another state job and start gathering a second pension.

“There are savings to be had with a modest reduction in head count, but we cannot meet all of our needs through reform alone,” he said.

Patrick said he would not ask voters to pay for a tax that maintains the status quo, and will not sign a bill that does not have reform in it, such as the MBTA pension changes.

One audience member asked the governor if the 19-cent increase was enough for everything he wants to accomplish.

“No, 19 cents isn’t enough, but judging from my mail it would be tough to propose more,” Patrick said. “It’s a crummy time to ask for an increase, so we tried to pick a blend of things that would get us further along.”

State Rep. Keenan, D-Salem, told the governor he understands the state will need additional revenue if Salem is going to complete new projects, such as the proposed parking garage at the commuter-rail station, but he asked if the Legislature could have until the end of June to make a decision on the tax.

Patrick told him they are out of time, and these issues need to be dealt with now.

“If we don’t get the revenue, they will downgrade the bond,” the governor said. “This is not easy … I got that. There’s risk in this. The impact … is real but there is a real cost associated with doing nothing — because nothing has been done for a while and [the costs] have accumulated.”


"Civilian flagger plan to gain speed, slowly"
By Steve LeBlanc, Associated Press, Saturday, March 07, 2009

BOSTON — Gov. Deval L. Patrick's push to use civilian flaggers instead of police to direct traffic near some road construction projects is off to a slow start.

But state officials say they expect the program, which is intended to save millions in taxpayers dollars by reducing police overtime, to pick up significantly this year.

During last year's construction season, the state used flaggers on 29 projects — most of them small maintenance jobs — and saved approximately $12,500, according to the state highway department. Highway Commissioner Luisa Paiewonsky described last year's projects as a test of the new program and said the state improved its flagger training program this winter.

"We had a pilot test in the fall. It was designed to test the performance of our employees who had never flagged before," she said. "We were very pleased with the results."

Paiewonsky said she expects the savings to increase this year as the state uses more flaggers on larger construction projects. About 60 percent of new MassHighway construction projects have been deemed eligible for civilian flaggers.

MassHighway already has identified 45 construction projects on which civilian flaggers will be used. The highway department says it's also increasing the number of civilians trained as flaggers.

All 125 flaggers trained last year were MassHighway employees. Paiewonsky said she expects several hundred civilians will ultimately be trained as flaggers — most of them contractors.

The civilian flagger program sets up a three-tiered system for classifying work sites. Projects on roads with speed limits below 45 mph are most likely to have civilian flaggers assigned to them.

The new policy came under intense criticism from police unions, who had fought for years to maintain the prized perk. They argued that having police directing traffic at construction sites increases public safety, pointing out that civilian flaggers aren't authorized to pull over drivers or make arrests.

In October, dozens of police officers disrupted the work of a road maintenance crew, heckling civilian flaggers at a construction site in Woburn on the first day that the policy took effect. The protest grew so disruptive that the local police were called in to restore order.

Others have praised the idea, saying the change is an important reform that will save the state millions of dollars.

"Please tax us more!"
By Boston Herald editorial staff, March 3, 2009,, Editorials

Just when you think things can’t get any nuttier in this state - well, a gaggle of so-called business groups decides that a 19 cent gas tax hike simply isn’t high enough. No, they want a 25 cent hike, indexed to inflation, and they want to keep existing Turnpike tolls.

Of course, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce has already endorsed the governor’s proposed 19 cent hike. Yesterday they signed on to the 25 cent increase aided and abetted by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, which of late hasn’t met a tax hike it didn’t like; the Massachusetts Business Roundtable and A Better City (which used to be the Artery Business Committee - enough said?).

Yes, the groups want a bunch of stuff in return (in return for our money, remember). They want to bring MBTA employees’ retirement and health care benefits in line with those of other state employes - something that could save at least $1 billion over the next 20 years. And they want to restore genuine management rights at the MBTA to allow T officials to actually determine staffing levels. All of this is good.

So too ending the lunatic practice of paying some MassHighway and MBTA salaries out of bond funds (which means we are paying for some of today’s wages over the next couple of decades).

The agenda would indeed be a road to real reform. Problem is, these ideas have been out there for decades and the Legislature has ignored them. In fact, in the case of management rights at the MBTA, the Legislature has spent the last decade and a half repealing rights won in the early ’90s. Every time the public employee unions said jump, state lawmakers said, “How high?”

So now a group of civic-minded dreamers thinks just because they’re willing to back a massive hike in the gasoline tax, lawmakers are going to roll over.

Well, how about this for a plan: let’s pass reforms first, then talk about a gas tax hike.
Article URL:

"MBTA to discuss fare hikes"
By Associated Press, Sunday, March 8, 2009,, Business & Markets

BOSTON — The chief financial officer of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is planning to discuss possible fare hikes if other forms of revenue aren’t addressed.

Jonathan Davis will deliver a presentation on the agency’s finances Tuesday.

The MBTA is facing a $5.1 billion debt and Gov. Deval Patrick says part of his 19-cent proposed gas tax increase will go toward paying down that debt.

Members of the advocacy organization MassPIRG also plan to discuss the economic and environmental impacts of public transportation at the meeting.
Article URL:

"Dissenter in high gear gives Pike board a bumpy journey"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, March 9, 2009

FRAMINGHAM - The drive from Boston to Mary Connaughton's pearl-colored suburban house costs $2.90 in tolls - $2.40 with a Fast Lane discount. Later this month, it could cost 50 cents more. And then in July, maybe another $1 or $1.50.

Such calculations are important to a lot of people who live in the towns west of Boston.

They are paramount, as central to life as Bible verse or potable drinking water, to Mary Z. Connaughton.

"It's not just the tolls itself. It's the impact on the region," she said, launching into a practiced polemic on fairness. "The tollpayer needs a voice."

Connaughton, 48, is the surefire dissenter on the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority's board, the thorniest thorn in the side of Governor Deval Patrick on one of the most contentious issues facing him, and a haunting legacy of former Governor Mitt Romney, who appointed her. Her knowledge, strong opinions, and coziness with the media have helped make her one of the authority's most visible officials, even as she is usually at odds with its policies.

"Mary is a symbol of the frustration of tollpayers, who feel that not enough is being done to control costs in the state of Massachusetts," said Judy Pagliuca, the other Romney appointee on the board, who has been far less confrontational and visible.

Patrick's new transportation secretary and the chairman of the authority's board, James A. Aloisi Jr., is not nearly as charitable. His treatment of her during a recent vote to raise tolls - in which she was the only dissenter - attracted criticism from Senate President Therese Murray and a call for an apology from the state Republican Party.

"Respect is a two-way street," Aloisi said, a few days after cutting Connaughton off repeatedly during the Feb. 24 meeting and removing her from a spot on the authority's audit committee, where she had freer access to agency documents. "And I wasn't treated with respect and I haven't been treated with respect by her since the first day I took this job."

"She's a distraction," he continued. "She's a gadfly. And I have more important things to do."

He declined to elaborate.

"That's a shock, honestly," Connaughton said, when told about the comments. "If trying to speak up for the tollpayer is something he considers a distraction, he has to take a look in the mirror and figure out who he's representing."

If a gadfly is someone who spouts off at a government meeting without title or portfolio, she is not one. Connaughton is a member of a powerful public board, with full standing. She speaks to Rotary clubs about tolls, fields questions from strangers at Dunkin' Donuts, attends State House transportation hearings, and meets frequently with legislators. She reads turnpike financial reports carefully and has discovered at least one significant accounting error in a Turnpike Authority toll projection, related to a January 2008 toll hike. A certified public accountant, she is fully conversant in such terms as swaptions and bond covenants, the bane of the Turnpike Authority's finances.

She does all of this without salary and, at the same time, teaches a managerial accounting class at Framingham State, studies part time for a master's degree in business, and co-owns a business development firm based in Concord, N.H.

But rather than raise issues behind the scenes, she speaks about them at public meetings or on the radio, television, or in the newspaper. She asks followup questions when she does not like the answers given by turnpike staff and shakes her head for emphasis. She requests loads of documents.

"Would I like it . . . if she could be more politic in raising things? Sure, but she has her own style," said Thomas H. Trimarco, a former Romney Cabinet officer and board member. "But the core is, she's so impassioned about an issue that gets such short shrift in the public policy debate."

Trimarco said Connaughton is too earnest and serious to be labeled a gadfly, though he can see why others on a board might find her difficult to work with. "She's not a get-along-go-along kind of gal," he said. "That's not her style. And I also happen to like that about her."

Connaughton's public stances on increasing the tolls can be hard to follow and have left her open to charges of political grandstanding. Although she has acknowledged in the past the necessity of raising the tolls to keep the agency solvent, she was the sole dissenter on two recent toll votes - a position that could insulate her from any tollpayer backlash.

She offered counterproposals both times that were not adopted by the board. But her votes and her attendance at an antitoll rally can be grating to other turnpike officials who have to face an angry public and explain why the increases are necessary, even as they cost commuters hundreds of dollars a year.

"She is not any better than any other board member," said Alan LeBovidge, Turnpike Authority executive director.

"Actually, in my mind, the board members have demonstrated profiles in courage, the four people that voted for the toll increase, I think they did what they thought they honestly had to do."

At meetings, the resentment can boil over. During one heated argument about tolls last year, fellow board member Michael Angelini said with contempt, "Mary, Mary, run for office."

Angelini, appointed by Patrick in 2007, said last week that he did not recall the exchange. He said he respects Connaughton, and her right to dissent, though he does not always understand her positions.

"When I first joined the board, she was the most vocal proponent of a toll increase on the board," he said. "Unfortunately, it is crystal clear that the Turnpike Authority needs more revenue, and it's crystal clear that the only way it's going to get that revenue is with a toll increase."

The Legislature is considering Patrick's proposal for a 19-cent gas tax increase, but in the meantime, turnpike officials have said they risk dire consequences if they didn't raise the tolls: a backup in crucial road and bridge maintenance, a potential junk bond rating that could hurt the state's finances, and vulnerability to a $400 million lump sum payment.

Former board member Jordan Levy, now a radio host in Central Massachusetts, said even dissenters have to admit the authority's need to pay its debts.

"Who wants to be in favor of tolls?" he said. "She's an individual and I respect that. And she's been outspoken, and I respect that. But you've got to resolve this problem."

Connaughton, who once ran unsuccessfully for the state Legislature, said seeking political office is "always an option down the road, but I don't know how I'd fit it in." Like Patrick, she supports an increase in the state gas tax but would like to see a plan that would eliminate all tolls in the process.

When Romney appointed Connaughton to the board in 2005, he praised her "chutzpah to get in and mix it up, and that's exactly what I'd like on the Turnpike Authority board."

To understand where that chutzpah comes from, it's useful to step into Connaughton's garage. Next to her sport utility vehicle, there's a faded metal yellow sign that says in black block letters: "It's Might vs. Right. Back the B.B. Boston Bypass."

The sign is one of 1,380 such signs created by her father, Vincent Zarrilli, and erected throughout Greater Boston between 1989 and 1996 to promote what he called the "Boston Bypass." Zarrilli believed, and still believes, that the former elevated Central Artery through downtown Boston should have been rerouted into the Boston Harbor, rather than replaced with the costly Big Dig. He has run for City Council, petitioned the Legislature for at least 27 years to change the rules of judicial conduct, and written a book in 1962 about fondue etiquette.

"I do my thing and we don't really coordinate with each other's projects, you might say, to any great extent," Zarrilli said. "I don't think I've had that much influence at all with her. Maybe in terms of her striving for fairness, yes."

Connaughton smiles when speaking of her father.

"His stick-to-itiveness, if that's a word, rubbed off on me," she said.
Bierman can be reached at

"MBTA rolls in budget plan with eye on $160m bailout"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, March 12, 2009

The MBTA board is expected to consider a budget today with a gaping hole - putting off tough decisions about significant fare hikes and service cuts while they await the Legislature's verdict on a bailout.

Daniel A. Grabauskas, general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, said the budget will include an "other revenues" line entry for $160 million, the size of the agency's budget deficit. Grabauskas hopes to fill that hole in the coming months with help from the legislature, but without that assistance Grabauskas and the MBTA board will have to go back into the budget and reduce service and hike fares to make up the difference.

The T's board is legally required to pass the first version of its annual budget by March 15, for the spending year that begins July 1. Grabauskas's unusual move buys time for the agency and avoids putting additional pressure on legislators, but it could still could mean tough luck for riders by midyear.

Grabauskas and James A. Aloisi Jr., the transportation secretary, who leads the MBTA board, have both said the T would need to raise fares by 25 percent and reduce off-peak and weekend schedules substantially without a state bailout.

MBTA managers are working on a contingency plan that would spell out the service cuts and exact fare increases that would take effect soon after July 1 if help does not come, Grabauskas said.

Governor Deval Patrick is proposing a gas tax increase of 19 cents, part of which would be used to plug the T's deficit.

The money would also be used to roll back a recently approved toll hike on the Massachusetts Turnpike and to shore up other road, bridge, and rail projects around the state.

But the Legislature has reacted coolly to Patrick's plan so far.

Grabauskas may face trouble with the MBTA's advisory board, which represents city and town governments and has the legal authority to review the budget and make sure it's balanced.

"We're going to scrutinize whatever it is they do," said Paul Regan, the advisory board's executive director.

Eric Bourassa, an advocate with the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, said the T should begin the public process of planning the fare hike now.

"Let's get the debate going and make sure that included in the debate is the consequences for the MBTA," he said.


The Boston Globe, Op-Ed, JOAN VENNOCHI
"Why we need reform before revenue"
By Joan Vennochi, Boston Globe Columnist, March 12, 2009

REFORM before revenue is not a wild and crazy idea.

It's exactly what Massachusetts taxpayers deserve.

During a recent closed-door session to pitch a gas tax hike to state lawmakers, State Transportation Secretary James Aloisi was asked, "What about reform before revenue?" Aloisi shocked his audience by calling the refrain a "meaningless slogan."

Aloisi did damage control after that meeting, putting out a statement that said "the Senate has proposed an extensive set of reforms that the administration fully supports." Yet during a Feb. 25 visit to the Globe, Aloisi also opined that the Senate is "way out of line to say 'reform first.' "

Across the nation and in Massachusetts, people are losing their jobs, retirement savings, and confidence. Bay State residents are also being told they must pay more in taxes to bail out a transportation system that was essentially bankrupted by excessive spending and past mismanagement.

Meanwhile, outrageous cases of state pension abuse continue to make headlines. Lawmakers have passed bills that allow library trustees to win pensions. They have authorized disability pensions for firefighters and police without medical reviews to back them up.

This week, the Globe's Sean Murphy told the story of two town moderators, Robert K. Lamere of Milton and Michael P. Curran of Canton. The two men unashamedly used their political connections to lobby the Legislature for lucrative pension enhancements. State legislators unashamedly came through for them. Lamere has a $63,000 annual pension, based on 22 years as a town moderator, plus his work as a Big Dig lawyer. For his 10 years as a moderator, plus work as town counsel, Curran gets $46,500 annually.

Despite public outrage over their windfall, Lamere and Curran have no regrets. "If the system exists, you have the right to take advantage of it. I was entitled to something and I took it," said Curran.

Against that backdrop, Governor Deval Patrick and Democratic lawmakers are considering a range of tax increases, from a hike in the gas tax to increases in the sales or income tax.

They will have a tough time selling any one of those options to an increasingly angry and cynical public, absent evidence of real reform.

"Clearly, you have to have both. You can't have revenue without significant reform," acknowledges Doug Rubin, the governor's chief of staff.

Rubin insists long-delayed reform of the state transportation system is already underway. The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority reduced the number of toll collectors and managers and is saving more than $31 million, says Rubin. He projects savings of $3 million to $5 million once the state switches to more civilian flaggers instead of police details at certain construction sites.

Every penny of Patrick's proposed 19-cent-per-gallon gas tax hike is targeted for a specific purpose. So, Rubin argues that taxpayers can be persuaded it is necessary and should appreciate they have a governor who is "trying to end the culture of not being straight with them."

The governor is also working with House Speaker Robert DeLeo to achieve aggressive pension reform, Rubin promises.

But Patrick must still convince voters to trust him, when they have little reason to trust any Massachusetts politician.

After years of being fleeced by the Big Dig's backers, the average taxpayer wonders: Exactly what constitutes reform?

Does the Patrick administration's proposed merging and purging of various state transportation agencies really add up to reform? Is Aloisi, who was paid huge sums of money to give legal advice to one of those agencies, the best advocate for the deck-shuffling?

There is also good reason to be skeptical of the "reform before revenue" slogan adopted by state lawmakers. For years, they helped politically connected friends manipulate the system. Why should anyone believe these same lawmakers are now willing to shut down the favor bank that Massachusetts taxpayers funded for so long?

Massachusetts does face a genuine fiscal crisis. The transportation system is running on empty.

Leadership does mean standing up for new revenue. But it also means demanding reform, making it happen, and convincing voters it is not a mirage.
Joan Vennochi can be reached at

"Murray: No revenue before transportation reform", March 12, 2009

BOSTON --Senate President Therese Murray says she will not support any increase in the Massachusetts gasoline tax until the Legislature passes a comprehensive transportation overhaul.

That means Massachusetts Turnpike tolls and MBTA fares may go up, although Murray says she hopes the House and Senate can move swiftly enough to avoid that.

Murray made the vow during and after a Statehouse transportation hearing on Thursday.

She notes U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recently ruled out a hike in the federal gasoline tax. In a veiled shot at Massachusetts Transportation Secretary James Aloisi, she also says "reform before revenue" is not a slogan.

Aloisi derided the Senate president's mantra last week, labeling it a "meaningless slogan."


"State GOP's hope"
The Boston Globe, Letter to Editor, March 12, 2009

THE HEADLINE over Joan Vennochi's March 5 op-ed reads "Could Charlie Baker rescue the state's GOP?" In the bluest state in the United States, your columnist is describing a bigger rescue than Baker performed when he turned around Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.

Does he have the credentials to be a viable gubernatorial candidate? Having known him since the 1970s, I can attest to his intelligence, analytical skills, and compassion. I can also assert that he has a great job, an even better family, and myriad reasons to resist the rigorous assaults of pursuing office.

That said, as an independent who hasn't voted for a Republican for governor since another big redhead ruled Beacon Hill, I would not only vote for Charlie Baker, I would campaign, support, raise funds, or contribute in any way I could to a Baker candidacy. Save the GOP, maybe. Invigorate it, definitely.

John Newlon
Medfield, Massachusetts


STEVE POFTAK, The Boston Globe, Op-Ed
"Transport system's blind spot"
By Steve Poftak, March 14, 2009

WE ALL WANT to get where we're going in a reasonable amount of time. Strip away the politics and policy, and that's the essence of the average citizen's expectation about transportation. We just want dependable service.

Unfortunately, the state transportation system is focused on a long list of projects, procuring construction services, and disbursing funds. These are important tasks, but what about a strategy that focuses on customers?

Consider these questions: Does the state know if highway congestion has improved over the past five years? Does it know how much has been spent on transportation projects? The answer to the first is that it does not. The state has never measured congestion in a comprehensive and consistent manner.

But it does know - to the penny - how many billions the Commonwealth has spent on transportation projects in the past five years.

The fact is, the "system" is focused on inputs (money) and not the people it serves. Pouring more money into that system without changing this focus is a huge mistake.

Before they credibly (and successfully) demand new revenues, state transportation agencies must demonstrate to consumers that they can improve service, and not just spend money running through project lists.

The building blocks are already there. Legislative reforms in 2004 and 2008 took significant steps toward implementing a comprehensive series of performance measurements. Recent proposals from the governor and the Senate retain these measures. The governor's proposal goes so far as to create an office of performance measurement.

What remains is the hard part - truly embedding this approach in the day-to-day management of the state's transportation agencies. That means more than reporting numbers. It means using them to change the way they do business.

With that in place, a discussion of the gas tax might then be more plausible. Reforms must cover some of the estimated $15 billion to $19 billion in transportation needs over the next 20 years.

Additional revenues will be required, but the governor's proposed gas tax increase of 19 cents, or $600 million annually, is too much too soon.

The current transportation governance system cannot simultaneously restructure itself and efficiently absorb these funds. A large pot of unspent new revenues is a tempting target for diversion to other programs or for allocation to lower-priority items that can absorb funding more rapidly.

Due to cynicism engendered by the Big Dig, people are rightly skeptical of the state's ability to spend its transportation dollars effectively. If a massive infusion of funds ends up even partially misspent, it will preclude the Commonwealth from transportation infrastructure investments for a generation.

Considering these facts, we suggest, as a starting point, a modest 6.5 cent increase in the gas tax. By implementing performance measurement and demonstrating progress to users, transportation leaders can make the case that new investment is making a difference.

To build public confidence, we also need sacrifice, in the shape of reform and reallocated revenues, from the executive branch, the Legislature, and public-sector unions. For example, the public cannot be expected to pay more if we still fund employee payroll through long-term borrowing.

Nor should drivers be expected to pay more if the governor cannot limit the state's appetite for new infrastructure. The first order of business must be to address the transportation system's deferred maintenance. The Legislature should therefore reject the governor's proposed prioritization of heavy rail expansion over maintenance at the MBTA and over statewide road and bridge repair projects.

The Senate and the governor have both put forward strong reform proposals. Building on these reforms by implementing performance measurement and accountability will help the public understand what they are getting for any gas tax increase.

But on the gas tax increase, the state should go slow. Doing too much, too fast will reduce the urgency of reform and risk compromising the public's already-fragile trust in the transportation system.
Steve Poftak is research director at the Pioneer Institute and author of "Getting There: Transportation Reform in 2009."

"Patrick to take on unions again: Targets transportation bureaucracy"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, March 16, 2009

In his gas tax pitch to angry commuters, Governor Deval Patrick has insisted that he is fundamentally shaking up the transportation bureaucracy and taking a serious whack at generous union perks.

But as he attempts to escape one political quandary, he is creating another: confronting unions that were key to his winning political coalition and could prove important for his reelection next year.

Leaders of several unions say Patrick's bill, and a competing transportation overhaul proposed by the Senate, represent a "wholesale attack" on the core right to collective bargaining - the central tenet of the labor movement.

The bill, which would strip the MBTA union of generous pension perks and transfer Massachusetts Turnpike employees to a new agency without seniority rights, marks the second time Patrick has taken on labor on a high-profile issue. The governor ran afoul of police unions last year when he changed the state's policy on using details at construction sites.

"I think the political implications are obvious," said Robert Haynes, president of the state AFL-CIO. "If we lose collective bargaining for public sector workers - for T workers, turnpike workers - I can't predict to you how bad this is politically."

At the same time, challenging unions could have a political upside, allowing a liberal governor to demon strate to voters that he is willing to take on a sacred cow of the left.

Other parts of Patrick's transportation bill, highlighted by his proposal to raise the gas tax by 19 cents a gallon, could hold even greater political risk, given to legislative and voter concern about raising taxes during a recession.

"All of it is tough. There is nothing in here that isn't a heavy lift," Patrick said as he unveiled his bill last month.

Patrick has said he will not sign a gas tax increase unless his transportation overhaul is part of the package.

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority workers, whose benefits have been labeled some of the most generous in the country, would be required to enter the state healthcare plan, which would save taxpayers an estimated $50 million a year.

Patrick also has pledged to change MBTA pension benefit requirements for newly hired employees, eliminating a formula that allows workers to get full pensions after 23 years on the job, potentially in their early 40s.

"Let me be clear," Patrick has said. "The '23 years and out' rule, where T employees start receiving a pension earlier than any reasonable retirement, is coming to an end."

Union leaders said they might be willing to make these concessions in their benefits and working conditions, but worry that Patrick's bill imposes the reductions through passage of a law, rather than at the negotiating table, setting a precedent for all unions.

"We understand that this economy and these difficult economic times are going to require, and should probably require, public employee unions to step up," said Steve MacDougal, head of the MBTA Carmen's Union. "But no one seems to be giving that a shot at the bargaining table."

MacDougal said if the changes get "rammed" through, "we will view them as a declaration of war against working families in our bargaining unit."

Craig Dias, a commuter rail worker who has been active on minority issues, said he has gathered more than 500 signatures requesting that Patrick meet with T employees to explain the changes, noting that the governor has made similar personal appearances with community groups throughout the state.

Changes at the Turnpike Authority would be even more far-reaching, as Patrick's plan attempts to dismantle the agency completely, merging it with the Massachusetts Highway Department.

The plan would eliminate jobs and strip remaining employees of their seniority rights. Managers would have authority to assign holdover employees to new bargaining units, with new salaries. And expiring contracts from all transportation agencies would no longer be the basis for ongoing negotiations.

"He must know that these proposals are antithetical to the union movement and yet he's deliberately chosen to proceed with them anyway," said Alan McDonald, an attorney who represents Teamsters Local 127, the bargaining unit for turnpike authority toll collectors and maintenance workers. "This is not something that is in a gray area."

The Patrick administration views some of the measures as a way to simplify the system, reducing the number of competing bargaining units and healthcare plans to navigate, and ultimately saving money in tough economic times.

"I would expect that we are going to have differences," said Suzanne Bump, Patrick's labor secretary and top union liaison. "As this moves through, there may be an ability to come to an understanding as to some of them. This a profound, much-needed change that the governor is trying to accomplish."

Bump said unions and Patrick never expected to agree on all issues, but want to maintain an open dialogue.

Patrick officials have worked closely with union officials in some regards. They were major supporters of his failed casino proposal last year and he also made union appointments to commissions and committees, giving them a voice on policy issues.

Some construction unions are hopeful that the transportation plan will create jobs for them and have been supportive.

Senator Steven A. Baddour, the Methuen Democrat who is cochairman of the Legislator's transportation committee, said the heat he is taking from the unions is dwarfed by the support from commuters, who are demanding the state end wasteful practices.

Even if unions feel wounded right now, there is no permanent rupture with Patrick, given that Republican governors have generally been more hostile to labor, said Jeffrey M. Berry, a Tufts University political scientist.

"Unions are using their leverage to gain as much as they can," he said.

"And while they'll let Patrick know they're upset, they're also realists and they'll take a half a loaf if that's what's offered. Patrick already has an eye on 2010 and he certainly doesn't want to seriously alienate labor," Berry said.
Noah Bierman can be reached at

"Official's kin had no-work state job: Transportation secretary's sister got $60,000 Legislature post in August"
By Andrea Estes, Boston Globe Staff, March 17, 2009

Her title was chief of staff, but she had no staff and reported to no one. That did not prevent Carol Aloisi from collecting a $60,000 State House salary for six months, until a state representative found her - literally - sitting in his new office and put her to work.

Aloisi, the sister of state Transportation Secretary James Aloisi Jr., was assigned in August by House leaders to the onetime office of former state representative Rachel Kaprielian months after Kaprielian had vacated her post to head up the state Registry of Motor Vehicles.

When aides to Representative Garrett Bradley of Hingham, named as Kaprielian's successor as floor leader this year, arrived to take over the office two weeks ago, they were baffled to find her there.

"Nobody sits in my office unless they're doing work," said Bradley, who has started doling out assignments to Carol Aloisi that include analyzing which communities in his South Shore district qualify for federal stimulus funds.

Aloisi declined to comment yesterday and said she was told to refer questions to the office of House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. Her brother, who was appointed to lead the state's transportation agencies by Gov ernor Deval Patrick in December, also declined to be interviewed.

DeLeo spokesman Seth Gitell refused to discuss Aloisi's responsibilities before DeLeo took over as speaker, calling it "the purview of the former speaker," Salvatore F. DiMasi, who resigned in January but was in charge when his office reassigned Aloisi to Kaprielian's office in August. DiMasi could not be reached for comment.

Gitell also would not say whether Aloisi's political and family ties had anything to do with the treatment she has received to date.

"The speaker's office is conducting a review of assignments and duties," said Gitell in response to the question.

Barney Keller, spokesman for the Massachusetts Republican Party, said Aloisi's work history "shows there is still waste in state government and we should not raise taxes. Secretary Aloisi may disagree, but perhaps reform before revenue should apply to the Legislature as well."

Secretary Aloisi has been a vocal advocate for the governor's plan to raise the gas tax by 19 cents a gallon.

For her part, Kaprielian had no idea a staffer had been reporting to her in absentia.

"I quit the Legislature last May and had no authority to make any personnel decisions," she said in a written statement. "I wasn't aware that anyone had been assigned to my old office."

The 49-year-old Aloisi was assigned by DiMasi's office to work for Springfield Representative Cheryl Coakley-Rivera in 2005, first overseeing the staff of the Joint Committee on Public Safety & Homeland Security and later the Joint Committee on Children & Families. But her work was marked by absences and health problems, beginning with a back injury that kept her out several months, Coakley-Rivera said.

The injury came weeks after Coakley-Rivera raised questions about the accuracy of Aloisi's time records with House personnel officials, a state official said.

The relationship between Aloisi and Coakley-Rivera soured further after Aloisi, a Democratic state committeewoman, served as a delegate to two Democratic Party conventions - one in Lowell, and the presidential nominating convention in Denver - while she was unable to work because of her back problem.

Also last summer, Aloisi was among the State House aides who got a 3 percent pay raise, according to state payroll records.

Coakley-Rivera, who went without a chief of staff for months until DiMasi assigned her a new one in late January, said she was "extremely disappointed" in Aloisi's performance during her last year.

"In my opinion, she took advantage of not only her chief of staff position, but her political connections," she said.

"There are people at the State House who work really hard and care about their jobs and the people they work for," she said, citing as an example her receptionist, who shows up "religiously every day" and then puts in a full shift at a hotel "to make ends meet."

"But there is another percentage who pretty much do nothing for a good portion of their workday and make very good salaries with benefits," said Coakley-Rivera, who now chairs the Joint Committee on Labor & Workforce Development. "That's why we need reform. We have to start cutting waste."
Andrea Estes can be reached at

"Massachusetts Turnpike has yet to lay off workers"
AP, March 17, 2009

BOSTON --The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority has not laid off a single toll collector despite a pledge in September to cut 100 positions to save money, even as tolls are set to jump later this month.

Turnpike Executive Director Alan LeBovidge tells The Boston Globe the agency has left 48 positions unfilled over the past year. He says layoffs from the remaining toll-collecting staff of 424 will take six to 12 months because of collective bargaining rules.

LeBovidge says he has also eliminated management positions, leaving the financially struggling authority with 120 fewer employees than a year ago.

The Boston Herald reports that the agency has also hired two high-priced staffers in the past few months, one of whom earns $90,000 annually, and the other $122,000.


Photo by Herald Staff

"Pike hires add to ‘burden’: Drop: Critics slam pricey personnel"
By Hillary Chabot, Tuesday, March 17, 2009,, Local Politics

The soon-to-be-defunct Turnpike Authority, which is poised to foist painful toll hikes on motorists, has quietly put at least two new high-priced staffers on its payroll - both of them retreads from the state transportation department, the Herald has learned.

The two staff members were shuffled over from the executive office of transportation within the last three months, even as administration officials were telling lawmakers the Pike was in desperate need of cash.

“I find no excuse whatsoever to be hiring at the Pike unless there is a justified emergency,” said Sen. Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford). “The last thing we should do is burden this agency with more expenses.”

Trellis Stepter, who earned $84,000 as a legislative agent for former Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen, was hired as a $90,000-a-year manager of special projects shortly after Cohen stepped down in January.

Robert Rooney, a former $123,000-a-year deputy secretary of public works in the transportation office, is now a $122,000-a-year assistant chief engineer with the Pike. Half his salary is paid by his old department.

Turnpike Authority executive director Alan LeBovidge said the agency has hired new personnel only “as needed” - without explaining why any new positions are necessary.

Montigny didn’t understand how Stepter’s and Rooney’s new jobs constituted an emergency.

“This is exactly why the public has had it. There shouldn’t be any increase in tolls or gas tax until reforms are in place,” he said.

LeBovidge acknowledged in a transportation hearing yesterday that higher tolls - the first round of which kick in March 29 - are needed to cover a $100 million funding gap. Tolls will jump to $1.50 inside Route 128, while the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels will cost $5.50.

Six months ago, the administration unveiled a plan to cut more than 100 toll takers over an 18-month period, but so far the Pike has shed only 48 due to retirements and voluntary departures, LeBovidge said. The agency still employs 424 toll takers.

Gov. Deval Patrick pointed to initial reforms at the embattled agency last month when he asked the Legislature to approve a 19-cent gas tax hike, but lawmakers loudly doubted the depths of those reforms yesterday.

“We are not going to get the public to step up and put more on the table when they can clearly see there isn’t enough that’s been done,” said Rep. Joseph Wagner (D-Chicopee).
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"Transportation Secretary James A. Aloisi Jr. defends sister in blog"
By Andrea Estes, Boston Globe Staff, March 18, 2009

In a highly unusual and strongly worded blog posting from a top Patrick administration official, state Transportation Secretary James Aloisi Jr. lashed out at the Globe while defending his sister, who held a $60,000-a-year legislative job for six months in 2008 and 2009 with no apparent responsibilities.

Aloisi described the Globe story that revealed Carol Aloisi's no-work job as misleading, inaccurate, and "disgraceful.'' He provided no details on the blog of what he considered erroneous, and did not respond to repeated requests for comment from a Globe reporter today.

Aloisi and his sister turned down repeated requests on Monday to comment for the original story, which was published in Tuesday’s Globe.

"I didn't think that it was ever appropriate for the press or others to take shots at me through members of my family, but it seems that the rules of the game have changed," Aloisi wrote on Blue Mass. Group blog, a left-leaning forum frequented by Democratic activists and politicians.

Patrick administration officials would not comment today on Aloisi's blog posting, which appeared Tuesday night, other than to say it was not authorized.

Aloisi, a former Big Dig lawyer, has not shied from controversy since Patrick appointed him in December to lead the state through a major overhaul of its transportation system. In a closed-door meeting, he disparaged Senate President Therese Murray's approach to transportation legislation, calling her "reform before revenue" mantra a "meaningless slogan." He also called Turnpike Authority board member Mary Connaughton, a Republican appointee who has been sharply critical of the Turnpike's finances, "a distraction. She's a gadfly and I have more important things to do," he told a Globe reporter.

Aloisi said in the posting Tuesday night that his sister had an "unblemished record'' since she began working in the House in 2003 and that she had repeatedly sought reassignment beginning last August when she was posted in the vacant State House office of a former legislator, a job that left her with nothing to do.

"She has been a leader in the state Democratic Party for many years. She has never needed to call on me for help in getting a job or keeping a job,'' he said.

Carol Aloisi was hired by the former House speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi to be chief of staff to Springfield Representative Cheryl Coakley-Rivera. Last year, Carol Aloisi asked to be transferred after a dispute over attendance. In September, the speaker's office sent her to the office of former representative Rachel Kaprielian, even though the Watertown lawmaker had left months before to become registrar of motor vehicles.

Blue Mass. Group has been a forum for some members of the Patrick administration, whose left-leaning supporters frequent the site. David Kravitz, a Blue Mass. Group founder, said he wants the blog "to be part of the conversation about what's going on in the state. It's an open forum. Anyone can post. That obviously includes the secretary of transportation. There is no site management. I have no problem with him coming on the site and saying whatever he wants."

Responding to Aloisi's comments, state Republican Party spokesman Barney Keller said: "Given this and his previous outbursts, apparently Jim Aloisi lacks the temperament of a Cabinet secretary. What is even more peculiar about this rant is that he still denies his own role and responsibility for the fiasco that is the Big Dig."

"With two final settlements, Big Dig tunnel litigation ends"
March 26, 2009, 1:12 P.M., By Boston Globe Staff

The Massachusetts attorney general's office has reached two more settlements with companies involved in building the Big Dig tunnel that collapsed in July 2006 and killed a Jamaica Plain woman. The settlements mark the end of the state's legal campaign against the companies who worked on the Big Dig, officials said.

Attorney General Martha Coakley, announcing the settlements with Gannett Fleming Inc. and Sika Corp., said she wanted to resolve all the matters relating to the collapse in "a manner that was fair and just for the Commonwealth, and for the loved ones of [tunnel collapse victim] Milena Del Valle who so tragically lost her life almost three years ago. We believe that we have achieved that goal."

She said the resolutions with the companies held those responsible accountable, ensured that similar problems will be prevented, and provided the state with money to maintain the tunnels and other transportation infrastructure in the future.

Gannett Fleming, which designed the section of the I-90 Connector Tunnel ceiling that collapsed, agreed to pay a total of $1.575 million to the state and the city of Boston and to forgo $150,000 in payments from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. Sika, which made the glue used in the ceiling, agreed to pay $200,000 to the state.

Messages left seeking comment at the two companies were not immediately returned.

The attorney general's office dismissed claims against Sigma Engineering International Inc. and Conam Inc., saying the companies were not liable in the ceiling collapse.

Attorney general's spokeswoman Emily LaGrassa said the final two settlements marked the end of a litigation campaign against Big Dig companies that had resulted in $610.625 million in recoveries by the state, both for the ceiling collapse and a variety of other problems, including wall leaks, adulterated cement, and design errors.
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"Big step on road reform"
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, 3/27/2009

The vote of the state Senate to merge all of the state's transportation agencies constitutes a long overdue reform urged by Governor Patrick that we anticipate the House will act favorably upon as well. This is an important aspect of transportation reform, but more action must inevitably follow.

The measure, which brings the Turnpike Authority, Highway Department and related agencies together as the Massachusetts Surface Transportation Agency, will save the state roughly $6.5 billion over the next 20 years. However, the state is taking on about $10 billion in transportation debts, including $2.2 billion in Turnpike Authority debt accrued through the Big Dig. The state is already facing as much as a $19 billion shortfall over the next two decades for funding its road and bridge needs according to a report last year by an independent commission.

A bond agency has warned the Turnpike Authority that its recent delay of toll hikes may downgrade its credit rating. Toll hikes, returning tolls to the western turnpike, and a gas tax hike are among the revenue-generating measures on the table on Beacon Hill, and if revenue isn't raised, major budget cuts are inevitable. Difficult decisions are in the offing.


"Patrick aide scolded Aloisi over blog entry: Transit secretary criticized Globe story"
By Milton J. Valencia, Boston Globe Staff, March 28, 2009

A top aide to Governor Deval Patrick scolded Transportation Secretary James Aloisi Jr. last week after Aloisi made an unauthorized blog posting that strongly criticized the Globe, saying the move was "not smart" and admonishing Aloisi to follow directives from the governor's office when making future public statements, according to e-mails obtained by the Globe.

Doug Rubin, Patrick's chief of staff, warned Aloisi that "you work for the governor now, and that has to be the one and only priority," according to the e-mails.

"We are happy to stand with you and work together - but you have to play by our rules. NO EXCEPTIONS," Rubin wrote. Later, he sarcastically expressed his disappointment that the Globe was planning a follow-up article on Aloisi's abruptly reversing course and deciding to apologize.

"Great work," he wrote. "Let me be clear - do not make any contact with the press today."

At first, according to the e-mails, Aloisi explained that he was sticking up for his sister, whose state job functions were questioned in a Globe report. Later, he realized the seriousness of the situation, writing in an e-mail to state officials, "I really blew it. I feel like I should crawl in a hole."

Kyle Sullivan, a spokesman for the Patrick administration, would not comment yesterday on the e-mails, and said that the administration did not require or ask Aloisi to apologize. He has said only that the original blog posting was not authorized.

But the e-mail exchanges offer a window into the machinations of the Patrick administration in managing media coverage as it proposes a controversial transportation overhaul, and the e-mails show that officials realized Aloisi's blog would not help.

At one point, Rubin wrote, "I guarantee you just gave [state Senator Steven A. ] Baddour (chairman of the Transportation Committee) . . . fodder to use against us."

Colin Durrant, a spokesman for the Executive Office of Transportation, said yesterday that the secretary would not comment on the e-mails, and stands by his apology. He would not say whether the administration's disapproval of the blog posting led to the decision to apologize.

Aloisi had used the Blue Mass Group blogsite to criticize what he called a misleading, inaccurate, and disgraceful, Globe report about his sister, Carol, and her apparent lack of responsibilities in a State House position despite a $60,000-a-year salary. However, he never provided details on why he thought the story was erroneous, and he and his sister did not respond to calls for comment.

A day later, Aloisi reversed course and issued a statement apologizing to the Globe and reporter Andrea Estes.

The episode, an abrupt reversal of course in less than a day, was the latest high-profile conflict involving Aloisi, a recent appointee hired to push Patrick's transportation reform agenda. That effort has met challenges.

Earlier this month, Aloisi disparaged Senate President Therese Murray's approach to transportation legislation, saying her idea of "reform before revenue" was a "meaningless slogan." Also, he has called Turnpike Authority board member Mary Connaughton a distraction and a "gadfly."

The e-mails between Rubin, Aloisi, and other officials in the Executive Office of Transportation show a coordinated attempt to better manage media coverage of the department.

Adam Hurtubise, a Transportation Department spokesman, wrote to Aloisi that the report about his sister was "disgraceful. What can I do to help?"

Aloisi responded, "Just help us figure out good news stories so we can start moving away from all this negativity. That is the best antidote."

In e-mails between Durrant and Aloisi, they discuss the impact a Boston Herald report on the hiring of two people by the Turnpike Authority to cushy jobs will have on their efforts to sell the reform plan. Durrant wrote that the story "will be damaging inside the Legislature because it sends the message we're not serious about reform."

Later, he wrote, "I'm not sure what to say about the Globe story except we move on. I know it's not a good answer but unfortunately this is what we can expect from the Globe and Herald and we have to focus on producing some good news, bridge announcements etc., . . . and focus on getting that news in the papers outside of Boston."
Milton Valencia can be reached at

"Massachusetts to debate transportation overhaul, financing"
By Associated Press, Sunday, April 5, 2009, - Local Politics

BOSTON — The Massachusetts House is set to debate transportation overhaul this week, a major legislative initiative that already has passed in the Senate.

The measure calls for unifying the state’s transportation departments under a single Massachusetts Surface Transportation Authority to address chronic underfunding and bureaucratic inefficiency.

The Senate approved it 39-1. The House planned to take up the bill last week, but House Speaker Robert DeLeo has said lawmakers wanted enough time to digest the Senate’s bill.

Meanwhile, the Senate might take up House measures on an auto insurance bill, making an appeals board permanent in the state’s system, and vote on financing for Turnpike Authority payments.


"House poised to vote on state transport overhaul"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, April 7, 2009

The Massachusetts House will vote today on a bill to eliminate the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and reorganize the rest of the state transportation system, paving the way for a debate on increasing the state gas tax.

The wide-ranging bill would change the working conditions and fringe benefits for thousands of state workers, putting most roads and public transportation functions under a single authority.

The Senate passed a similar bill two weeks ago, and the two chambers are expected to work out their differences behind the scenes before Governor Deval Patrick decides whether to sign a compromise bill.

The overhaul is considered the first step toward a more contentious debate over raising the gas tax. Patrick has proposed raising it 19 cents, making it the highest in the nation. He argues that it is essential to repairing the state’s broken infrastructure, and preventing major toll hikes, MBTA fare increases, and service cuts.

Leaders in the House and senate wanted to pass the restructuring bills first to demonstrate they are focusing on “reform before revenue” by reducing waste and inefficiency. It will probably take further analysis once the specifics are known, if not years of experience, to determine if the changes save money as promised.

The House and Senate bills are similar to one another and to a third bill proposed by Patrick. The key differences are over MBTA benefits and the structure of the new agency that would oversee most of the state’s transportation.

The House and Senate would both create authorities outside the governor’s direct control, while Patrick would put all the functions under the governor’s office. The House would control the transportation system with a five-member board, chaired by the governor. It would not allow the governor’s secretary of transportation to chair that board.

The House bill, unlike the Senate's, forces current MBTA workers to get their health insurance through the state system, which could save tens of millions of dollars per year, by some estimates.

Both bills would change the pension rules for newly hired MBTA workers, eliminating the "23 and out" benefit that lets workers retire with 57 percent of their salary after 23 years, regardless of age. The bill would require that workers have a minimum of 25 years of service and be at least 55 years old to collect.


"Bill would bar Aloisi from top post"
By Jim O'Sullivan, State House News Service, April 7, 2009

Legislation the House will probably address today would block Governor Deval Patrick's transportation secretary from assuming the state's most powerful transportation post.

Secretary James Aloisi, and future transportation czars, would not be eligible to chair the board of the Massachusetts Transportation and Infrastructure Authority, the new entity House leaders want to create through their transportation overhaul. The measure would install the governor as the board's chairman, permitting him to appoint a designee, but would bar the employees of the authority or any subdivisions from the position.

"I feel strongly that we want to give the executive a strong hand here," said the House Transportation Committee chairman, Representative Joseph Wagner, a Chicopee Democrat. "The reason for the authority model as opposed to an agency model, and with the governor as the chair, is to on the one hand empower the executive and on the other hand provide a level of independence that gives the governor the level of authority we think that he should have."

Asked about the chairmanship criteria, Aloisi spokesman Colin Durrant said: "The governor and the secretary have proposed their plan, the Legislature's proposing their plan, and it's moving through the process."

The House and Senate transportation bills are probably headed for a high-stakes conference committee, where the differences between the two drafts will require ironing out.

Wagner's Senate counterpart, Steven Baddour, Democrat of Methuen, said that the two branches are not "worlds apart" and that he wants to hear "the rationale behind the House's" model.

Patrick said yesterday he expects lawmakers will vote within weeks on new transportation revenues.


"New Turnpike policy causes holiday traffic tangles"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, April 13, 2009

Thousands of motorists were stuck in backups over the holiday weekend on the Massachusetts Turnpike because of a change in Turnpike policy on how to deal with toll takers who call in sick.

Turnpike chief Alan LeBovidge said there were fewer toll takers at several toll plazas and resulting backups because the authority had decided to stop paying overtime to replace toll takers who had called in sick.

Asked why the Pike hadn't paid for replacement toll takers, LeBovidge said, "I don't have money."

He said backups, to some extent, are not unusual during holiday weekends, but in this case the combination of fewer toll takers and some confused drivers and even some road rage created further backups in some places.

LeBovidge said he didn't know how many toll takers had called in sick.

He said the turnpike should also do a better job in putting up signs farther from each toll plaza reminding drivers with a Fast Lane pass to stay in the left lane, which would reduce lane-changing and confusion closer to the tollbooths.

Sheri Richberg, 34, of Ashland said it took her 90 minutes to travel from Framingham to the Route 128 tolls early Sunday afternoon.

"Unacceptable, especially on Easter Sunday, especially when families are trying to spend holidays and quality time together" was how Richberg described it.

Going home Sunday evening, Richberg found a line on Route 128 to get onto the Pike backed up to the Winter Street exit in Waltham. She decided to take Route 9 and traveled home "free as a bird," she said.


"Massachusetts Pike blames Easter backups on sick calls"
The Associated Press, 4/14/2009

BOSTON (AP) - The chief of the Massachusetts Turnpike says massive backups at the highway's toll plazas on Easter Sunday were caused because a number of toll takers called in sick and management did not bring in replacements on overtime.

Executive Director Alan LeBovidge says the cash-strapped agency is trying to save money and one strategy is to eliminate overtime.

He said backups could be as bad if not worse on Memorial Day, and advised drivers to get electronic transponders.

A Turnpike Authority spokesman did not know how many toll takers called in sick. LeBovidge said if the Pike determines there was an abuse of sick time policy, workers could face disciplinary action.

Traffic was backed up six to seven miles at the interchange with Route 128 in Weston.


"Analysis: Mass. gov. snipes at leaders over plan"
By Glen Johnson, AP Political Writer, April 14, 2009

BOSTON --Transportation Secretary James Aloisi was supposed to be the inside man, the ultimate fixer capable of maneuvering the levers of power to sell the governor's transportation plan. Gov. Deval Patrick was known as the more genial sort, able to use his powers of persuasion to convince the public of the need for a gas tax hike to pay for it.

So far, neither man has succeeded, and there were more signs this week they were both regressing rather than progressing.

The governor emerged Monday from his weekly meeting with the House speaker and Senate president and promptly chastised both for passing transportation plans that, he felt, fell short of his own version.

Senate President Therese Murray responded by saying Patrick wasn't familiar with the details of her bill. She also suggested Aloisi or some other member of the administration leaked a front-page story last week that outlined drastic service cuts for the MBTA if the authority doesn't receive its 6-cent share of the governor's proposed 19-cent gas tax increase.

Whoever was to blame, Murray said ominously, the move "is not the right way to go."

Meanwhile, Massachusetts Turnpike Executive Director Alan LeBovidge has undercut broader support for the proposed changes with a pair of highly public moves.

First, he announced last week the cash-strapped authority would no longer pay the $5,000 monthly lighting bill for the Zakim Bridge, the signature span of the $15 billion Central Artery project and a landmark at Boston's northerly front door.

The bridge designer was so upset he sent the state a $15,000 check to keep the lights on for at least three more months.

Then, on Easter Sunday, drivers fumed after sitting in hourlong, five- to seven-mile backups on the Pike because LeBovidge refused to pay overtime to replace toll collectors who had called in sick.

"It is another political ploy," one woman wrote the Boston Herald, "to get more money out of us and try to prove a point. I am disgusted."

Patrick labeled the delays "unfortunate," adding, "It upsets me, too."

But rather than apologizing, both he and LeBovidge said Massachusetts residents -- and the state's all-important tourists -- should understand these latest annoyances only illustrate the severity of the state and Turnpike's financial distress.

And, the governor declared, that means the public should not only support his overhaul package, but his gas tax hike.

"I mean, there are real consequences and hardship caused by the fiscal situation, and in the case of the Turnpike, it is part of what we have been trying to explain to people why we need both the reforms and the new revenue," the governor said.

LeBovidge, who long ago became wealthy as a private-sector accountant, was more plainspoken. He underscored the devil-may-care attitude that has won him both friends and detractors in public service.

"Sometimes, you have to grin and bear it," he said. "If you don't have money, you can't buy food and you have to go hungry."

Aides say Patrick, LeBovidge and others took their more aggressive tack because they don't believe lawmakers are confronting the transportation challenge with due seriousness.

While the governor, for example, has proposed unifying union rules under his proposed transportation bureaucracy, the House bill would retain union contract differences. That means two engineers sitting next to each other in what is supposed to be a single transportation design shop could end up making vastly different sums for the same work, if they currently belong to different unions.

The Senate bill, meanwhile, doesn't make any changes to the MBTA's health insurance program. Patrick would have all current and retired employees of the commuter authority join the state's regular health insurance program. The House would make the change only for current employees, not retirees -- a $7 million annual price difference.

Those type of things prompted the governor on Monday to lash out at Murray and House Speaker Robert DeLeo.

"We, all of us, are going to have to tell the truth to the public about where we are, what the needs are," he said.

A day later, Patrick toned down his rhetoric, at least when it came to the public.

While praising LeBovidge's cost-cutting efforts at the Turnpike, the governor said he and Aloisi had asked the director for a full accounting of Sunday's traffic back-ups, as well as his plans to avoid a repeat on Memorial Day and the upcoming summer holidays.

Patrick said he also wanted to know whether each toll collector's sick call was legitimate.

"If it wasn't, I can assure you there will be consequences," the governor said.
EDITOR'S NOTE -- Glen Johnson has covered local, state and national politics since 1985. He can be reached at

The Boston Globe, Op-Ed, YVONNE ABRAHAM
"Pike chief exacts a toll"
By Yvonne Abraham, Boston Globe Columnist, April 15, 2009

What is wrong with our state's transportation officials?

A few weeks ago, Transportation Secretary James A. Aloisi Jr. was popping off at anybody with the misfortune to catch his eye - the Massachusetts Senate, Turnpike Authority board member Mary Connaughton, The Boston Globe.

The Patrick administration finally got a lid on Aloisi, and now comes Massachusetts Turnpike chief Alan LeBovidge, a tin-eared king of killjoys, acting like an even bigger jerk.

You may recall that thousands of drivers got stuck at the tolls on Sunday because a bunch of collectors banged in sick on a holiday weekend and LeBovidge wouldn't call in replacements. The turnpike is broke, he said, and he can't afford the overtime.

Drivers grew old and angry waiting in seven-mile backups. In homes all over Eastern Massachusetts, ham glazes congealed unappetizingly as crestfallen cooks waited for Easter guests to arrive.

So, did the man who runs the agency responsible for this debacle fall to his knees immediately and apologize for the inconvenience?

Not unless "Suck it up" has suddenly become an expression of remorse.

"Sometimes, you have to grin and bear it," LeBovidge said. "If you don't have money, you can't buy food and you have to go hungry."

Get used to it, he added: The authority won't have enough money to pay overtime anytime soon, either. Apparently, wielding his considerable power to get his employees to actually show up for work is not an option .

On the same day he told drivers to grin, LeBovidge kicked a gift horse in the teeth.

Last week, he turned off the blue lights on the Zakim Bridge to save $5,000 a month. A few days later, architect Miguel Rosales, who helped design the lovely bridge, sent the authority a check for $15,000 to keep it lit for three months.

"My initial reaction is, 'Thank you,' " LeBovidge said on Monday.

His subsequent reaction: Buzz off.

OK, maybe that's unfair. Here's what the diplomat actually said:

"Assuming he's an upstanding guy . . ." Yes, because you never know with architects bearing 15 grand to make the city's skyline whole. ". . . I'd say we need $45,000 more."

See, that's what it would take to keep the thing lit all year, and it would be so terribly tiresome to go back and forth.

"I don't want to turn them on, and turn them off, and turn them on, and turn them off," LeBovidge said. "If we're going to do something like that, I'd like to have a sustainable solution."

Talk about a turnoff. He couldn't just cash the check and keep the lights on for as long as possible?

LeBovidge's blunt manner, so appealing when the governor first tapped him to clean house at the turnpike, isn't so cute now.

Commuters are incensed over Sunday. And yesterday, the governor wisely stepped away from his turnpike chief: Grilled at a press conference, he promised the holiday debacle would not be repeated. Day's end even brought a hint of empathy from LeBovidge.

Look, it's easy to see what the turnpike chief is trying to do here. His authority is buckling under gargantuan debt and mammoth inefficiencies.

He can't make it without new revenue, so he's trying to put the problems in terms everyone gets.

The symbolism comes at a cost. The penny-ante stunts - darkening the bridge, failing to cover tolls on a holiday - diminish LeBovidge's credibility, and that of the governor he serves.

I'm all for a gas tax increase, but LeBovidge's antics don't make me feel like he and I are on the same team. I feel like an errant child being taught a lesson the hard way. Creating a traffic jam won't get the public on your side.
Yvonne Abraham is a Globe columnist. Her e-mail address is
The Boston Globe Online - Political Editorial Cartoon - "Toll booth toll"

My Daily Work - Posted by Dan Wasserman - April 14, 2009

"Scarce resource or scare tactic?"
April 15, 2009

LAST WEEK, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority pulled the plug on the beloved blue lights of the Zakim Bridge. Over the holiday weekend, motorists faced long lines - especially on the Pike at the Route 128 tolls - because of a change in turnpike policy on how to deal with toll takers who call in sick.

The Pike looks like it's playing hardball with drivers: This is how bad it gets. Give us more money or we'll shoot this puppy.

But turnpike chief Alan LeBovidge insists that is not the case. "I don't have a threatening bone in my body," he said.

What LeBovidge does have is an urgent need to convince lawmakers to come up with new revenue so the Pike can pay down $2.2 billion of mostly Big Dig-related debt. Governor Patrick is proposing a 19-cent gas tax hike, which this page strongly favors. LeBovidge said he is "agnostic" on how new money is generated. In the meantime, LeBovidge said he will cut costs any way he can.

Turning off the decorative Zakim Bridge lights saves $5,000 a month, and LeBovidge said it does not undermine road safety. One of the bridge's designers mailed a check for $15,000 in hopes of inspiring more donations to keep it illuminated. But that's no real solution to the underlying money issue.

Meanwhile, there were fewer toll takers at several toll plazas on the Easter holiday because Pike officials decided to stop paying overtime to replace toll takers who called in sick. LeBovidge said he did not know how many toll takers called in sick, or whether the number was higher than usual. He also blamed the miles of backup on drivers who lack Fast Lane transponders. A day late, Patrick yesterday demanded a "full accounting" of what happened.

LeBovidge is right when he points out that people want it all: no new taxes, no toll hikes, and superior service. "I can't provide Rolls Royce service on a Chevette income. That's the problem."

But that's only part of the problem. The broader problem is that over the years, the public wasn't told the truth. State officials tapped into the Pike's borrowing power to pay for the Big Dig. "Everyone knew it was a shell game," LeBovidge acknowledges.

Now the game is up on the Patrick administration's watch. The bills are coming due, and the Pike needs money; the agency is set to raid its reserves, to the tune of about $15 million, to close an operating deficit before the end of the fiscal year.

But if LeBovidge can't keep the lights on - or get enough toll takers to come to work - the public is as likely to question his leadership as to support new revenues. These fiascos have at least drawn attention to the problem. Now it's up to the governor and his emissaries to make the case for responsible funding.


"Pols shift attention to road woes: Mull 19-cent gas-tax hike"
By Hillary Chabot, Wednesday, April 22, 2009, - Local Politics

Laying the groundwork for a possible gas-tax hike, House Speaker Robert DeLeo said lawmakers could vote on taxes for the state’s debt-ridden transportation system next week.

There will be a transportation plan with a dedicated revenue source, DeLeo said after speaking at the 76th anniversary of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. He added he hopes to avoid toll increases.

The announcement came the same day MBTA General Manager Dan Grabauskas said he’s slashing 75 positions and asking employees to take furloughs to stave off massive fare hikes and service cuts triggered by a whopping $160 million deficit.

The staff cuts will save between $4.5 million and $6 million, he said.

“I have to start doing something. Things ain’t gonna get any better,” said Grabauskas, who blamed the cuts on a drop in ridership, advertising on the T, and expected union raises and pension contributions.

The MBTA and Massachusetts Turnpike Authority have been struggling with debt as they wait to see if lawmakers will approve Gov. Deval Patrick’s plan to increase the gas tax by 19 cents.

Grabauskas also blasted recent media leaks emphasizing massive MBTA service cuts and fare hikes as, “an attempt to manipulate the public and the Legislature.”

Some accused the Pike of orchestrating a seven-mile Easter traffic jam by cutting toll-taker overtime in an attempt to win support for the gas tax.

The 75 positions will be mainly managerial non-union workers, but employees working in the customer service call center and the T police will also face cuts.

All employees were asked to take a five-day furlough if they make $100,000 a year or more and a three-day furlough if they make less than $100,000.

Grabauskas also announced reforms to eliminate the appearance of patronage at the T, by preventing MBTA retirees from later working for the department under a personal services contract.
Material from the State House News service was used in this report.

The Boston Globe, Op-Ed
"Transport system isn't the problem"
By Michael Dukakis and Fred Salvucci, May 5, 2009

WHEN WE were first getting involved in Massachusetts politics in the 1960s, state government was a mess. Statewide officeholders served only two-year terms. The governor and lieutenant governor did not run as a team, so the state often ended up with a governor of one party and a lieutenant governor of the other. The governor had no power to appoint a Cabinet responsible to him, and state government was loaded with independent boards, commissions, and authorities.

In addition, many department heads were appointed for terms that deliberately overlapped the governor's, so that a newly elected governor who defeated an incumbent found himself trying to govern with department heads appointed by the guy he had just defeated. Not surprisingly, nobody seemed to be accountable for anything, and Massachusetts was one of the most corrupt states in the country.

This sorry state of affairs triggered one of the great eras of bipartisan governmental reform in Massachusetts history and virtually revolutionized state government. It gave us a four-year term, the governor and lieutenant governor as a team, executive reorganization authority, and a Cabinet system.

Eliminating dozens of boards, commissions, and authorities, and giving the governor the power to appoint a secretary of transportation had a profound effect on transportation policy in Massachusetts. Popular opposition to authority-driven highway construction led to dramatic changes in transportation policy and an end to mindless highway construction in Greater Boston. Billions of federal dollars helped transform the MBTA and a decrepit, privately owned commuter rail system into one of the best public transportation systems in the country. Without the elimination or dramatic reduction in the power of the old transportation authorities and commissions, that kind of progress would have been impossible.

Unfortunately, four consecutive Republican administrations did a terrible job on the Big Dig. They refused to come up with a way to pay for its overruns and turned to the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority as a kind of transportation ATM to finance their way out of it. At the same time, they decided that a mere penny on the sales tax would be enough to provide permanent, ongoing support for the T and its capital investments, an obvious impossibility.

Now, Governor Patrick and the Legislature are trying to straighten out the mess. But the answer is not the creation of another board, commission, or authority that further dilutes the governor's accountability. If we learned one lesson in the 1960s, it was that the answer to our transportation problems is more accountability and visibility, not less. Cluttering up the straight line from the governor's office to the secretary of transportation with another layer of bureaucracy is a retreat to the past and will bring with it many of the same problems we thought we were eliminating when we created the Cabinet system in the first place.

What's more, the treatment is based on a false diagnosis. The problem with transportation in Massachusetts is not the agency structure; it is incompetence, inexcusable cost overruns, faulty construction, and the refusal to confront the fact that building and maintaining transportation infrastructure requires money. With the significant exception of Massport, most of the state's transportation agencies are running on empty. It has been clear for at least the last 10 years that transportation finance was inadequate, but rather than deal with the problem, one administration after another found it politically convenient to increase transportation debt, now the highest in the country, defer maintenance, and establish study commissions.

If there are pension abuses at the T, we ought to get rid of them. If the Port Authority has the money to finance the roads, tunnels, and transit systems that provide access to the airport and the seaport, it should help pay for them. If the Massachusetts Highway Department doesn't have enough trained civil engineers who can plan, design, and supervise its ambitious bridge reconstruction program, then it should go out and recruit them.

But let's not mess with a Cabinet system that 20 years ago gave us one of the best and most productive eras in Massachusetts transportation history and can do so again with the right leadership and the money to do the job.
Former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis is a professor of political science at Northeastern University. Former Massachusetts transportation secretary Fred Salvucci is a senior research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for Transportation & Logistics.

"I laid myself off." ... "I'm just another old AARP member." -- Alan LeBovidge

"Wave maker resigns as Pike chief: Not pushed out, LeBovidge says"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, May 7, 2009

Alan LeBovidge, the colorful and polarizing fiscal watchdog hired to shake up the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, resigned yesterday after the Patrick administration forced him to retreat from some of his more controversial cost-trimming measures.

"I laid myself off," the 66-year-old LeBovidge said yesterday. "I've cleaned my office out. I'm out. I'm just another old AARP member."

LeBovidge said - and an administrative official confirmed - that his resignation was voluntary and had nothing - "nada" - to do with the Easter Sunday traffic tie-ups that extended as far as 8 miles and drew calls for his resignation.

In a letter submitted to the governor's office about noon yesterday, LeBovidge was not openly critical of the Patrick administration, but hinted at frustration.

While he was hired to cut costs, LeBovidge wrote, "the last two months have made it clear to me that the basic operating premise has shifted."

After being told for more than a year that reducing staff was a priority, he was recently told to hold off on laying off toll-takers, long seen as a symbol of the agency's excessive reliance on expensive labor.

The resignation was effective immediately; Lebovidge was on his way home shortly after lunch, preparing to go to last night's Celtics game. LeBovidge, who retired from a lucrative career in the private sector and donates his salary to charity, said his future plans include tonight's Red Sox game and a round of golf Friday.

The departure, after 17 months on the job, is the latest upheaval in the state's transportation hierarchy as the need to fix the state's financially troubled road, bridge, and transit systems has become a top priority on Beacon Hill.

In January, Bernard Cohen stepped down as transportation secretary under pressure. His replacement, James A. Aloisi Jr., immediately generated controversy of his own, and has had no choice but to lower his public profile after a series of statements and actions that alienated key members of the Legislature.

LeBovidge will be replaced by Jeffrey Mullan, the 47-year-old undersecretary of transportation who joined the administration two years ago, following 14 years of legal practice at Foley Hoag.

Mullan, who worked for the state on the Big Dig before entering private legal practice, has been a key behind-the-scenes player and will continue to work on eliminating the Turnpike Authority over the next 14 months and reorganizing other transportation agencies, under plans still being worked out by Governor Deval Patrick and state lawmakers. Colin Durrant, Aloisi's spokesman, did not release Mullan's salary yesterday.

Though the Easter traffic snarl did not directly lead to LeBovidge's resignation, it highlighted a difference in philosophy between him and Aloisi over how deeply to cut costs at the Turnpike Authority - which is threatening substantial toll hikes because of its $2.4 billion debt load - and how aggressively to push motorists into using electronic Fast Lane transponders.

After LeBovidge acknowledged that he intentionally cut the number of toll takers just before the holiday weekend, making people hours late to family gatherings, Aloisi ordered LeBovidge to substantially increase the number of collectors on duty to ensure there are no similar incidents in the future. LeBovidge subsequently announced he would defer laying off 50 toll takers this summer.

Despite public criticism for the Easter delays, and a provocative decision a week earlier to turn the lights off on the Zakim Bridge to save money, LeBovidge maintained support from key legislative leaders and from Patrick, who praised his management in directing what may be the state's most troubled agency. But the Senate minority leader called for his ouster, unions continued to criticize him as a showboat, and some members of the public called him arrogant for telling them to "grin and bear it" and sign up for Fast Lane passes after the traffic jams.

"We couldn't be any more excited," said Karen Christie, president of the United Steelworkers, Local 5696, which represents lower-level white-collar employees. "We hope we get somebody who makes decisions that are worthwhile, instead of decisions that are saving five thousand bucks for turning off the lights."

One activist who criticized LeBovidge in the past for pushing toll hikes said the resignation would not mean anything in the toll debate. The authority has already voted to double tunnel tolls and raise them substantially elsewhere on July 1 if the state does not provide a financial rescue through new taxes or some other source of revenue.

"I would think we'll just get someone else with a different face, but probably the same result, the same rubber stamp for Patrick," said Michael Kelleher, head of

LeBovidge came to state government late, after retiring from a three-decade career at the firm PricewaterhouseCooper. He worked as commissioner of the Department of Revenue under Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican, before being fired by Patrick in 2007.

The new Democratic governor, however, rehired Lebovidge months later as chief of the Turnpike Authority.

LeBovidge has said frequently that he is not a politician, that he is simply focused on finding the $100 million a year the agency needs to pay off debt and make repairs. The authority's credit rating has been on the verge of junk bond status for months.

His antics and public statements, however, often made headlines and made him part of the political debate.

When he began at the Pike, he said the agency was a cross between a "dictatorship and an absolute monarchy," where employees are afraid to do anything that will get them noticed and depend on consultants to avoid taking responsibility.

At another point, he compared the Turnpike Authority's continuing financial struggles to "walking on broken glass."

Even after anger bubbled over on Easter Sunday, he acknowledged in a Globe interview that he had been alerted to the complaints as they were happening, but continued a quiet weekend at home watching sports.

Turnpike board member Michael Angelini called LeBovidge "superb," and said his departure would make repairing the state's transportation system harder.

"I think Alan no longer found the job to be fun," Angelini said.

Yesterday, LeBovidge said he could no longer justify taking his $160,000 salary, even if it is going to charity.

"I've stripped the operations to the bone and the only place - we did some more layoffs last week - and the only place left to do it is in the toll area," he said. "And I can understand the board is interested in customer service, and if that's true, there's nothing left I can do now."
Noah Bierman can be reached at
"O'Neill tunnel lowers the bar"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, May 9, 2009

It took years to get cellphone service inside the Big Dig tunnel, but only about five months to knock it out.

A truck accident last month has turned the Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill Jr. tunnel into a cellphone quiet zone once again. Repair work has not yet begun.

"I've been now telling people I'm back to where I started from," said Senator Michael W. Morrissey, a Quincy Democrat who had been so frustrated with previous delays that he sponsored a bill to force installation.

Adam Hurtubise, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, said a flatbed truck lost a large cylinder at the Congress Street on-ramp April 11, causing extensive damage to the tunnel walls and the fiber optic cables behind them.

Cell companies that lease space in the tunnels will begin repairs tomorrow and expect to complete them in early June, Hurtubise said. Repair work did not begin earlier because "they had to do tests to see how much was broken," he said.

Mark Elliott, a spokesman for AT&T, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, said, "There's a process that you have to follow with the turnpike, and that's what we're doing to get service back online."

Morrissey said the system should have been built with more redundancy to prevent such a disruption.

Cellphone service is standard in most of the nation's major tunnels, including the Callahan, Sumner, and Ted Williams in Boston. But the O'Neill tunnel did without service for years, the result of failed negotiations with cell companies, inattention to the project, and lengthy federal government reviews.


"Big Dig company pleads guilty: Modern Continental overbilled and lied"
By Jonathan Saltzman, Boston Globe Staff, May 9, 2009

The largest contractor on the Big Dig pleaded guilty yesterday to 39 federal charges of overbilling and lying about construction defects on the project, but prosecutors dropped five other charges that had implicated the company in the fatal 2006 collapse of the ceiling of the Interstate 90 tunnel.

The Cambridge company, Modern Continental Corp., hailed as vindication the decision by the US attorney's office to drop the five charges resulting from the accident that killed a car passenger, Milena Del Valle. The company's lawyers said the collapse occurred because a New York company supplied the wrong epoxy for ceiling panels, not because of poor workmanship by Modern Continental.

"The epoxy didn't work, and Modern Continental had nothing to do with selecting the epoxy," said Michael J. Connolly, a Boston lawyer who represented the company at the change-of-plea hearing in US District Court in Boston. "We believe that the US attorney's office brought charges that it could not possibly prove."

Acting US Attorney Michael K. Loucks issued a statement that suggested Modern Continental is hardly blameless and pointed out that it has already paid millions as a result of the ceiling collapse.

The company previously agreed to pay $21 million in damages to the state in a settlement stemming from the disaster and has contributed to a $28.1 million settlement of a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Del Valle's family in state court. But with the company now broke, there was no point in further charges in the collapse.

"By today's pleas of guilty to 39 felonies, Modern has admitted its felony culpability in the mismanagement of the Big Dig construction project," the statement said. "Given its bankrupt status, the dismissal of particular charges, the government believes, will have no impact on the punishment that the court may impose."

No one is going to jail in the case, he added, because corporations cannot go to prison and are generally punished only with fines.

Modern Continental faces criminal fines of up to $500,000 on each of the 39 counts to which it pleaded guilty, totaling $19.5 million, when it is sentenced Aug. 11.

Company lawyers said it sought the shelter of US Bankruptcy Court last June, three days after federal prosecutors filed criminal charges, and will not be able to pay the fines. "We believe the government will recover nothing in regard to this conviction," Connolly said.

Powers Fasteners Inc. - the epoxy vendor from Brewster, N.Y., referred to by Connolly - is the only other company that has faced criminal charges stemming from the tunnel ceiling collapse. It agreed to pay Massachusetts and Boston $16 million in December to resolve criminal charges filed against it in state court by Attorney General Martha Coakley. In exchange, prosecutors dropped a manslaughter charge against Powers. At the time, Powers accepted its share of responsibility in Del Valle's death, and one of the company's attorneys said Powers intended to "move on and concentrate on its business in tough economic times."

Powers declined to comment yesterday.

In yesterday's hearing before District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock, Modern Continental - represented by its president, John Pastore - pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements in documents about flaws in a concrete panel in the slurry wall of the Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. Tunnel.

Defects in the panel caused the wall to burst in September 2004, allowing 300 gallons of water a minute to gush into the roadway. Prosecutors say field workers reporting to Modern Continental knew of the defects and yet the company certified that the work met specifications.

The company also pleaded guilty to 38 charges of making false statements and submitting phony time and materials slips on the project. Modern Continental admitted it overbilled the project by about $167,000 over 15 years by claiming pay for workers classified as experienced journeymen, when they were, in fact, apprentices.

Federal prosecutors have pursued similar overbilling charges against several other contractors who worked on the project. On Tuesday, they charged Adams Management Group Inc., a subcontractor of McCourt Construction Co., in an alleged overbilling scheme.

Prosecutors had previously dropped five wire fraud charges against Modern Continental.

Yesterday's plea marked the latest development in a seemingly endless series of criminal and civil legal disputes over the Big Dig.

Modern Continental, which started some 30 years ago with a wheelbarrow and a single sidewalk contract in Peabody, became one of the biggest symbols of the problems that plagued the $15 billion project.

The company earned $3.2 billion for work on the Big Dig, but in recent years was considered a virtual shell corporation, teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. After Del Valle's death, federal and state prosecutors, as well as plaintiffs' lawyers, scrutinized what role it played in the collapse. Del Valle, a 38-year-old Jamaica Plain mother, was crushed when tons of concrete tumbled down on the car driven by her husband on July 10, 2006.

The charges filed by federal prosecutors last June alleged that Modern Continental knew that the anchor bolts-and-epoxy system used to hold up the ceiling was faulty but did not correct it. But Connolly said yesterday that the allegation was false and that the company told prosecutors that "under no circumstances would Modern Continental plead guilty to the ceiling collapse counts."

Last November, Modern Continental agreed to pay $21 million for damages stemming from the fatal collapse, as part of an effort by state and federal authorities to recover cost overruns and settle civil suits resulting from Del Valle's death. In March, Coakley announced that she and federal prosecutors had recovered more than $610 million.

Because of Modern Continental's dire financial straits, the $21 million was expected to be deducted from what the state had withheld from Modern Continental on Big Dig contracts.

Last September, Del Valle's family reached settlements with the last of the defendants in the family's wrongful death lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court. The family will collect more than $28 million from Modern Continental, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff (the consortium that oversaw Big Dig design and construction), six smaller companies, and the Turnpike Authority, according to the family's lawyers.

Jeffrey A. Denner, one of the Del Valle family's lawyers, said yesterday that federal and state prosecutors have done an excellent job of holding companies accountable in Del Valle's death.

"If the US government is satisfied that the case against Modern Continental in relation to Milena Del Valle's death couldn't be proved, we're satisfied," he said.
Saltzman can be reached at

"The buck stops nowhere"
May 14, 2009

LEAVE IT TO the lawyers to find the silver lining in a dark fact pattern.

Last week, Modern Continental Corp, the largest contractor on the Big Dig, pleaded guilty to 39 federal charges of overbilling and lying about construction defects. With the guilty pleas, the Cambridge company admitted it overbilled the project by about $167,000 over 15 years. The company also admitted making false statements about flaws in a concrete panel in the slurry wall of the Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. tunnel. Those panel defects allowed 300 gallons of water a minute to gush into the roadway in September 2004.

Not surprisingly, Modern Continental focused on the good news: the decision by the US attorney's office to drop five charges relating to the Big Dig tunnel collapse that killed a car passenger, Milena Del Valle, in 2006. Prosecutors initially alleged that Modern Continental also knew that the anchor bolts-and-epoxy system used to shore up the tunnel ceiling was defective, but did not correct it. The firm denies the allegation.

"The epoxy didn't work, and Modern Continental had nothing to do with selecting the epoxy," said Michael J. Connolly, a Boston lawyer who represented the company at the change-of-plea hearing in US District Court in Boston.

Only one company - Power Fasteners Inc., the epoxy vendor from Brewster, N.Y. - faced criminal charges stemming from the tunnel ceiling collapse. But as Acting US Attorney Michael K. Loucks points out, Modern Continental is hardly blameless in the Big Dig disaster.

It has already agreed to pay $21 million in damages to the state and has contributed to a $28.1 million settlement of a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by Del Valle's family. And, with last week's guilty pleas, "Modern Continental has admitted its felony culpability in the mismanagement of the Big Dig construction project," said Loucks in a statement.

The extent of Big Dig mismanagement still shocks. The project managers, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, were supposed to oversee the work being done by contractors such as Modern Continental. State transportation officials were supposed to oversee the project managers. Federal highway department officials were supposed to oversee the overall project, which received billions in federal money.

On paper, oversight abounded. In practice, no one was really in charge. Too many managers allowed panic over the project's escalating costs to get in the way of judgment about public safety. The result was an engineering marvel marred by a fatal flaw. No legal argument alters that truth.


Thomas Kinton Jr., chief executive officer of the Massachusetts Port Authority, was honored at a dinner last week attended by engineers, architects, and construction executives. (Travis Dove for The Boston Globe/File 2008)

"Massport chief draws ire after dining with contractors: Sponsors have big projects at Logan"
By Andrea Estes, Boston Globe Staff, May 16, 2009

Companies with large construction projects at Logan Airport paid thousands of dollars last week to attend a dinner honoring Massport chief Thomas Kinton Jr., who runs the airport, drawing criticism from other officials who viewed it as a possible conflict of interest.

Some 285 engineers, architects, and construction executives attended the event at the Four Seasons Hotel Boston, according to Abbie Goodman, executive director of the Engineering Center, a Beacon Hill nonprofit group that organized the dinner.

Tickets sold for $500 and up and the dinner raised approximately $249,000, Goodman said. She would not release the event's guest list, but the four major sponsors listed on the invitation have won contracts worth millions of dollars from the Massachusetts Port Authority, agency officials said. They could not give total contract amounts, but said that in 2008 the four companies were paid $4.4 million.

Sara Prem, spokeswoman for one of the companies, HNTB, which is helping to build a new taxiway at the airport, said the company has been a sponsor of the event for 11 years and said there was no attempt to influence Kinton.

"It's all about charity," she said.

Kinton, who received a $530 crystal obelisk inscribed with his name, declined a request for an interview.

A statement issued by Massport media relations director Matthew Brelis said: "Tom received the award for his four decades as an engineer and his dedication to the profession. Anyone who knows Tom knows how absurd it would be to think a dinner would somehow influence his judgment."

Agency spokeswoman Danny Levy said Kinton relied on a 2007 state Ethics Commission advisory letter given to another official to determine that participating in the dinner would not violate conflict of interest law. She would not release the letter.

Even though he heads the agency, Kinton plays no direct role in the selection of contractors or supervising construction projects, Levy said; those duties are carried out by an 11-member Massport panel and Kinton's staff, she said.

Critics said the dinner appears to be a way for public works contractors to curry favor with officials who can help their business.

Besides Kinton, a group of Massport employees also attended the function at the agency's expense.

Former honorees include David Perini, executive director of the state's Division of Capital Asset Management; former Turnpike Authority executive director Matthew Amorello; and former Massachusetts Water Resources Authority executive director Douglas MacDonald.

Doug Rubin, Governor Deval Patrick's chief of staff, said that when an organization wishes to honor the governor or a member of his staff, the governor's lawyers look for "any potential conflict of interest.

"In a case like this, we wouldn't give permission to somebody to participate in this kind of event," Rubin said.

State Senator Mark Montigny, Democrat of New Bedford, long a critic of the state's quasipublic agencies such as Massport and the Turnpike Authority, called the event "highly inappropriate. You have a budget crisis and unfolding scandals. Anyone who picks up a newspaper knows this is a time when people should be not only careful but very conservative and watchful. This type of stuff is exactly what feeds the very appropriate public anger."

The dinner has been described by its organizers as a way to raise money for engineering education and scholarships through their Engineering Center Education Trust. Massport supports the Engineering Center Education Trust with annual donations "because they provide scholarships to engineering students," Levy said.

But a review of public documents filed by the Education Trust shows that a small fraction of the money it raises is spent on educational grants, and none goes directly toward scholarships. Its 2008 public disclosure filing shows that, of the $184,000 raised at the annual dinner, none was spent on grants.

In 2007, according to the disclosure forms, the nonprofit group collected more than $254,000 at its dinner and made a single donation - $20,000 to the St. John's Preparatory School in Danvers. One of the school's trustees was Perini, who was the honoree at its annual dinner that year.

In 2006, the organization raised $255,570 at its dinner and gave out $23,980 in grants, records show. Half of the total in that year went to related groups - the American Council of Engineering Companies of Massachusetts, the Boston Society of Civil Engineers, and the Massachusetts Association of Land Surveyors & Civil Engineers. These groups, which are housed in the same building as the Engineering Trust, provide scholarships, Goodman said. The rest, in 2006, went to a preengineering program for minority students that no longer exists.

Goodman said the organization has given out annual grants, despite what the tax returns say. She was unable to explain why the grants were not listed, except to say that small grants and donations don't have to be disclosed publicly.

"We give grants every single year," she said.

At the May 6 event, the top donor was Donovan Hatem, a law firm that represents many engineering and design companies including Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, the consortium that oversaw construction of the $15 billion Big Dig tunnel project.

The firm was listed on the invitation as a member of the "Golden Circle," where minimum donations are $15,000.

David Hatem, founding partner, said yesterday that his firm sponsors the dinner because "it's a good event for a good purpose - scholarships and the advancement of engineers and the engineering community."

The four companies described as "leaders" on the invitation, which paid at least $10,000, were Fay, Spofford & Thorndike, Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, HNTB, and Parsons Brinckerhoff.

Fay, Spofford & Thorndike has upgraded a Logan terminal, and made improvements to security systems and roadways at the airport.

HNTB is building the airport's new taxiway. Vanasse Hangen Brustlin has provided "strategic planning and design services" for Massport's South Boston real estate holdings, and has prepared the agency's environmental impact reports for more than 20 years, according to its website.

Parsons Brinckerhoff, half of the partnership that managed construction of the Big Dig, was chosen last year for a $30 million contract to design and manage construction of a parking complex at the airport.

Richard O'Brien, manager of the Boston office of Parsons Brinckerhoff, said the company has sponsored the dinner "at one level or another" for years. "We look at this as a matter of corporate citizenship. We do it more as part of our long-term commitment to Boston. We don't look at who the honoree is."

He also wouldn't discuss his firm's business with Massport.
Andrea Estes can be reached at

"Report places blame for Mass. Pike's Easter delays" - AP - May 21, 2009

BOSTON --The decision by a former turnpike executive to "control costs and preserve revenue" was among the reasons cited for the miles-long traffic backup on the Massachusetts Turnpike on Easter Sunday that left drivers sitting in long lines at tolls, according an internal report released Thursday.

The report by the Executive Office of Transportation and Public Works was presented to the Pike's board of directors. It found backups that stretched for eight miles were, in part, caused by former executive director Alan LeBovidge and his decision not to call in replacements for toll collectors who called out sick.

Statistics released by the Turnpike Authority showed that 17 out of 167 scheduled toll collectors called in sick.

The State Police, meanwhile, did not seek permission from LeBovidge to wave motorists through booths without stopping to pay the toll because they believed he would not approve the request.

The report said delays were not caused by any deliberate effort to force drivers to get Fast Lane electronic toll transponders, as some motorists speculated. It also said the traffic jam wasn't created to generate public support for a gas tax increase to ease the Pike's financial problems.

"Indeed, it is clear that the zeal to control costs and preserve revenue has permeated into the core decision-making process at the MTA," the report said. "However well-intentioned they may have been, these decisions impacted public convenience that day."

State Police can now waive tolls if backups are excessive. Previously, troopers needed the approval of the Pike's executive director.

The authority also announced it has added five new cameras along the roadway that motorists can check on the Pike's Web site to assess traffic conditions.

LeBovidge resigned from the Pike earlier this month after his decisions on Easter were second-guessed. He had also been criticized for shutting off the blue lights on the Zakim Bridge, one of the Boston's signature spans, to save the $5,000 monthly electricity bill. extinguishing the lighting on Boston's signature Zakim Bridge to save the $5,000 monthly electricity bill.
On the Net: Massachusetts Turnpike Authority:

"End of the Road"
"Feeling, just a little, for the ex-Pike leader"
By Charles P. Pierce, The Boston Globe, Opinion, May 24, 2009

Dear Alan LeBovidge: Farewell, head of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. You obviously didn't read the fine print in your job description, because way down there at the bottom, in tiny letters, perhaps written in the old Colonial printing style where the s's are all f's, is stated the most important thing about your old job. It says, "The chief accepts as a fundamental condition of his employment the fact that he absolutely, and perpetually, cannot win." There are thankless jobs, and there are thankless jobs, and there is crab fishing in the Bering Sea, and then there is your former job. One thing you never realized is that we have an absolute right to an absolutely free highway from New York to Logan Airport. It is guaranteed to us by the sacred texts handed down from one generation of angry radio hosts to the next. Of course, having the toll takers bail on Easter Sunday didn't help much, either. And then there's turning off the lights on the Zakim Bridge. Only an infusion of private money kept the backdrop from going dark behind our local pundits on all the national TV gabfests. So out you went. Hell hath no fury like an SUV dad stranded for four hours between Millbury and Westborough. As to the bridge, well, it's the one thing on your whole tenure at the Pike that can be said to have gotten brighter. Good work.

Charles P. Pierce /


"Big Dig subcontractor pleads guilty to overbilling" - AP - May 21, 2009

BOSTON --A company that worked on Boston's $15 billion Big Dig has pleaded guilty in federal court to overbilling the highway project by claiming some workers were entitled to higher pay.

Federal prosecutors said Wednesday that Adams Management Group, Inc. pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to defraud the United States.

Authorities say the company, a subcontractor to McCourt Construction Co., falsely categorized apprentice workers as journeymen during work from 2002 through 2006 during tunnel finishing work.

Prosecutors say the company faces a fine of up to $500,000 and five years of probation. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 14.

A call to the company before business hours Thursday was not immediately returned.


"Plaintiffs count Big Dig a burden: Turnpike users cite $442m tolls"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, June 8, 2009

Massachusetts Turnpike commuters have paid $442 million in tolls to cover Big Dig expenses over the past three years, according to a financial analyst hired as part of a class action lawsuit against the Turnpike Authority.

Commuters, politicians, and state officials have long argued that tolls collected on the turnpike have been used to pay off unrelated portions of the $15 billion project, amounting to a back-door tax that unfairly burdens one segment of the public.

The analysis by Babson College finance professor Mark Potter comes closest to assigning a dollar figure to that burden, and it is likely to feed the political debate surrounding the toll road's future.

Attorneys representing about 1,700 toll payers seeking to collect damages against the authority say they plan to file the analysis in Middlesex Superior Court today, as part of a hearing to evaluate turnpike assets in an attempt to prevent the authority from liquidating them.

Potter's analysis, obtained by the Globe last night, has not been reviewed by an outside party or by the authority.

Turnpike authority spokesman Colin Durrant said the agency would not comment on the analysis because it is part of pending litigation.

Potter said he did not have access to internal turnpike documents that would show details of spending on operations and maintenance in Greater Boston. Instead, he depended on budget documents that show where the agency's revenues come from, and then he estimated how they were spent, based on the value assigned to roads by turnpike officials.

Tolls account for 86 percent of the authority's revenue stream in Greater Boston, but non-tolled roads account for 72 percent of the system's value, according to Potter's analysis.

"This is really important because it's based on information that they've not shared with the public, so people have not been able to make these calculations," said Jan Schlichtmann, lead attorney representing the plaintiffs.

The authority assumed close to $2 billion in Big Dig debt beginning in 1997 as the megaproject under downtown Boston was looking for a stable asset that had capacity to borrow money. Since then, the debt has left the authority close to insolvency and forced politically difficult decisions about toll increases, including one that could take effect next month that would double tunnel tolls and raise them substantially in Greater Boston.

The Legislature is finalizing a plan that would use some of the money from an expected 25 percent sales tax increase to provide the authority with $100 million to cover debt and operating expenses in order to avoid next month's toll hike. At the same time, the Legislature is negotiating the final elements of a bill to eliminate the authority, as part of a larger reorganization of state agencies.

The turnpike authority conducted its own "toll equity study" last year, but never released a final report as the agency's financial condition deteriorated significantly and debate within the authority's board became increasingly contentious.
Noah Bierman can be reached at

"Turnpike attorneys defend toll practices: Commuter lawsuit frivolous, they say"
By Matt Collette, Boston Globe Correspondent, June 9, 2009

Lawyers for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, in a pretrial hearing yesterday on a class action lawsuit filed by a group of commuters, defended its practice of collecting tolls on the Massachusetts Turnpike and distributing that revenue across the state highway system.

One of the attorneys, Adam Lewis, called the suit, which also targets the Turnpike Authority's use of toll money to pay debts from the Big Dig project, frivolous.

"Your honor, this is not a legitimate claim," Lewis said. "It's political theater, and it's bad theater."

At Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn, Lewis said 75 percent of drivers on Interstate 90 also use Interstate 93, which is not a toll road but is partially funded by the turnpike's tolls. He said the Legislature had set the policy that allows tolls to fund highway projects beyond the roads they were collected on and said the courts in Massachusetts and across the nation have allowed similar practices.

Jan Schlichtmann - lead attorney for the Massachusetts Turnpike Toll Equity Trust, which filed the lawsuit - wants the Turnpike Authority to give $300 million in rebates to drivers who pay turnpike tolls. The trust is made up of about 1,700 motorists from Massachusetts and out of state.

"The first hurdle is that, even if you prevail, the defendant is not likely to be able to pay," Judge Herman Smith said in response. "This is Massachusetts; I think we have only a dollar or two."

Schlichtmann asked Smith to place attachments on Turnpike Authority property so that his clients could still receive payouts even if the Turnpike Authority is eliminated by a reorganization of state transportation agencies.

"We're not going to give the plaintiff a lien on the Ted Williams Tunnel or the Zakim Bridge," said Lewis. "When I heard of that, I thought I was dreaming."

Lewis said such attachments could impair the authority's ability to conduct business and potentially hurt its credit rating.

The $300 million request stems from a study commissioned by Babson College finance professor Mark Potter, who was hired by the trust to analyze the Turnpike Authority's revenues and costs. The authority received his six-page affidavit and several hundred pages of supporting material at midnight before yesterday's 2 p.m. hearing, Lewis said.

When Schlichtmann asked that Potter be allowed to testify in court yesterday, Lewis objected, accusing him of "putting on a show at the evidentiary hearing." As he spoke, Lewis waved the thick packet of papers in the air, dropping the report to his desk to punctuate his statement.

Neither request was honored, and Smith said Potter could testify at a later date, once the trial officially begins.

According to Potter's report, $442 million in tolls collected on the turnpike since 2006 has funded roads without tolls, including the Southeast Expressway and the portion of I-90 nearest Boston.

Potter's analysis has not been reviewed by an outside party or the Turnpike Authority.

Yesterday's hearing ended without any decision from the judge, who said that even if the trust won the suit, its beneficiaries would not receive anywhere near the rebate they seek.

"These plaintiffs, whatever their claims may be, cannot be entitled to $300 million," Smith said. "Even with 1,700 plaintiffs, you're not going to get $300 million."

After the trial, Schlichtmann said all turnpike tollpayers deserve rebates since their tolls were not exclusively used for the service they were paying for.

He did not budge from his initial request of $300 million.
Matt Collette can be reached at

"Toll increase decision put off to Monday: Officials awaiting action on budget"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, June 25, 2009

A crucial decision on whether to rescind a $100 million toll hike on the Massachusetts Turnpike, initially scheduled for today, has been pushed back to Monday because of unresolved political questions on Beacon Hill.

Though the Turnpike Authority board is still hoping to avoid the increase, yesterday’s decision to delay a scheduled meeting in Framingham was a reminder that the issue could remain in doubt up until the tolls are officially scheduled to go up, on Wednesday.

“It’s just inevitable that it’s going to go to the last hour,’’ said Judy Pagliuca, a board member.

With Governor Deval Patrick still considering a veto of a sales tax increase, the authority does not know if it will get a bailout to prevent a toll increase, approved in March, that would double tolls at the harbor tunnels and raise them substantially at other booths in Greater Boston. Board members have been hopeful that money set aside in the state budget from a sales tax increase would allow the board to avert the increase.

“Unless and until the executive and legislative branches of government reach sufficient agreement to provide the Turnpike Authority with $100 million, which everyone recognizes it needs, the only thing we can do is have that toll increase,’’ said Michael Angelini, a board member. “In a way, we’re spectators to a drama conducted elsewhere.’’

Patrick has linked his decision on whether to sign the budget to two unresolved issues in the Legislature: a transportation overhaul bill that was passed last week but is still unsigned and an ethics bill released yesterday.

“Given the time needed to determine whether these bills meet the long-term needs of the Commonwealth, it is both prudent and respectful to postpone the . . . board meeting until next Monday,’’ James A. Aloisi Jr., chairman of the Turnpike Authority and transportation secretary, said in a statement.

The Turnpike Authority received more bad financial news yesterday. The authority’s bond insurer, Ambac Financial Group, had its credit rating downgraded to junk status.

That will probably set off a chain of events that puts the Turnpike Authority at risk of being forced to make a $268 million lump-sum payment to the banking giant UBS to settle a complex investment made earlier this decade.

The downgrade has been anticipated for a year, and the Patrick administration, with credit backing from the Legislature, has been negotiating with UBS to avoid a lump-sum settlement, said Cyndi Roy, spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Administration and Finance.
Noah Bierman can be reached at

The Boston Globe, Letters, July 8, 2009
WHAT NEW ARENA FOR PALIN? - "One-way ticket?"

THE NEWS of Governor Palin’s resignation makes me think of William Weld. Who remembers all the things he did after he stepped down as governor of Massachusetts?


A. David Brown
Brighton, Massachusetts


"Massport employee killed in industrial accident"
By Jack Nicas, Boston Globe Correspondent, July 17, 2009

A 50-year-old East Boston man died today in an industrial accident that left him pinned under a concrete barrier at the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal in South Boston, state and city officials said.

The Massachusetts Port Authority employee was found trapped in a Massport warehouse at 1 Black Falcon Avenue in South Boston.

State police and Massport police arrived at the scene just after 3 p.m. today and found the victim dead on arrival.

State Police are investigating.

"No signs of violence or foul play have been found at the scene," said Jake Wark, spokesman for the Suffolk County district attorney's office.


"Mass. Pike gets debt reprieve: UBS extends deal deadline"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, July 25, 2009

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority received a temporary reprieve yesterday on a potential obligation to pay a $67 million lump sum to banking giant UBS.

The authority had faced a July 24, 2009, deadline to finish negotiating with the bank over how to proceed with a complex debt swap the two parties entered into in 2001. A spokesman for Governor Deval Patrick said UBS has extended the deadline to August.

The original deal generated $29.1 million for the authority at the time, but has since soured, forcing the Turnpike Authority to pay high interest rates and putting it at risk for large lump-sum payments.

This week, state officials succeeded in persuading credit agencies to raise one of the authority’s credit ratings, which in turn protected the agency from the threat of an even larger lump-sum payment of more than $250 million. Even if the Turnpike Authority ultimately avoids the final lump-sum payment of $67 million, it will continue to pay additional interest to UBS, which is estimated to cost an extra $26 million this year. The state is hoping the authority’s improved credit rating, from the brink of junk bond status to more stability, will allow it to refinance its debt and save that money.



Re: UBS inequities in both Massachusetts & the USA

Let us not forget that we bailed out UBS for a lot more money than they gave the Mass. Pike another couple of weeks to pay up on. The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority received a temporary reprieve yesterday on a potential obligation to pay a $67 million lump sum to banking giant UBS due to a complex debt swap the two parties entered into in 2001.

SOURCE: "No Good Deed: The Fed's unappreciated bailout of a miscreant Swiss bank" (The Washington Post, Editorial, A12, Saturday, March 7, 2009): Switzerland's largest financial institution is the Zurich-based bank UBS, which helped wealthy Americans avoid taxes through secret accounts. Yet, UBS might have been bankrupt today if not for a bailout from -- you guessed it -- the United States. the Federal Reserve bailed out UBS to the tune of $54 billion of American's hard earned taxpayer dollars! This transfer of wealth from Americans to the Swiss amounted to more than 10 percent of Swiss GDP. It was called the Fed-SNB deal, which was a "currency swap" between the two central banks. SNB stands for Swiss National Bank. The Fed believed that the swap was in the interest of the United States, since a UBS meltdown might have exacerbated the global financial crisis.

- Jonathan Melle

"Four convicted of delivering substandard concrete to Big Dig"
By Matt Collette, Boston Globe Correspondent, August 4, 2009

Four former managers for Aggregate Industries NE, Inc., the company that provided 135,000 truckloads of concrete for Big Dig projects, have been convicted in federal court of conspiring to defraud the government by delivering substandard concrete to work sites, federal prosecutors said.

The four men were indicted in 2006 on charges that they delivered more than 5,000 truckloads of concrete that were more than 90 minutes old and had begun to harden, had extra water added, or did not match Big Dig project specifications, Acting US Attorney Michael K. Loucks said in a statement. Each truckload carried about 10 cubic yards of concrete.

To cover up their actions, the men produced false batch reports that officials used to determine the quality and amount of concrete used, prosecutors said. The substandard concrete was not implicated in the 2006 tunnel ceiling collapse that killed one driver, the focus of considerable civil and criminal ligitation in the years following.

At the end of the three-week trial in US District Court in Boston, a jury on Monday found Robert Prosperi, 64, of Lynnfield; Gregory A. Stevenson, 53, of Furlong, Penn.; John J. Farrar, 43, of Canterbury, Conn.; and Marc Blais, 36, of Lynn guilty on conspiracy and fraud charges.

Keith H. Thomas, 51, of Billerica, and Gerard M. McNally, 54, of Rockland, who were also involved in the scheme, pleaded guilty on July 8 to charges of conspiracy and fraud.

"We believe justice was done," Loucks said in a telephone interview this afternoon. "We're pleased with the jury verdict. The jury plainly gave weight to the substantial evidence we introduced at trial demonstrating the fraud involving the delivery of concrete to the Big Dig."

Sentencing has been scheduled for November, said Christina DiIorio-Sterling, a spokeswoman for Loucks. The convictions bring the federal litigation against Aggregate to a close.

Though criminal cases against the managers continued until this month, Aggregate reached a deal with prosecutors in 2007. The company pleaded guilty to fraud charges stemming from the delivery of the sub-standard concrete and agreed to pay $42 million to settle the criminal investigation plus an additional $8 million in criminal fines. At that time, Attorney General Martha Coakley said $27 million of the settlement would be used to pay for future maintenance and repairs to Big Dig highways and tunnels.

The agreement allowed the company, which was paid $105 million for its Big Dig work, to continue to receive government contracts. This year, the state awarded Aggregate $4.2 million in stimulus money to resurface Route 2 between Littleton and Harvard.

In a statement released by an Aggregate spokesman, the company said it had cooperated with prosecutors and was disappointed by the verdict.

"While we regret that these former employees have been found guilty, the jury has spoken and it would be inappropriate for us to second-guess them. It is important to note, however, that the evidence at trial once again showed that the concrete provided by Aggregate Industries Northeast to the Big Dig was both safe and strong," the statement said.

"T chief resigns under pressure: Grabauskas gets $327,000 package"
By Matt Viser, Boston Globe Staff, August 7, 2009

Daniel A. Grabauskas, the embattled general manager of the MBTA, resigned under pressure last night after a marathon meeting of the agency’s board, completing what will be a costly takeover by Governor Deval Patrick’s administration.

The board, by a 5-to-3 vote, agreed to pay Grabauskas $327,487 to settle the remaining nine months of his contract, including salary, vacation, and sick days. Grabauskas’s resignation was effective immediately, and his job will be filled by William Mitchell, the T’s general counsel, until a permanent general manager can be found.

Grabauskas was forced out at a critical time for the state’s transportation beauracracy, which will be reorganized as a result of a new transportation law approved by the Legislature.

“I’m hoping that we can get back on track, no pun intended,’’ Transportation Secretary James A. Aloisi told reporters after four hours of closed-door negotiations, “and demonstrate our commitment to the riders of the T, that we put them first.’’

Aloisi pledged that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will focus more on customer service and safety, promising improvements in punctuality and the addition of amenities such as air conditioning on trains.

Patrick had questioned the management of the public transit agency following two Green Line crashes and financial troubles. But Grabuaskas’s backers, who include legislative leaders and members of the T board, have praised his leadership of the chronically troubled transit agency and say Patrick’s campaign to remove him is purely political.

Grabauskas, a Republican appointed by Governor Mitt Romney, had several high-profile Democratic proponents, including House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, Senate President Therese Murray, and Mayor Thomas M. Menino, but Patrick persisted in seeking his ouster.

“It’s in the public’s interest to have a fresh perspective on the MBTA,’’ Aloisi said last night. “It’s in the public’s interest to move away from the status quo. It’s in the public’s interest to move away from the kind of customer service that people haven’t been satisfied with.’’

Aloisi also suggested that a fare increase may not go into effect, depending on the results of a review of the MBTA’s finances.

“I’m not going to bring a fare increase to the board based on these circumstances, until we have this top-to-bottom review and until I’m convinced we’ve kicked the tires on it to know we don’t have any options,’’ he said.

He would not provide a timeline for completion of the review, although he said public hearings on the proposed increase would continue this month. The fare increases, which include raising single bus or subway rides by 50 cents, could go into effect by January.

The MBTA board spent hours behind closed doors with Grabauskas yesterday hashing out his fate. Patrick’s administration, led by Aloisi, who chairs the T board, had been pushing members to place Grabauskas, whose salary this year is $255,000, on a paid administrative leave as the Patrick administration maneuvered his removal.

Grabauskas left the meeting last night without addressing reporters, and his spokesman did not return calls seeking comment. Some of his supporters, though, rose to his defense and criticized Patrick for orchestrating his ouster.

“The public interest has not been well-served,’’ Senator Steven A. Baddour, a Methuen Democrat and cochairman of the Transportation Committee, said last night in a statement. “It is discouraging beyond words to watch the governor and the soon-to-be-abolished MBTA board spend their time trying to settle a political score at taxpayer’s expense when we have so many serious matters that need focus.’’

The board meeting yesterday began with a call for civility from Aloisi, who quoted Thomas Jefferson and urged members “to rise above heated words’’ in an escalating row with Grabauskas.

“I will not do to others what has often been done to me,’’ Aloisi said during the public portion of the meeting at the state Transportation Building. “Questions about motive or character have no place in this discussion.’’

The eight-member board later voted unanimously to go behind closed doors with Grabauskas to discuss personnel issues.

During the day, Aloisi left the room several times. When asked later if he was speaking to the governor, he declined to comment.

Patrick yesterday confirmed that he had asked former John Hancock chief executive officer David D’Alessandro to conduct a “top-to-bottom review’’ of the MBTA.

Patrick said on WTKK-FM’s show “Ask the Governor’’ that he had asked D’Alessandro to “gather a couple of others who know their way around managing large organizations and complex finances to give us some fresh eyes’’ on the agency.

The board later in the afternoon approved such a study, which will be done at no cost to the state.

Asked by talk show host Jim Braude if Grabauskas was going to be fired yesterday, Patrick said, “With due respect to the general manager, he is not my first concern. My first concern is the safety of the riders and the competence of the financial oversight at the MBTA and I think there’s some serious question on both those fronts.’’

Patrick spokesman Kyle Sullivan last night said the governor “understands the board’s desire to seek new leadership of the MBTA.’’

But Sullivan said he “strongly disagrees with the decision of the Board to approve a compensation agreement that is out of line with both the fiscal condition of the MBTA but also with the job performance of the general manager.’’

Under the terms of the deal, Grabauskas will receive $215,000 in base compensation, $44,000 for unused vacation days, $32,000 for unused sick days, and $35,000 in deferred and other pay. He will also receive full health insurance until his contract expires on May 15, 2010.

Although Aloisi helped engineer the deal, he was among three board members that ultimately voted against it because they thought it was too generous. The others were Janice Loux and Darnell Williams, both who were appointed or reappointed by Patrick.

Each member said they thought the agreement was too favorable to Grabauskas and they wanted a better deal.

“To me this has always been about performance, not politics,’’ Loux said. “I opposed giving him a golden handshake.’’

Grabauskas signed the agreement at 7:29 last night, and resigned 1 minute later.
Martin Finucane and Andrew Ryan contributed to this report.

"Audit finds fault in Mass. Pike toll system"
Associated Press, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2009

BOSTON (AP) - A state audit has determined that tens of thousands of Massachusetts drivers who use electronic transponders to pay tolls have been hit with additional charges because the company that provided the system violated its contract by failing to inspect it.

State Auditor Joseph DeNucci found that Fast Lane provider TransCore failed to inspect transponder equipment over the past two years as mandated in its $11 million-a-year contract.

DeNucci says inspections might have alerted Massachusetts Turnpike Authority officials of problems.

His office found that defective equipment caused 113,940 Fast Lane overcharges last year, totaling $190,441.

Pike Executive Director Jeff Mullan told the Boston Herald the overcharges are a minuscule percentage of the 119 million transactions on the Pike every year. He promised refunds.


"Judge postpones sentencing Big Dig contractor"
By Associated Press, Tuesday, August 11, 2009, - Local Coverage

A judge has postponed sentencing one of the Big Dig’s largest contractors in connection with work on the $15 billion Boston highway project, even though the company has declared bankruptcy.

U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock said Tuesday that he wanted to hear testimony from expert witnesses before resolving two key issues — estimates on the cost of overbilling by Modern Continental Construction Co. and the poor workmanship that led to a 2004 blowout in the project’s I-93 tunnel under downtown Boston.

The company has already pleaded guilty to 39 counts of making false statements, acknowledging both the overbilling and that some of its employees knew of the poor workmanship.

Woodlock said he wants to impose a fair sentence regardless of whether the company can pay.

"My Daily Work: Patrick's road to reform"

Posted by Dan Wasserman, The Boston Globe, August 11, 2009

"Tollpayers lose bid for injunction against the Pike"
By Martin Finucane, Boston Globe Staff, August 18, 2009

A group of tollpayers suing the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority have lost their initial bid to stop the authority from using revenue collected from turnpike and tunnel tolls to pay for the Big Dig project.

Middlesex Superior Court Judge H.J. Smith Jr. denied the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction, saying that the plaintiffs hadn't shown they were likely to succeed on the merits.

"At this juncture, the court finds that the plaintiffs have not demonstrated that they are likely to prevail on the merits of their contention that the [Turnpike's] tolls are unconstitutional taxes," Smith wrote.

He also said he could not find that issuing an injunction would promote the public interest.

Smith noted that the Turnpike had argued that if it could not use the toll money to pay for the Big Dig, it would be "unable to meet its financial obligations and could be forced to withhold essential services or even shut down entire segments of central roadways."

"In view of the logistical problems that cutting highway services and/or diverting motor vehicle traffic would cause for an overwhelming segment of the general public, the court cannot say that the requested relief either promotes the public interest or would not adversely affect the public," the judge wrote in his opinion issued Monday.

Jan Schlichtmann, lead attorney for the 2,300 tollpayers who are bringing the suit, said they were disappointed, but would immediately appeal.

"We believe there is a fundamental constitutional principle involved that must be vindicated: The government cannot constitutionally charge some drivers to use a road system in order for most of the drivers to use it for free. We will immediately petition the Appeals Court to right this wrong and uphold the basic constitutional principle that governmental fees must be fair and equitable," Schlichtmann said in a statement.

Before 1997, the Turnpike Authority collected tolls only for the maintenance and operation of the Turnpike. But after legislation enacted that year, the Turnpike has been using tolls collected on the Turnpike and harbor tunnels to pay for the Big Dig, which includes roadways where drivers are not required to pay a toll, the judge said.

The plaintiffs say their tolls should not be used to pay for the Big Dig, which, in addition to building a new harbor tunnel, put Interstate 93 underground through the downtown area. There is no toll on Interstate 93.


Developer John Rosenthal hopes to start construction of the Fenway Center complex near Kenmore Square next year.

"State may absorb $30m on project built over Pike"
By Casey Ross, Boston Globe Staff, August 20, 2009

Governor Deval Patrick’s administration is offering to absorb up to $30 million of a developer’s cost to build a mammoth complex above the Massachusetts Turnpike, in hopes of jump-starting construction over the highway after the most recent effort, Columbus Center, stalled.

The financial support would help John Rosenthal begin construction much earlier on the $450 million Fenway Center complex, giving the state an opportunity to collect rental income over the life of a 99-year lease with him.

The state had hoped the nearby Columbus Center project would by now be generating revenue, and setting the pace for a larger building boom in the air rights over the highway. But that $800 million condominium, hotel, and retail development stalled last year due to a lack of funding.

“The turnpike needs a win,’’ said Peter O’Connor, head of real estate for the state Executive Office of Transportation. “There has always been a feeling that these air-rights parcels had inherent value, but I don’t think anyone has ever proven that point.’’

With aid from the state, O’Connor and Rosenthal said, they are optimistic that construction on Fenway Center can begin next summer. The developer had expected to begin work on only one small part of the project next summer, with the goal of tackling larger buildings in the coming years.

Fenway Center’s four buildings would contain 800,000 square feet for apartments, stores, and offices, as well as a 1,300-space parking garage and retail building near the ballpark.

Rosenthal’s Meredith Management Corp. submitted the only bid in 2006 to develop four air-rights parcels and land between Kenmore Square and Fenway Park.

The plan has some of the same complexities as Columbus Center, but Rosenthal’s project is much easier to design and build, O’Connor said. For one thing, half of it is on land, reducing the size and cost of the deck that will be built over the highway. There are fewer rail lines to build around - two compared to seven for Columbus Center - and neither one is electrified, which simplifies construction.

But perhaps most important to Fenway Center’s odds of success is the Patrick administration’s willingness to help pay for the higher costs associated with building over the turnpike, rather than on the ground. Instead of requiring Rosenthal to pay the full cost of the deck, the state would pay up to $30 million toward that additional cost.

The financial arrangement would work like this: The state, instead of requiring a large upfront lease payment from Rosenthal, would get a percentage of the development’s profits once it is completed. Then, the state would deduct its share of the deck construction costs from those profits, in the form of a rent credit to Rosenthal. Once the extra cost of the deck is paid for, the state would be paid the full amount of the profits for the remainder of the 99-year lease.

O’Connor said the Turnpike Authority does not yet know how much it will earn in lease payments, nor does it have a cost estimate for the deck.

The deal is much different from the one reached for Columbus Center, whose developers would have had to pay the full cost of a $220 million deck, plus $13 million in lease payments during construction. That project’s proponents also received and then lost commitments for subsidies from the state.

Rosenthal’s other funding source is the Boston Red Sox, which is a minority partner and has invested millions of dollars in the project. The garage over the turnpike would provide game-day parking. The Sox’s involvement would also give it say over how the development would affect access to Fenway Park, as well as views from inside the ballpark. The New York Times Co., owner of the Globe, owns 17 percent of the company that owns the Red Sox.

The development also includes upgrades to the MBTA’s Yawkey train station as well as a new access road. The road work and train station would be financed with $24.5 million from an economic stimulus bill approved by the Legislature in 2006.

Rosenthal has also applied for $52 million in tax-exempt federal bonds and asked the City of Boston for permission to defer property tax payments for several years.

“We would like to get a tax relief agreement to help us in the early years during construction and prior to full occupancy,’’ Rosenthal said.

The director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, John Palmieri, said the city is considering the Fenway Center help, but only if it is clear the development can move forward.

“We want to make sure that whatever assistance we make available, it results in a built project,’’ he said. “It’s important that we take a hard look at that before we commit to anything.’’

The city committed more than $14 million to help Columbus Center get off the ground, only to watch it come to a halt after running into financial problems.

Rosenthal said he is trying to iron out the financial details to ensure the same fate won’t befall Fenway Center. He said he has a preliminary financial commitment from the AFL-CIO’s housing investment trust and has reached a deal to lease more than half of the space in the parking garage to the nonprofit group that handles operations for Longwood Medical Area.

“This is a makeable putt for us,’’ Rosenthal said. “I feel very confident that we will begin building Yawkey Station next summer, and that we will immediately follow that with the first phase of our development, including the apartments, garage, and retail stores.’’
Casey Ross can be reached at

Transportation Secretary James A. Aloisi Jr.

"Transportation Secretary Aloisi to step down"
By Andrea Estes and Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, September 11, 2009

The governor’s transportation secretary, James A. Aloisi Jr., is leaving his job, after less than one year in his position.

He told his staff today that he will not be staying on after Nov. 1, when the nature of the position changes as part of a recently passed transportation system overhaul.

A statement released by his office this afternoon did not provide a reason.

“In the coming weeks and months, he looks forward to continuing his work with the dedicated employees of our state's transportation agencies and authorities to implement the landmark transportation reforms signed into law earlier this year by Governor Patrick,” the statement said.

Aloisi, whose many feuds with public officials included a high-profile fight to oust the director of the MBTA, Dan Grabauskas, drew controversy from the start for his role in the Big Dig. He served as a former general counsel to the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and a private lawyer working on the project.

Jeff Mullan, executive director of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and the former second-in-command at the secretary’s office, has long been mentioned as a possible successor. A state official said Mullan was indeed a candidate, but that no decision has been made.

Aloisi was Governor Deval Patrick’s point person in passing a recent transportation overhaul bill that will consolidate several agencies and eliminate the turnpike authority.

Bernard Cohen, the previous transportation secretary, resigned in December 2008.

Aloisi was a lobbyist and veteran of state government who has been at the center of the Big Dig and other major transportation projects and controversies for the past three decades. He was considered politically savvy and well-connected, but he had a bumpy ride during his tenure as transportation secretary.


Vincent F. Zarrilli, a civic activist, has monitored the numerous crashes in the O’Neill tunnel. (Yoon S. Byun/ Globe Staff)

"O’Neill tunnel sees more crashes than Sumner, Callahan"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, September 13, 2009

There were 49 crashes in the Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. tunnel from March until June this year. Over the same period, there were three crashes in the Sumner and Callahan tunnels.

These statistics come via Vincent F. Zarrilli, a civic activist and long-time Big Dig critic. Zarrilli has used the state’s public records law to monitor crashes in the tunnels because he believes the Dig’s main artery, along Interstate 93, is unsafe.

“The cars are going in there so quickly,’’ he said.

Zarrilli’s initial tunnel comparisons made news in July 2007, when the Associated Press reported results showing 614 Tip O’Neill crashes versus 28 Sumner/Callahan crashes between March 2005 and March 2007.

Massachusetts Turnpike Authority engineers, who oversee the Big Dig, told Zarrilli at the time that they would look into it. The O’Neill tunnel is 1 1/2 miles long, while the other two tunnels are about a mile long. But the authority has yet to explain fully the disparity in crashes.

Zarrilli has urged engineers to lower the speed limit from 45 miles per hour to 30 miles per hour and to erect larger signs at the tunnel entrances. He believes the newer, smoother roads in the O’Neill tunnel allow for faster driving, while the older Sumner and Callahan tunnels are harder to speed through.

Helmut Ernst, the authority’s chief engineer, responded to Zarrilli in a June 15 letter that an internal review found the tunnel meets federal design criteria “established for similar facilities across the country.’’ Those include rules on lighting, drainage, clearance, and other design issues.

“Any wavering from these criteria required a complete review and approval’’ from the Federal Highway Administration, Ernst wrote.

Zarrilli said that if that’s the case, the federal design rules may need changes.

I asked the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority if I could speak with Ernst to find out about the disparity in the number of crashes, but my request was denied.

“Public safety is our number one priority, and if any road, bridge, or tunnel were found not to be safe, we would close it immediately,’’ spokesman Adam Hurtubise wrote in an e-mail Friday.


"Big Dig firm settles charge in US case: Will pay fine of $100,000 in tunnel fatality"
By Jonathan Saltzman, Boston Globe Staff, September 19, 2009

Powers Fasteners Inc., the New York epoxy vendor that agreed to pay $16 million to resolve state criminal charges in connection with the fatal collapse of a section of the Big Dig tunnel, now plans to pay an additional $100,000 to settle a newly filed federal charge stemming from the 2006 disaster.

Acting US Attorney Michael K. Loucks accused the Brewster, N.Y., vendor in US District Court in Boston yesterday of failing to tell the highway project’s general contractor that a fast-drying epoxy provided by Powers was unsuitable to help secure a heavy drop ceiling in the Interstate 90 tunnel, according to prosecutors.

Under a tentative agreement with prosecutors that awaits approval by the court, Powers will plead guilty to a single count of making a false statement in connection with the construction of a federally approved highway project. If the agreement is accepted, Powers will pay a $100,000 fine and be placed on probation.

“This remained an ongoing criminal investigation,’’ Loucks said in a statement explaining why Powers was charged nine months after resolution of the state case. “We are pleased that this case will be resolved with a felony conviction, which we believe is the appropriate resolution of this case.’’

The relatively modest fine takes into account the company’s agreement last December to pay Massachusetts and Boston $16 million to resolve state criminal charges filed against it in state court by Attorney General Martha Coakley. In exchange for that settlement, prosecutors dropped a manslaughter charge against Powers.

Powers also previously contributed $6 million to a $28.1 million settlement of a wrongful death lawsuit filed in state court by the family of a Jamaica Plain woman who was killed when the tunnel ceiling collapsed.

Jeffrey Powers, president of the epoxy vendor, said in a statement that “after years of exhaustive investigations by government officials in Massachusetts,’’ the company had agreed to plead guilty to a “technical charge involving a ‘false statement’ by omission.’’

Milena Del Valle, a 38-year-old mother, was crushed by tons of concrete that tumbled down on the car driven by her husband on July 10, 2006. The collapse contributed to a deluge of criminal and civil cases involving the Big Dig in federal and state courts.

Jeffrey A. Denner, a Boston lawyer whose firm represented Del Valle’s husband in the wrongful death suit, said he was pleased that details about the circumstances surrounding the woman’s death continue to emerge.

“Basically, the never-ending story continues to unravel,’’ he said.

Prosecutors contend that Powers knew through tests it had conducted that the fast-setting epoxy it provided did not perform under heavy loads as well as a slower-drying version that it also sold. Nonetheless, prosecutors alleged, Powers failed to disclose this in a 1999 design manual that it provided to Modern Continental Corp. of Cambridge, the general contractor, during the $15 billion highway project.

Jeffrey Powers disputed the account by prosecutors yesterday. Unbeknownst to his company, he said in a statement, Modern Continental in 1999 relied on a 1997 Powers brochure that did not distinguish between the two forms of epoxy for handling heavy loads.

However, a month later, before construction of the ceiling began, a Powers engineer did tell the state Highway Department that the fast-setting epoxy was not suitable for heavy loads, Powers said. And an engineering report later provided by Powers “clearly disclosed’’ that the fast-drying epoxy was approved for short-term use only, he added.

Jeffrey Powers said yesterday’s plea agreement “confirms that no individual Powers employee, past or present, engaged in any knowing misconduct.’’


"Automatic raises, sick-day pay: agencies must eliminate perks"
September 28, 2009

MASSACHUSETTS citizens are rightly outraged when they see quasi-public authorities awarding senior executives automatic raises or bonuses. But that happens at MBTA, the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, and the Brockton Regional Transit Authority.

It’s just as galling to see a so-called “quasi’’ writing departing employees large checks for unused sick time. But that occurs at the MBTA and the Massachusetts Port Authority, where Executive Director Thomas Kinton currently has an astounding 478 accumulated sick days he can cash out.

Such buyouts don’t often occur in the private sector, and they shouldn’t occur at agencies that the state put under separate authority supposedly to avoid perks and favoritism - but which suffer from large amounts of patronage and unwarranted giveaways.

Now a special commission has taken direct aim at those and other abuses. Authorities should not be offering guaranteed raises or bonuses or buying back big blocks of sick days, declares the Quasi-Public Authority Compensation Review Commission. Nor should senior authority executives have deals that require expensive buyouts upon dismissal. Instead, they should serve “at will’’ and, if fired, receive severance pay of three to six months salary.

Although the panel, chaired by Stephen P. Crosby, dean of the McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies at UMass-Boston, found that the pay range for authority executives was generally reasonable, it made important recommendations for tightening the pay process. Specifically, the commission said that quasis should have written job descriptions and performance expectations for senior positions; that their boards should establish formal compensation committees, which should meet without the authority’s executives present; that compensation levels should be set only after a thorough analysis of comparable positions; and that the value of retirement benefits should be considered when determining compensation packages.

It’s regrettable that it takes a special commission to inject some common sense into the Commonwealth, but given that it does, this report is a smart and valuable piece of work.

Secretary of Administration and Finance Leslie Kirwan and Inspector General Gregory Sullivan have sent copies to the various quasis, asking that they adopt the recommendations. That would be a first step toward restoring a measure of faith in agencies that have too often been oblivious to public concerns.


Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill’s staff said the state hasn’t refunded the bonds because it would have to do so at a much higher, fixed interest rate, which would be costly. (Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/File 2009)

"Investors stuck in Big Dig bonds: Treasurer letting auction-rate notes remain in limbo"
By Beth Healy, Boston Globe Staff, October 14, 2009

Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill has saved taxpayers $20 million in interest costs by allowing a state bond issue to remain in a market limbo, but the decision has come at the expense of some investors, who are furious they can’t get their money back.

The bonds, issued in 2000, raised $400 million to finance Big Dig construction. They were called auction-rate securities, and investors snapped them up because they were safe, paid about 3.5 percent interest, and went to market every week, making them easy to buy and sell.

But everything changed in February 2008, when all trading in the bonds froze as a result of the credit crisis sweeping the global financial markets. Since then, interest rates on the bonds have fallen to almost zero. It’s been a good deal for the state as it struggles with its budget crunch. But for bondholders, it’s been a shock: They are getting almost no return on their investment, and because trading has halted, they can’t sell the bonds to get their money back.

Frustrated investors describe being caught in a netherworld in which neither the state nor the Wall Street investment firms that sold the bonds will claim responsibility for refunding them.

“It’s Kafkaesque,’’ fumed Alex Neihaus, a Southborough resident who holds $75,000 in frozen Big Dig bonds.

Cahill’s staff said the state hasn’t refunded the bonds because it would have to do so at a much higher, fixed interest rate, which would be costly. Also, a refunding would largely benefit the investment banks that underwrote the bonds, because they have bought back billions of dollars of the investments under pressure from state and federal regulators. The investment banks, not the state, Cahill’s office argued, should be responsible for repaying individual investors.

“The settlement reached between the banks that sold these bonds and various market regulators should have provided relief for any individual investor who owned the bonds prior to their auction failure, with the banks buying the bonds back from individual investors,’’ said David Kibbe, Cahill’s spokesman. “A refunding of these bonds now by the Commonwealth would subject the state to millions of dollars in additional interest costs, and would provide a windfall to the banks on Wall Street that hold the vast majority of these bonds.’’

The state bond freeze was part of a much broader $330 billion scandal, when on the same day in February 2008 Wall Street firms all stopped trading this type of bond, which were issued by municipalities and student lenders. Regulators moved in to help individuals and small businesses get their money out. But the settlements didn’t cover everyone.

Davenport Realty, a resort and real estate firm on Cape Cod, has about $1 million trapped in auction-rate securities, one-third in Big Dig bonds. The money is sorely needed for working capital, executives of the firm said, especially after a slow summer. Davenport executives say that neither the broker that bought the bonds for them, Corby Capital Markets Inc., nor regulators they’ve contacted seem able to assist them.

“There doesn’t seem to be any incentive for the state to help the businesses,’’ said Stephen Aschettino, Davenport’s financial chief. “We’ve come up empty every time.’’

For years, auction-rate bonds were a cheap way for government entities, student lenders, and nonprofits to borrow money. They were popular with individual investors and businesses as safe, cash-like investments. And the weekly auctions reassured investors their cash would never be locked up for long.

When that didn’t turn out to be the case, many investors got their money back only after state and federal regulators brought cases against the Wall Street banks. For example, Goldman Sachs Group, which underwrote a portion of the Big Dig bonds, agreed in August 2008 to buy back $1 billion of these and other auction-rate securities. The settlements applied to individuals, nonprofits, and businesses with accounts of less than $10 million.

But 19 months later, some investors are still stuck in the Big Dig bonds, earning virtually zero interest, and fear they may have to hold them to maturity in 2030. Officials in Cahill’s office said they don’t know how many investors still hold the bonds, but noted they are receiving fewer complaints about the investments than a year ago.

Corby’s chairman was unavailable for comment. Goldman Sachs declined to comment. And regulators say they’ve done all they can to help.

Alex Neihaus, the Southborough man with $75,000 in Big Dig bonds, would beg to differ. He bought the bonds through brokerage Charles Schwab & Co., which was a middleman in selling the securities, and therefore wasn’t subject to the settlements regulators struck with underwriters such as Goldman.

Neihaus said he’s angry that he loaned money to the Commonwealth and now can’t get it back. “I fault the treasurer’s office for not insisting that Goldman make good on all of [the bonds],’’ he said. “There’s no way out for people like me.’’

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo sued Schwab earlier this year to force it to buy back bonds from its clients, but Schwab is fighting the case. Schwab declined to comment. Fidelity Investments settled a similar suit with Cuomo and Massachusetts Secretary of State William F. Galvin last year, promising to buy back $300 million of the bonds, while denying wrongdoing.

State Attorney General Martha Coakley acted on behalf of 21 cities and towns and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority to get refunds on their auction-rate securities holdings from UBS Securities Inc. But Coakley has not taken action on behalf of individuals or businesses.

Davenport is among a huge number of investors trapped in another swath of auction-rate securities that remains largely untouched by regulators - those issued by municipal bond funds. Davenport has about $700,000 in auction-rate preferred shares issued by MFS Investment Management of Boston, Nuveen Investments Inc., and Van Kampen Investments Inc.

Nuveen said it has refunded customers $2.3 billion out of $11 billion invested in auction-rate preferreds. MFS declined to comment, and Van Kampen was unavailable for comment. Nuveen and other firms are trying various methods to refund the holdings, including asking Congress to let them borrow from the Federal Reserve. But it’s slow going.

Said Anne Kritzmire, a managing director at Nuveen: “Nobody quite envisioned this situation.’’
Beth Healy can be reached at

"New transport super agency takes over"
By Associated Press, November 2, 2009, - Local Politics

BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick today swears in a five-member board to run the newly formed Massachusetts Department of Transportation, which officially launched yesterday.

The swearing-in and inaugural board meeting comes two days before Patrick is set to release a financial analysis of the MBTA by former John Hancock executive David D’Alessandro.

The T is facing a projected $75 million deficit in the next fiscal year. In September, the T Advisory Board pegged the budget shortfall for the current fiscal year at $25 million.

The MassDOT merges all the state’s transportation agencies into one department headed by Secretary and CEO Jeffrey Mullan. Its new Web site is

Drivers can still access the Registry of Motor Vehicles Web site at The T is keeping its Web site, Drivers can also view highway cameras for all state roads at

The members of the new state DOT board are:

John R. Jenkins, of Natick, a former Turnpike Authority Board member who will serve as chairman of the MassDOT Board;

Andrew Whittle, a geotechnical engineer and head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Elizabeth Levin, president of Liz Levin & Company, a management consulting company that specializes in transportation, design and environment;

Ferdinand Alvaro, partner-in-charge of the Adorno & Yoss LLP Boston office and co-chairman of the National Business Law Group. He previously served on the board of directors of the MBTA;

Janice Loux, the first female president of UNITE HERE! Local 26, which represents more than 6,300 hotel and food service workers in the Boston area. She was on the T board of directors for 12 years under five governors.

Patrick will set up a 20-member advisory counsel to assist the board. That panel will led by Alan MacDonald, who is executive director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, the state said.

The Tobin Bridge will remain under Massport control until Jan. 1, when it becomes a part of the MassDOT Highway Division, the state said.


"T’s high-profile woes keep agency stuck in vicious cycle"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, November 8, 2009

About a half-dozen MBTA inspectors crouched inside a dark and sooty Red Line tunnel Wednesday afternoon, banging and clanging away on the rails to make sure nothing was loose or out of joint.

It made for good television footage and a nice front-page picture in this newspaper. The images illustrated a fairly abstract and complex topic: the MBTA’s abysmal financial condition and the resulting decay of the subway system.

But that simplification of the wide-ranging financial and public safety problem has long contributed to making things worse at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

In this case, leaks and subsequent corrosion have put the tracks at risk of falling out of alignment in the section between Alewife and Harvard stations. It would cost $80 million to fix, and the MBTA does not have the money. So Governor Deval Patrick, who ordered the independent review that identified the problem publicly last week, called on track inspectors who found no urgent problems.

But it’s important to remember the scene on the Red Line tracks demonstrated only a fraction of the MBTA’s problem.

That’s right, the Red Line was only a single example among 51 unfunded projects considered critical to preventing “a danger to life and limb.’’ All told, the MBTA would need more than $500 million more than it currently spends to fix the most crucial problems, $3 billion to tackle the entire backlog.

Here’s where the pictures on the Red Line put the agency back into the same old trap, explained rather well in the review released last week by former John Hancock chairman David F. D’Alessandro. (You can read the full report online at )

His report showcases a pattern:

The media reports on a problem. Politicians order the MBTA to fix it. The MBTA devotes all its resources to fixing the problem, to avoid further criticism. Meanwhile, other problems get ignored and further shortchanged.

It becomes a high-stakes game of Whac-a-Mole, the arcade game that drives players nuts because they get distracted by one rodent, only to allow more rodents to pop up elsewhere.

The D’Alessandro report detailed another incident that played out almost identically, just a few weeks ago, when an old cable caught fire on the Red Line, halting rush-hour trains.

“Fixing this problem becomes a priority that supersedes previously approved projects,’’ the report explains. “The MBTA will require approximately $140 million to replace the aging cable, and that money will be diverted from other projects such as overhauling vehicles.’’

In compiling his report, D’Alessandro said he relied on the MBTA’s rating system that evaluates long-term maintenance projects on a 10-point safety scale. The 10s are the scariest “life and limb’’ projects, but D’Alessandro said he did not have the time or resources to dig further and he suspects that some projects rated 8 may really be a priority 10 and that other projects rated 10 may really be worthy of an 8.

After receiving the report, Patrick ordered a high-level staff review of the projects, to make sure safety priorities are in the right order. But he has not been able to offer a new source of money to pay for them. So he also announced that inspectors would be out on the Red Line.

It’s not surprising Patrick ordered the track inspections. Not only does he lack the money to pay for an $80 million project that would repair the Red Line, but he also had to contend with a public that was understandably concerned with the immediate dangers raised in the report. D’Alessandro, after all, had gone on the radio that morning and said he would not ride that same portion of the line.

How’s that for scary? It’s probably a bit dramatic as well.

In either case, most riders don’t have that choice. They need to take the T and they need to trust that it is safe. They will all be hoping the state can come up with a way to whack a few more of those moles.

Governor takes to the rails as sign of faith
Governor Deval Patrick made a point of riding public transit twice last week, in an effort to demonstrate that he is sympathetic to riders during a critical period for public transit, and as a show of his own faith in the system’s safety.

“This is my line,’’ he said Wednesday morning, as reporters watched him stand on a Red Line car, the first leg of a trip to Logan International Airport. (He almost went to the wrong side of the platform after he entered at JFK/UMass station, but that’s easy to do there if you’re not paying close attention or, like Patrick, you don’t regularly use the station.)

Patrick lives in Milton, walking distance from the Mattapan trolley, which connects with the Red Line at Ashmont station.

The governor also took the Red Line after work Tuesday night, before the release of an important MBTA review he commissioned, but acknowledged he does not use public transportation much in his current job. He had never ridden the Silver Line bus before Wednesday morning, when he took it from South Station to the airport.

“Before I got this job, I spent a lot of time on the T,’’ he said. “It’s not easy on this job.’’

That was evident, as State Police and a throng of handlers surrounded him. Other passengers were left to stare and no doubt wonder when all of them would be getting off the train.


"Massachusetts consumer violations carry little consequence"
By Glen Johnson, AP Political Writer, December 12, 2009

BOSTON --Rich Townson spent 29 years as a cop, honing his sense of right and wrong. His girlfriend has had gastric bypass surgery, making it a life-and-death activity to monitor portion size.

So Ruby Tuesday couldn't have had two more suspicious diners this summer when one of its waitresses served up a pair of supposedly 9-ounce sirloins that looked a little small to the couple.

Townson took the steaks home untouched, determined that they were half their advertised weight and filed a complaint with Massachusetts consumer officials. They agreed this week that Townson and his girlfriend had been shorted, but the fine the state levied wasn't much heartier than the meal: $700.

"To be honest with you, if I was the meat supplier, I wouldn't change at all," Townson said. "Think of how many thousands of dollars they made doing this. This (fine) is just the cost of doing business."

It turns out many of the consumer protection laws in the Bay State are more bark than bite, punishable by as little as a $100 fine per incident. It's a system legislators are trying to change.

The state had a similar awakening with some of its civil and criminal statutes in 2007, when it prepared to prosecute a company for a Big Dig tunnel ceiling collapse that crushed a Boston woman to death.

Corporations charged with involuntary manslaughter, as was a supplier of epoxy that failed and sent the panels tumbling to the ground, faced a penalty of just $1,000.

The Legislature is now weighing a bill to raise that penalty to $250,000, and one sponsor says a broader look at the state's other crimes and punishments may be in order.

"If our system of laws is to have any integrity, then penalties have to mean something," said Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester. "We can't say we've made a public policy decision that something is wrong and then attach a punishment to it that's insignificant."

Ruby Tuesday is a national chain founded by University of Tennessee students and now headquartered in Maryville, Tenn. It has nine restaurants in Massachusetts, and in all of them, diners are given a menu advertising size-specific items such as 7- and 9-ounce sirloins and 12-ounce rib-eyes.

The steaks are supplied by Colorado Premium Foods of Greeley, Colo.

Neither Ruby Tuesday nor Colorado Premium would discuss the fine when contacted by The Associated Press on Thursday.

"We just found out about it yesterday, but at this time, Colorado Premium Foods prefers to have no comment," company spokeswoman Ginny Hogan told the AP.

A Ruby Tuesday spokeswoman did not return a call.

Townson said that earlier this summer, he and his girlfriend, Denise Raymond, felt their steaks didn't measure up. So they had their doubts when they returned to the chain's Swansea restaurant on Aug. 13 and ordered another pair of sirloins. Townson said they both made a conscious decision to select the 9-ounce steak, as opposed to smaller or larger meals.

"My girlfriend, she'll eat half the steak and then get another meal out of the leftovers," he said. "Me, I'm a full-grown American male. I can eat a 9-ounce steak."

When the steaks were delivered, Townson refused to cut into them and immediately asked for a pair of to-go boxes.

"I was a cop and if I touched it, I knew I was spoiling the evidence. I knew if this went to trial, some lawyer would say to me, 'Isn't it true you ate some of the steak?'" he said.

Back home, Townson weighed the steaks on a scale. They measured up at 4 and 4.5 ounces, far smaller than he felt normal cooking shrinkage would allow.

Townson's complaint was relayed to the state's Division of Standards, part of the consumer affairs and business regulation division. Among other things, it verifies octane levels in gasoline and that heating trucks deliver the stated quantity of oil to their customers.

Inspectors went out and examined boxes of steaks at five of the nine restaurants -- including the one in Swansea -- and verified that in seven cases, they were underweight.

It fined Colorado Premium, a $34 million company, a grand total of $700.

Barbara Anthony, the state's undersecretary of consumer affairs, defended the probe in light of the fine.

"The bang that you're getting for the buck is not the $700," she said. "The bang is the thousands of establishments around the state that are reading about this and saying, 'I'm not going to mess around with that.'"

She said that if she found widespread and willful problems, she could approach the attorney general's office and seek a prosecution that carries a $5,000 fine. That is the same penalty for stores that violate a state law requiring accurate, visible and easily comparable item pricing.

Nonetheless, Anthony says vigilance is important.

"We take that very seriously, because our consumer economy is built on trust," she said. "You have to police the marketplace because a 2-ounce shortage may not be a lot to an individual customer, but multiply that by 1 million people, and that becomes a lot of money."



"Thawing land has some unsettled: For Big Dig, soil was frozen; as it warms, costly steps required"
By David Abel, Boston Globe Staff, February 5, 2010

It was among the more daunting feats required to complete the Big Dig.

Fourteen years ago, as engineers sought to extend the Massachusetts Turnpike to the Ted Williams Tunnel, they froze large swaths of the clay soil that surrounds South Station, allowing tens of thousands of rail riders to continue using the trains running through the area.

Since they completed the project in 1998 and contractors stopped pumping a chilling solution through 1,600 vertical pipes in the ground, the soil has steadily thawed. As a result, the ground has been shifting, and railroad officials have spent millions of dollars ensuring that the tracks do not become misaligned, an expenditure they said they anticipated.

This week, MBTA board officials voted to extend for two years a $346,000 contract that will allow contractors to closely monitor how the ground shifts and whether it moves the tracks. The MBTA has already spent more than $4 million on the project.

“There are no safety concerns now,’’ said Frank DePaola, the MBTA’s assistant general manager of design and construction. “It would only be a concern if we left it unaddressed and didn’t pay attention to it. If we left it unaddressed, the track would settle and go out of alignment, and it could disrupt railroad operations coming in and out of South Station.’’

To guard against buckling rails or depressions beneath the tracks, inspectors walk the tracks daily and take measurements of the ground and the rails monthly. They fix problems as they arise, including repairing tracks and grading the ground.

“It’s not something you come and discover one morning,’’ DePaola said. “It adds up cumulatively over time.’’

He said surveys have shown that the ground in the tunnels has moved several inches since the project ended. He said it is likely to move several more inches before the thawing stops sometime in the next decade.

“Ninety percent of the expected settlement has already occurred,’’ DePaola said. “We still have 10 percent of the settlement left, and we’ll continue to monitor the tracks.’’

But members of the board that oversees the MBTA said they did not expect that the ground would continue to move after so many years.

“It was just a surprise to me that this remains a persistent problem,’’ said Andrew J. Whittle, a professor of geotechnical engineering and one of five MBTA board members. “This certainly is a cost that wasn’t anticipated. I would say it’s a problem associated with construction methods.’’

Andrew Paven, a spokesman for Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, which oversaw the project, said last night that responsibility lies with other contractors who performed the work.

Whittle said he would have expected the thawing issues to continue for no longer than a decade, rather than the two decades MBTA officials anticipate.

“It’s gone on longer than anyone expected,’’ he said.

MBTA officials said the money being used to pay for the continuing maintenance is coming from the $350 million Big Dig settlement fund, which the state attorney general’s office negotiated with contractors responsible for the persistent cost overruns and repairs.

Joe Pesaturo, an MBTA spokesman, said the maintenance has not affected service.

"The Big Dig’s deadly ‘safety’ rails: Seven motorists have died after becoming entangled in railings that line parts of the Big Dig tunnels. Experts and a legal claim say design flaws make such tragedy all too likely."
By Matt Carroll, Boston Globe Staff, February 14, 2010

On a hot July afternoon in 2005, State Trooper Vincent Cila lost control of his Harley-Davidson police motorcycle and struck the pedestrian handrail that lines the side of the Big Dig tunnel system near Logan Airport.

He wasn’t going very fast - 35 miles per hour or so. Another trooper traveling behind said he expected Cila to jump up, scraped and bruised perhaps, but certainly not badly injured.

Instead, Cila’s neck was broken and his left arm was sliced off at the shoulder when he struck the handrail’s vertical post. He was dead in seconds.

Cila is one of seven motorists and passengers who have been killed - most of them gruesomely dismembered - when they struck the handrails lining the Big Dig tunnel system between 2005 and 2008. One other person lost an arm and survived.

The handrails have been dubbed the “ginsu guardrails,’’ after the knives advertised on TV, by some police officers called to the grisly crashes.

Stretching along some 6 miles of the Big Dig system, the railings draw little attention from motorists focused on driving safely through the busy tunnels and highways. They sit on top of raised walkways lining the roads and were installed to prevent maintenance workers from falling into traffic.

But three roadside barrier and accident reconstruction professionals contacted by the Globe said the design is flawed in several respects:

■ The horizontal runners of the railings are too widely spaced, leaving room for a driver whose vehicle strikes the barrier body to get entangled, and then slammed into a post.

■ The railings line walkways a little less than 3 feet above the road, or roughly the height of a motorcycle seat or car window. The railings should sit higher, making it less likely that they will snag motorcyclists or car passengers partially forced from their vehicles in a collision, the specialists said.

■ The thin vertical posts have squared off corners that could act as a cutting edge, even at lower speeds, they said.

“That railing doesn’t appear to adhere to any crashworthy design I’ve seen, and it should,’’ said Dean Sicking, who is principal author of the standard national reference manual for evaluating the safety of roadside structures.

“It looks like an ornamental handrailing, without a lot of consideration for the safety of the design,’’ said Sicking, director of the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, one of a handful of organizations that crash tests structures lining highways.

On a motorcycle, “if you hit a barrier like this at any speed, you are in trouble,’’ Sicking said in a phone interview. He examined photos of the handrails at the Globe’s request.

The handrail design is at the center of a lawsuit filed by Cila’s widow in 2006 in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston. The suit attributes the trooper’s death mainly to the design of the rectangular vertical posts supporting the handrails.

The posts, just three-quarters of an inch wide, have edges, which the suit contends can act like the cutting blades in a paper cutter.

Safety of drivers was never a concern in the construction of the handrails, according to the suit. Court filings in the case pull together police reports, accident reconstructions, affidavits from witnesses, and other details on the death of Cila and also of the other accident victims whose deaths had not previously been seen as part of a possible pattern. A trial is scheduled for September.

The defendants in the Cila lawsuit, which include the Massachusetts Turnpike, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, and other Big Dig contractors, said in court filings that the handrailings and walkways complied with all state and federal regulations, as well as to industry standards.

And an engineer for the defendants insists that the design is appropriate. Robert D. Vanasse, a professional civil engineer with more than 40 years experience in highway design in construction, called the rectangular post design “standard and customary.’’

He said, in an affidavit, that the rectangular edges in the Big Dig system had been rounded off and are not “sharp,’’ as the Cila suit alleges.

A top state transportation official also defended the overall design. “The barriers and handrail system are a safe system and comply with federal and state safety standards,’’ Frank Tramontozzi, chief engineer of the state Department of Transportation’s Highway Division, said in an interview.

Citing the ongoing litigation, Tramontozzi declined to talk about the Cila crash or the specifics of the claim that the design was flawed.

But he stressed that safety is the first concern for the Transportation Department, which has responsibility for the tunnels.

A lawyer for Tuttle Aluminum International Inc. of Indiana, the manufacturer of the handrails, said in an e-mail that the handrails were built to the specifications of Big Dig designers and passed three inspections.

The deaths involving handrails made up the majority of the traffic fatalities reported in Big Dig tunnels between 2005 and 2008. According to the Mass Department of Transportation, there were nine fatalities in the Big Dig Tunnels during that time frame, with seven involving handrails.

It is hard to put that number in perspective. The nine fatalities occurred in tunnels that cover 80 lane miles and recorded 360 million vehicle trips.

By contrast, the Pike had 21 fatalities from 2005 to 2008. The Pike stretches 1,180 lane miles and had 675 million vehicle trips.

State Police reports, reviewed by the Globe, make it clear that human error or recklessness contributed to the crashes. At least four of the drivers were exceeding the speed limit and four of the dead were riding motorcycles. Motorcycle crashes, specialists say, are much more likely to result in serious harm.

The other three crashes took the lives of a driver and two passengers, none of whom was wearing a seat belt. They were thrust partly out of windows, became ensnared in the handrails, and were torn out of the vehicles.

“I’ve never heard of people getting pulled out of a car before’’ by a handrail, said Sicking.

The lawsuit filed by Cila’s widow alleges that his death might have been avoided if another common railing design had been used.

Malcolm Ray, a roadside safety specialist for the plaintiff’s in the lawsuit, said in an affidavit that if the vertical posts in the Big Dig system had a smooth cylindrical design, Cila would have been injured, but “more likely than not would not have suffered the traumatic amputation of his left arm.’’ A pathologist for the plaintiff said in an affidavit that the cause of death was loss of blood.

“It is intuitively obvious even to a layperson that rectangular posts have sharper edges and are more prone to cut,’’ added Ray, a professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

The lawsuit says pipe-style posts are commonly used elsewhere in Massachusetts and are far less treacherous. Such a design was considered, then abandoned, when the Big Dig was built, even though it was substantially cheaper, according to project memos and e-mails filed in court.

A design using a cylindrical post handrail has been part of the MassHighway design specifications for more than 40 years, according to documents in the case file, and is used in the Sumner and Callahan tunnels, for example. In New York, the Lincoln Tunnel uses a pipe-style handrailing that starts about 4 feet off the road, said a spokeswoman.

Big Dig managers could have used a rounded pipe design for handrails in that system, too. In 1999, the manufacturer of the handrails tried to convince the Massachusetts Turnpike and Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, which managed the project, that rounded vertical railings were the way to go.

Switching to the cylindrical pipe designs could have saved between nearly $300,000 to more than $700,000, Tuttle, the railing manufacturer, said in a 1999 memo. Officials at Modern agreed and fought for the change, according to Big Dig documents in the suit.

But for reasons that are not clear in the court documents, officials at Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff did not agree. The original design, with the edges, was used.

Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff was a joint venture between Bechtel Corp. and Parsons Brinckerhoff that was formed to manage the Big Dig construction. The venture does not exist now. Spokesmen for Bechtel and Parsons Brinckerhoff declined to comment because the matter is in litigation.

A review of reports by the Globe found common themes in several of the fatal crashes, including speed and the fact that all happened on curved portions of the roadway.

Christopher Maurer, a 19-year-old Navy sailor serving on the USS Constitution, had owned his powerful Honda CBR600 for only an hour or so when he entered a tunnel connecting the surface artery at Haymarket Square to the Callahan on May 30, 2008.

The road curved to the left and Maurer, driving about 40 miles per hour, lost control, struck the pedestrian handrail, and died, according to police reports.

His father, Sam, a civil engineer in Kansas whose work includes crash reconstructions, said he was disturbed that the railings used thin vertical posts. The mourning father, in town recently for the dedication of a library in his son’s name at the USS Constitution, said, “I would do anything to keep any father from experiencing this.’’

Even in crashes in which the driver was clearly at fault, the victim might have survived if the railings had been designed differently, documents suggest.

Brian P. Bartlett, a 26-year-old former star wrestler at Boston College High School and Bridgewater State, exited the Sumner Tunnel in his Mercedes-Benz at about 100 miles per hour near midnight on Jan. 31, 2008.

The Hanover resident, who was not wearing a seat belt, lost control, and struck a Jersey barrier. He was thrown out of the car, became entangled in the railing, and was mutilated. Three passengers, wearing seat belts, suffered relatively minor injuries.

Despite the speed, despite not wearing a seat belt, he might have lived if it were not for the pedestrian railing, State Trooper Timothy Dowd wrote in a crash reconstruction report.

“The railing extracted Bartlett from the vehicle,’’ he wrote. “If this railing was not located on top of the Jersey barrier, Bartlett most likely would have remained in the vehicle. Bartlett’s injury most likely would have been less severe.’’

The defendants represent a cross section of the major and relatively minor players in the construction of the Central Artery and Ted Williams Tunnel. Other defendants are: Bechtel Corp., Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas Inc., Gannett Fleming Inc., Modern Continental Construction Co. Inc., GMT Architects Inc., and Saugus Construction Corp.

The Cila lawsuit alleges wrongful death, gross negligence, and pain and suffering for all the defendants and breach of warranties against Modern, Tuttle, and Saugus.

Other defendants declined to comment because the matter is in court, or did not return calls.

Also named in the suit was Nathan Durawa, who was driving in front of Cila and allegedly slowed or stopped, causing Cila to brake and lose control. Durawa settled for the insurance policy limit of $20,000, according to his lawyer.

Sicking and two other specialists contacted by the Globe said the railings could have been designed in way that took more account of driver safety. For instance, raising the Jersey barriers from the current 32 inches would make it more likely a motorcyclist would skid along the concrete barrier, rather than slam into one of the vertical railing posts.

The other specialists raised questions about the overall design of the Big Dig railings. They are Kristopher Seluga, a forensic engineer for Technology Associates in Stamford, Conn., who does accident reconstructions, and Joseph Kanianthra, a consultant and retired vehicle safety administrator for the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

The railing height is seen as a particular hazard for motorcyclists. Clay Gabler, an associate professor at Virginia Tech who has authored studies on motorcycle crashes, told the Globe that the odds of a motorcyclist getting killed in a crash climb dramatically if they hit a metal barrier with posts, rather than a concrete barrier.

The Big Dig system has a hybrid system, with elements of both types of barrier, he said, after examining photos.

Cila’s crash happened as the 45-year-old father of two and Wakefield resident was driving a motorcycle to a repair shop in Dorchester on July 22, 2005.

He was negotiating a twisty bit of Big Dig roadway near Logan Airport. The Mass. Pike westbound Exit 24 offramp eventually connects with Interstate 93. The road climbs, then drops and curves, making it difficult to see far ahead.

Cila’s Harley was sandwiched between two vehicles. In front was a Ford Expedition driven by Durawa, of Edgartown, while behind was State Trooper Kevin Poor, who planned to give Cila a ride back from the repair shop.

Durawa noticed the two State Police vehicles and made sure he was under the speed limit of 45 miles per hour, he said in a deposition.

“When I saw [Cila] driving behind us in my rear view mirror, he was smiling. I was thinking to myself what a nice day to ride,’’ Durawa later told a State Police investigator.

The three vehicles had just left the tunnel where Exit 25 splits off to South Boston when Cila, driving at a moderate speed of 35 miles per hour or so, according to the accident reconstruction report, suddenly tapped his brakes twice. He fish-tailed and hit the Jersey barriers, at about 20 miles per hour.

Cila struck the vertical handrail post on top of the barrier, according to the police reconstruction. His left arm was severed and he suffered a broken neck and chest trauma.

The bike, riderless, careened down the road, lights and siren flashing.

Poor, trailing by three car lengths, was stunned. “I expected when I first went to check on him to see him scraped up,’’ he said in a report.

Durawa ran back to Cila, who was lying facedown in the road, and helped apply a tourniquet to the arm with another trooper who had showed up. A doctor showed up and an ambulance was there soon.

It wasn’t enough. Cila was dead.
Matt Carroll can be reached at Follow him at

"Massachusetts lawmaker calls for review of Big Dig rails"
Associated Press, February 22, 2010

BOSTON (AP) -- A top Massachusetts lawmaker is calling for a review of pedestrian handrails in Big Dig tunnels that have been connected to the deaths of seven people, including a state trooper.

State Senate President Therese Murray says the state Department of Transportation should investigate the placement of the rails because there is "clearly a safety issue" with them.

The Boston Globe has previously reported that seven of nine people killed in crashes in the Big Dig tunnel system between 2004 and 2008 died after hitting the handrails. Most were dismembered.

The handrails, which line about six miles of tunnels, are on top of raised walkways and are designed to keep workers from falling into traffic.

A spokesman says safety is a top priority of the transportation agency.


"State must fix dangerous railings in Big Dig tunnels"
February 28, 2010

THE STATE Department of Transportation should figure how to protect motorists from the hazardous guardrails in the Big Dig, or else it should replace them altogether. Either way, the rails, whose design has been implicated in several grisly deaths in the tunnels, pose too great a safety hazard to be left as is.

The railings, which run the length of raised walkways alongside the tunnels, were designed to protect maintenance workers who might otherwise be at risk of falling into traffic. But odd quirks of their design - from the size of the gaps between horizontal runners to the squared-off corners on vertical posts - make them likely to ensnare and mangle motorcyclists who brush against the side of the roadway or drivers who are partially ejected from their vehicles. A state trooper whose motorcycle collided with the railing at a moderate speed lost an arm and suffered a broken neck in 2005, and the state is now defending a lawsuit by his widow.

Why the railing was built as it was is anyone’s guess. By one estimate, it cost up to $700,000 more than a safer option considered by Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, the joint venture that supervised the Big Dig. State Senate President Therese Murray has rightly called for a safety review of the railing, and that review ought to focus on how to mitigate the danger. It’s not clear how much it would cost to replace the railings entirely, or whether there are cheaper options available. But state transportation officials should find out.

The circumstances of most other fatal accidents between 2005 and 2008 suggested that the victims would have risked serious injury no matter how the guardrails were constructed. Meanwhile, an engineer who submitted an affidavit for the state argues that the rails were built according to relevant standards. But safety features on public roadways need to be designed to minimize the harm even when drivers fail to behave as they should. And design standards have to evolve when lethal accidents expose flaws that the authors of the standards never anticipated.

"State orders handrail review: Design linked to Big Dig deaths; Findings due by end of month"
By Matt Carroll, Boston Globe Staff, March 9, 2010

The state Transportation Department has launched an internal review of possible design flaws in Big Dig handrails that have been linked to the deaths of seven motorists.

Transportation Secretary Jeffrey B. Mullan ordered the study following a Globe story last month that detailed the dangers posed by the handrails, which dismembered several people who became entangled in the railings and were dragged from their vehicles. Barrier and accident reconstruction professionals said the rails were poorly designed and potentially unsafe.

“To respond to recent concerns raised about the railings, we convened a committee of senior-level engineers with expertise in safety, crash railing systems, and structural design that will review the issue and detail its findings and recommendations to the secretary and highway administrator by the end of the month,’’ the Department of Transportation said in a statement yesterday.

“We look forward to discussing the committee’s work with legislators and all interested parties as soon as it is complete,’’ the statement said.

Until yesterday, state transportation officials had steadfastly defended the safety of the Big Dig system, even as some lawmakers, including Senate President Therese Murray, expressed concern following the Feb. 14 Globe article. It was unclear what prompted the change of mind, though a department spokesman said that the committee of three senior engineers has been working on the review of the railings for several weeks. The names of the committee members were not released.

In the statement, the department emphasized that the handrails met all federal and state safety issues when they were constructed about a decade ago.

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Motorcycle Association called on its members yesterday to contact legislators about the handrails. The motorcycle association sent an e-mail urging its 2,500 members to reach out to politicians about the issue.

“I find it appalling that a safer hand railing design was available, that Big Dig managers knew about and could have used the safer design, yet for reasons that are not clear, decided not to use the safer design in favor of the deadly ‘ginsu guardrail’ design,’’ Dave Condon, chairman of the group, wrote in the e-mail to association members.

The organization, a motorcycle rights and education group, works with the Registry of Motor Vehicles on rider education programs across the state.

State Senator Steven A. Baddour, cochairman of the Joint Committee on Transportation, had been weighing whether to raise his concerns about the handrails at an upcoming oversight hearing.

He said he may wait to see the results of the state review. “Once we see the report, we’ll determine if there’s a need for an oversight hearing,’’ Baddour said.

The railings sit atop raised walkways that line about six miles of Big Dig tunnels. The railings are meant to keep workers who use the walkways from falling into traffic.

The Globe reported that seven motorists have died and that most were dismembered, in crashes into the handrails between 2005 and 2008. One of the crashes took the life of a state trooper. A woman lost an arm and survived.

Four of the victims were on motorcycles, and three were passengers in cars, who were not wearing seat belts and became entangled in the railings during accidents. All the accidents happened on curves, and most involved excessive speed.

Public safety personnel responding to the accidents nicknamed the railings the “ginsu guardrails,’’ after the knives advertised on TV.

Roadside barrier and accident reconstruction professionals said the design of the railings is flawed.

Dean Sicking, who is the principal author of the standard national reference used for evaluating the safety of roadside structures, has said the railing did not appear to adhere to crash standards.

For instance, the horizontal bars are spaced too far apart, making it possible for a body to slip between them and slam into a vertical post, said the professionals.

The railings should sit higher, too. They are 3 feet off the ground, or roughly the height of a motorcycle seat or a passenger in a car, making it more likely that a motorist flung from a vehicle would become entangled in the railings.

The widow of State Trooper Vincent Cila has sued the Massachusetts Turnpike and Big Dig contractors, including Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, in Suffolk Superior Court. The companies have said the handrails were safe and met all federal, state, and industry guidelines.

The suit argues the trooper’s death in 2005 was mainly caused by the design of the railing’s rectangular vertical posts. The posts, just three-quarters of an inch wide, have edges that the suit says can act like blades in a paper cutter.

Cila, driving a police motorcycle, struck a vertical post, breaking his neck and slicing off his arm. He died on the spot. The trial is scheduled for later this year.

The lawsuit says that if the state had used a different design that uses pipe-style posts, the railings would be less treacherous. Pipe-style posts are used elsewhere, such as in the Sumner and Callahan tunnels.

That design was considered but abandoned by Big Dig officials, even though it would have saved between $300,000 to $700,000, according to documents filed with the lawsuit. It is unclear why the design was rejected.

Condon, the head of the motorcycle association, said that he drove through the tunnels himself after the Globe report. Although he is not an engineer, he said, “I could see these handrailings looked dangerous, particularly for a motorcyclist, based on their height and the sharpness of the edges.’’
Matt Carroll can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeMattC.

"2 men get probation for Big Dig fraud"
AP via - May 27, 2010

BOSTON --Two former managers of a company convicted of supplying substandard concrete to the Big Dig highway project in Boston have avoided prison time for their roles in the scheme.

A federal judge on Wednesday sentenced 64-year-old Robert Prosperi of Lynnfield and 53-year-old Gregory Stevenson of Furlong, Pa., to three years of probation, including six months of home confinement.

Federal prosecutors had requested prison sentences of at least seven years for each former manager at Aggregate Industries Inc.

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said the government was "disappointed" with the sentences because they do not "reflect the seriousness of the offense."

The men were convicted in August of 135 felonies, including conspiracy to commit highway project fraud. Their lawyers argued for leniency because they did not profit personally from the scheme.


"Big Dig woes still pose threat: Corrosion caused one fixture to fall in Feb. from ceiling of O’Neill tunnel"
By Eric Moskowitz, Boston Globe Staff, March 17, 2011

A 110-pound light fixture crashed onto the northbound lanes of the Thomas P. “Tip’’ O’Neill Jr. tunnel in early February, striking no vehicles, but prompting state officials to launch an inspection of light fixtures throughout the Big Dig tunnel system.

State Transportation Secretary Jeffrey B. Mullan said that years of corrosion had weakened the aluminum rails by which the 8-foot-long light fixture was suspended from the ceiling, causing the steel fasteners to fail. The light fixture landed between two travel lanes in the tunnel sometime on the morning of Feb. 8.

Mullan stressed that the vast majority of the 23,000 light fixtures in the O’Neill, Ted Williams, and other Big Dig tunnels were undamaged, and that most of the corrosion was concentrated at the entrances and exits of tunnels where moisture from the outside is most prevalent. However, after the Big Dig’s troubled history that includes a fatal tunnel ceiling collapse in 2006, state officials launched a system-wide investigation of all tunnel lighting, though they did not inform the public for more than a month.

“This is a relatively isolated incident, but it’s something that we’re taking very seriously, and we won’t be able to reach any conclusions regarding causation until we complete 100 percent of the inspection,’’ Mullan said, displaying a sample light and a corroded fixture at a briefing yesterday afternoon. “There’s no question in my mind that the tunnels are robust and safe for the traveling public.’’

The light fixtures run the length of the tunnels and are mostly positioned above the lane markers. Each contains two fluorescent tubes housed in an aluminum frame that is hooked by a set of 10 stainless steel clips to another aluminum frame that, in turn, is bolted to the concrete ceiling. The light fixture that fell had corrosion that affected all 10 clips, but Mullan said such extensive damage was rare. State inspectors found one other light fixture with corrosion damage where nine of the steel clips are connected, but most frames showed no corrosion or only limited damage, according to Frank Tramontozzi, the state’s chief highway engineer and its acting highway administrator.

In all, Mullan said, about 3,000 of the 230,000 steel clips securing the lights were no longer holding onto anything because the aluminum rail had corroded. Inspectors repositioned all of those clips to make sure they were fastened to sturdy aluminum.

The Big Dig, a 7.5-mile maze of tunnels and highways, is sort of a crossroads of New England, carrying more than 250,000 vehicles daily through the O’Neill and Williams tunnels alone. The $15 billion project is credited with greatly reducing travel time to Logan Airport from west and south of Boston, and with relieving downtown congestion. But its ballooning price tag — the Big Dig was first estimated to cost $2 billion — and repeated construction and maintenance problems have made it a national lightning rod for criticism.

In July 2006, Milena Del Valle, 38, of Jamaica Plain, was killed when a concrete section of the ceiling in the Interstate 90 Connector Tunnel fell on the car in which she was riding to the airport. Her husband managed to crawl out of the crushed vehicle.

The ceiling collapse led then-Governor Mitt Romney to launch a “stem-to-stern’’ inspection of the Big Dig tunnels, requiring the temporary closure of large sections of the project. The inspection resulted in some reinforcement of sections of tunnel ceilings, but state officials said yesterday that the visual inspection was not designed to detect corrosion inside light fixtures.

The companies that oversaw the Big Dig, Bechtel and Parsons/Brinckerhoff, ultimately paid the state $400 million to settle claims of shoddy workmanship, including a 2004 episode in which a breach in the wall sent water gushing into the O’Neill tunnel. It was later revealed that the tunnel was riddled with leaks in its roof. In 2008, the Del Valle family received about $28 million in a settlement with the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, Bechtel, Parsons/Brickerhoff and other Big Dig contractors.

In the light fixture collapse, Mullan said the state’s initial inspection suggested that the powder-based white paint on the frames caused the aluminum to corrode when it came in contact with moisture and road salt. Mullan said the state plans to aggressively pursue measures to recover damages from NuArt, the California firm that made them. NuArt officials could not be reached for comment last night.

The problem was not previously discovered because the state’s annual inspection of the tunnels included only a visual inspection of the lights. Now they are being pried open manually, Mullan said.

In places where the fixture has corroded, the clips are being moved to fasten onto a non-corroded part of the aluminum lip. Every light above the roadway and 95 percent of all lights have been inspected, with the remainder expected to be complete by next Friday, Mullan said.

Meanwhile, the state is sending failed components to an independent laboratory for analysis, and it is working on a longer-term solution that is at least a few months away.

Mullan defended the decision to hold off on disclosing the problem, saying he did not want to create panic or confusion.

“I wanted to have a better idea of what exactly we were dealing with — whether or not this was an isolated situation or more of a systemic issue. It takes a while to conduct all of the reviews. We’ve been at it quite some time. Twenty-three thousand fixtures is a very large number,’’ he said. “We feel confident now that we’re getting to the bottom of the situation and we have enough information to adequately tell the public what has happened.’’

Eric Moskowitz can be reached at Sean Murphy of the Globe staff contributed to this report.


"Official not told for weeks about Big Dig mishap"
March 24, 2011

BOSTON (AP) - Add the state's transportation secretary to the list of state officials apparently kept in the dark for weeks about a corroded 110-pound light fixture that fell from the ceiling of a Big Dig tunnel.

The Boston Globe reported Thursday that Jeffrey Mullan was not informed by his staff of the Feb. 8 incident in the Interstate 93 tunnel until March 9. Gov. Deval Patrick, who was on an overseas trade mission, was informed on March 15 and later said Mullan made a mistake by not telling him -- and the public -- sooner.

Mullan did not initially disclose he'd been unaware of the incident for weeks and accepted responsibility for the delay in making the information public.

Mullan told the Globe there was a clear lapse of communication in his agency.


"Report cites costs, risks of Big Dig leaks"
Chief engineer’s account warns of safety and structural issues - and of the millions in needed repairs ahead
By Sean P. Murphy and Scott Allen, Boston Globe Staff, July 24, 2011

Constant water leaks into the Big Dig tunnels are causing safety problems and tens of millions of dollars in damage, including corroded electrical systems and flooded air vents, and have even begun to damage the enormous steel girders that support the Tip O’Neill Tunnel, according to an internal report by the Big Dig’s chief engineer obtained by the Globe.

But the April report, intended to brief a new top deputy to Transportation Secretary Jeffrey B. Mullan, was extensively rewritten at transportation headquarters, where staff reduced the seven-page report by two-thirds. The shortened report covered most of Helmut Ernst’s major points, but left out much of the detail on the present and future cost of repairs and omitted some specific warnings by Ernst about the potential threat of the ongoing leaks to the safety and long-term structural integrity of the tunnels.

By the time new highway administrator Frank DePaola briefed the transportation board of directors on the issue this month, he likened the major leaks to the water from “three garden hoses’’ and stressed that “the tunnels are safe.’’

Ernst’s report does not say the tunnels are unsafe, but voices more alarm at the potential risks of the leaks. The report was written after a corroded 110-pound light fixture crashed Feb. 8 in the O’Neill Tunnel, revealing widespread corrosion in lights throughout the 7.5-mile Big Dig tunnel system. Ernst’s report makes it clear that the fallen light is part of a much larger problem: the salty ground water that seeps in through cracks and other openings in the tunnels.

“Tunnel leaks are a more vexing problem as they are widespread throughout the tunnel and are the cause of safety concerns and [have] a damaging effect on the tunnel structure and equipment,’’ wrote Ernst.

Ernst listed more than $150 million in immediate leak repair and prevention projects and stressed that potentially more-costly leak repairs lie ahead, including extensive excavation to repair major cracks in one tunnel. He has previously said that replacing and rewiring corroded tunnel lights could cost $200 million.

In the aftermath of the fallen tunnel light, Mullan first reprimanded and then suspended Ernst for his role in failing to notify the public for more than a month after the light fixture collapsed onto the highway. The suspension was announced on the same day that DePaola reassured the board that the water leaks are not a major problem.

DePaola’s predecessor as highway administrator, Frank Tramontozzi, who was forced to resign in March for his role in mishandling the light fixture collapse, said Ernst’s report is quite accurate.

“Wow, that’s telling it like it is,’’ said Tramontozzi.

DePaola insists that he only shortened Ernst’s report to make it clearer and less technical, not because he disagreed with Ernst’s points. And the rewritten report does make most of the points found in Ernst’s, though in generally softer terms.

“It was a little rambling and long, and I had the staff of the environmental office turn it into two pages,’’ DePaola explained in an interview.

“I stick by my words that the tunnels are safe. It’s not an urgent problem,’’ said DePaola. “We are dealing with it. It’s costing a lot of money.’’

DePaola’s handling of Ernst’s report seems at odds with the transportation secretary’s public avowal of openness and opposition to the “culture of secrecy’’ that some say conceals problems in one of the most expensive sections of highways in the world.

In fact, Mullan’s office only provided a copy of the document to the Globe after months of requests to provide any reports on the tunnel leak issue as required under the state’s public-records law.

Ironically, it was Ernst’s failure to put safety problems in writing that led to his suspension. Ernst’s team of engineers filed no written report about the collapsed light fixtures despite state policy requiring documentation of safety issues. Ernst admitted that his engineers have been wary about writing things down since the 2006 collapse of a Big Dig ceiling panel that killed a woman.

“After all the depositions in the ceiling collapse case, we just meet and talk about it. . . . What’s the point of putting it in writing?’’ Ernst said in an interview this month.

But as soon as DePaola replaced Tramontozzi as highway administrator, DePaola said he asked Ernst to prepare a report on water leaks in the tunnels, an issue that came into public view in 2004 when the gushing water forced temporary closure of Interstate 93 in the O’Neill Tunnel. Because the tunnels are underground and close to the ocean, they’re surrounded by brackish ground water that can seep in through any opening.

Big Dig officials for years have downplayed the water problem, stressing that strategically placed pumps have largely succeeded in preventing the water from reaching highways used by 250,000 drivers a day.

But Ernst, who has been the chief engineer of the Big Dig since 2007, said the damage from all the water is both widespread and by no means under control. In his report, Ernst said that the Transportation Department pumps out 17 million gallons of water per year, far more than Big Dig designers anticipated. As a result, the Big Dig consistently violates its state permit for the amount of water pumped to the Deer Island sewage treatment plant.

Ernst wrote that the leaks are making the Big Dig less safe, especially in winter. “Leaks are the cause of numerous roadway icing conditions and accelerate corrosion by requiring deicing chemicals to be applied inside the tunnels,’’ he wrote, suggesting that road salt is partly to blame for the corroded light fixtures.

“Leaks greatly contribute to the moist corrosive tunnel environment, and there is widespread corrosion of electrical components and conduit,’’ he continued. “There is initiation of corrosion of structural steel, soldier piles, and girders supporting the tunnel roof along I-93.’’

Water also interferes with the ventilation system that carries vehicle exhaust out of the tunnel and fresh air in, Ernst said. In the winter, he said, the problem is particularly serious because water freezes inside the ducts, making it difficult to remove.

Even when the water is cleared, Ernst said it has left behind unhealthy mold in utility rooms and ventilation buildings. He said the water has saturated the fireproofing materials that shield safety equipment and structural steel in the tunnels, causing $10 million in damage.

Ernst said a design flaw in the Big Dig has made water problems worse: Concrete in the mile-long Interstate 90 connector tunnel was only designed to withstand a 50 degree swing in temperatures between summer and winter. But the actual temperature variation is 100 degrees, resulting in cracks that allow water to come into the tunnels.

Ernst said the cracking in that tunnel, which runs under the South Boston waterfront, will require “extensive repairs [that] involve deep excavations around the outsides of the tunnel box.’’

Ernst said that all the water damage will be expensive to repair, listing $136 million in leak repair and prevention efforts that the agency has completed or is considering. That amount includes the $15.2 million a year transportation now spends on sealing leaks and inspecting the tunnels. He gave no estimate of the cost of repairing all the cracks in the concrete of the connector tunnel.

But Ernst’s report was revised considerably after he forwarded the document to headquarters and DePaola asked staff to shorten it. The condensed version did not include Ernst’s enumeration of costs, mentioning only the $3.2 million price tag of annual inspections and $12 million in annual leak control work. Ernst’s report had mentioned some form of the word “leak’’ 34 times; the new report uses the word leaks just once, instead using “infiltration’’ or “infiltrated water’’ to describe the problem.

The revised report mentions most of the same issues as Ernst’s, but with less urgency and less detailed analysis. For instance, the revised report acknowledges the need for “deep excavation’’ to repair tunnel cracks, but omits Ernst’s conclusion that the cracks are exacerbated by “failure of design’’ - using concrete that couldn’t withstand the temperature variations in this region.

By the time DePaola briefed the board about Ernst’s findings on July 13 - the same day that Mullan put Ernst on a 10-day unpaid leave - the sense of urgency from Ernst’s original report seemed lost.

“Let me first state that the tunnels are safe,’’ said DePaola, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. He said that the department had “successfully managed’’ ground water leaks in the O’Neill tunnel and that the volume of water being pumped out had fallen to the “equivalent to the amount of water that you would get from three garden hoses.’’

The analogy is literally true - three garden hoses running all year would yield a comparable amount of water. But, as Ernst’s report underscores, the issue isn’t the sheer volume of water but the effect it has on a tunnel of this design. And the garden hose analogy works to dilute any sense of alarm.

DePaola insists that his briefing was not meant to contradict Ernst’s internal report, explaining that he may make a broader presentation on the damage caused by water once a consulting engineer’s report comes in. For now, DePaola said his agency will invest $45 million in leak plugging over the next three years and perhaps a lot more, depending on what the consultants recommend.

“Whatever it is we will make it a public document,’’ said DePaola. “I want people to know why we are spending this amount of money, how much it costs. [The O’Neill tunnel] is a very valuable [piece of infrastructure], the Zakim Bridge and the Ted Williams Tunnel. It needs to be maintained.’’

Scott Allen can be reached at Sean Murphy can be reached at


"True cost of Big Dig exceeds $24 billion with interest, officials determine"
By Eric Moskowitz, Globe Staff, 07/10/2012

As construction wound down on the Big Dig nearly a decade ago, officials disclosed that the cost of the highway megaproject had escalated to nearly $15 billion. Now, for the first time publicly, state administrators have tallied the full cost of the work -- principal and interest, plus legally obligated transit commitments -- and it is some $10 billion higher.

The highway-tunnel work cost $14.5 billion, with the state using $7 billion in federal aid and borrowing the rest. Add interest and the total figure shouldered by state and federal taxes and tolls will be $21 billion by the time the final bond is paid off in 2038, Dana Levenson, chief financial officer for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, told a legislative committee Tuesday.

The numbers largely confirm the accounting of a 2008 Globe review of hundreds of pages of state documents.

But even that figure does not quite cover it. The state two decades ago agreed to a list of public transit improvements to offset the air pollution and other impacts of the additional traffic the Big Dig would generate and to comply with federal environmental law.

Transit work completed so far -- including adding the waterfront Silver Line, modernizing the Blue Line, and extending the commuter rail to Worcester, Middleborough, Plymouth, and Newburyport -- resulted in $1.7 billion in construction costs and $1.6 billion more in interest. And the state has not yet started to pay for one of the most expensive commitments, the $1 billion-plus planned Green Line extension to Somerville and Medford.

“As we all know, the Central Artery/Tunnel Project, while operating today as a superb facility that has improved the quality of life in Boston as well as the transportation function for the entire region, cost a lot more than was anticipated,” Levenson said in prepared testimony, speaking for an administration that inherited a project started a generation ago.

The House Committee on Post Audit and Oversight called the hearing to better understand the total cost and its continued effect, limiting the state’s ability to pay for other transportation infrastructure projects and even day-to-day highway and transit operation by gobbling up so much money for debt. The state still owes $9.3 billion in principal and interest on the Big Dig and the completed transit commitments, Levenson said.

The numbers required some wrangling. Unlike a homeowner’s mortgage, the project’s borrowing costs sprawl across an array of original and refinanced bonds issued by the former Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, the MBTA, and the Commonwealth itself. And though state officials once believed that the federal government would cover 80 percent or more of the construction, that support was capped as the project cost spiraled.

“It is extremely important that we understand the effect that the Big Dig debt service has on overall transportation spending in Massachusetts,” said Representative David P. Linsky, committee chairman and a Natick Democrat. “We’re paying over $100 million a year in Big Dig debt service, and that is obviously $100 million that we can’t spend on other transportation needs.”

Linsky said the accounting will help inform the work lawmakers do next year when they debate the state’s transportation-finance crisis, as legislative leaders have indicated.

Michael J. Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, called the numbers illuminating.

“It’s certainly a positive step that the administration has laid out these costs with such clarity. It reinforces the fact that this was one incredibly expensive project” and remains one of the key reasons why the state’s gas taxes, highway tolls, transit fares, and other transportation revenues fall short of needs and force more borrowing, Widmer said.

The escalating cost and the project’s flaws -- including a fatal ceiling-tile collapse in 2006 -- have “obscured or tainted the other reality” of the Big Dig, Widmer said, meaning the transportation, economic, and other benefits of submerging the Central Artery and improving travel into and through downtown Boston and to Logan Airport. “This is a hugely positive project for Boston and the region,” he said.


"Weld to return to Boston as a partner at Mintz Levin"
By Frank Phillips, Boston Globe Staff, 10/16/2012

William F. Weld, the former governor who left Boston to practice law and delve into venture capital in New York for the last 15 years, is returning to Massachusetts to become a partner in one of the city’s largest law firms, and consultant to its lobbying arm.

Weld will become a partner at Mintz Levin, and also a principal at ML Strategies, the law firm’s government relations affiliate. He will focus on serving both international and domestic clients with legal and strategic advice.

“He’s energized and excited to be back in Boston,’’ said a source close to the law firm.

He will join Stephen Tocco, his former top Cabinet secretary who also served as chief executive director of the Massachusetts Port Authority.

Tocco and Robert Popeo, the law firm’s chairman, put together the agreement for Weld’s return to Boston.

The former governor, who served from 1991 to 1997, will relocate with his wife, Leslie, to Cambridge.

Weld, a Republican and one of the state’s most popular governors in recent times, resigned in 1997 after President Clinton nominated him to be ambassador to Mexico. The Senate ultimately blocked his appointment.

The law firm is expected to release an announcement of Weld’s hiring late this afternoon.

Since leaving government, Weld has been affiliated with McDermott Will & Emery in New York.


"Bill Weld: All has been forgiven"
By Joe Battenfeld, - Local Politics, December 6, 2012

Photo by Mark Garfinkel

Back from his self-imposed exile in New York, former Gov. William F. Weld sounds like he’s itching to dive back in the Massachusetts political game and left open the door for a future bid for U.S. Senate.

Weld, in an exclusive interview with the Herald, played down his interest in another campaign, saying he believes defeated GOP Sen. Scott Brown should run again if Democrat John Kerry gets a post in the Obama administration. Weld also said he thinks former Republican gubernatorial hopeful Charles Baker will run again in 2014.

“I would back (Brown) strongly and would encourage him very strongly to run for that vacancy,” Weld said. “I’d be supporting him all the way and Charlie Baker all the way for governor.”

Asked what he would do if Brown decides not to take another shot at a Senate seat, Weld paused and said: “I probably would be actively involved in the process of trying to recruit another candidate.”

Weld, of course, is the GOP’s strongest candidate if Brown isn’t in the field, and he declined repeatedly to flatly rule it out.

The former governor has been working in New York for the past 12 years as an investment lawyer, and just came back to Boston full time as a partner at the law firm Mintz Levin.

Weld, running as a fiscal conservative with a socially liberal message, challenged Kerry in 1996 and lost, and resigned in 1997 in a failed attempt to get confirmed as U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

“I moved to New York to acquire anonymity, and that was successful,” Weld joked. “I wanted to chill out a little bit.”

Despite abandoning his job as governor, Weld said he still thinks Massachusetts voters have forgiven him.

“They’ve forgotten all the bad things I did,” he said jokingly. “I think probably the only thing they remember is, everybody had a good time, and I jumped in the (Charles) River.”


"Former Massachusetts Governor Weld says no to Senate run: Republicans scramble to find candidate for John Kerry's seat" - February 4, 2013

BOSTON — Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld says he won't run in the June 25th special election to succeed John Kerry in the U.S. Senate.

The Republican said in a statement Monday that he was grateful for the encouragement he's received, but that he wouldn't be a candidate.

Weld was governor from 1991 to 1997. He later moved to New York, but recently returned to Massachusetts to join the law firm of Mintz Levin. The firm released the statement Monday on Weld's behalf.

Republicans have been scrambling to find a candidate since former Sen. Scott Brown's announced Friday that he wasn't going to run.

Former state Sen. Richard Tisei announced Saturday that he won't be a candidate.

State Rep. Daniel Winslow says he'll announce on Tuesday whether he plans to run.


DEAL: Ex-Gov. William F. Weld’s former Cambridge home, an iconic Colonial Revival built in 1882, has been sold for $3.5 million, $2 million below its original asking price.

"Weld unloads historic Cambridge home"
By Donna Goodison, Real Estate, The Boston Herald, April 29, 2013

Ex-Gov. William F. Weld’s former Cambridge home has changed hands for $2 million below the original asking price.

Susan Roosevelt Weld — who got sole custody of the historic house in 2005 under an agreement four years earlier, when she and Weld divorced — sold it to Vartan Keshishian and Seda Ebrahimi-Keshishian for $3.5 million, according to documents filed last week with the Middlesex South Registry of Deeds.

The great-granddaughter of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, Susan Roosevelt Weld first put the 15-room, eight-bedroom Colonial on the market for $5.5 million in September 2001, but lowered the price twice before taking it off the market last June, according to It was put back up for sale for $3.99 million in September.

The Cambridge City Council last year designated the 1882 home — known as the Arthur Astor Casey House — as a protected landmark for its architectural and historical merits as one of the most significant examples of the early Colonial Revival style in the Boston area, where the style originated, and for its associations with original owner Arthur Astor Carey and Weld. Carey founded the Boston Society of Arts and Crafts in 1896.

The Welds bought the 6,950-square-foot home for $150,000 in 1976, according to registry records.

After relocating to New York in 1999, Weld recently returned to Boston and is now a principal at ML Strategies, law firm Mintz Levin’s lobbying arm.


Former Governor Bill Weld. AP/FILE 2014

"Bill Weld’s dubious first"
By Scot Lehigh, Boston Globe Columnist, December 12, 2014

SAY IT ain’t so, Joe. Or rather: Say you’re no shill, Bill.

Bill Weld, that is. The Charles River-diving redhead who once hoped to make history by serving as governor of both Massachusetts and New York has gone into the books in a less distinguished way: as the only former Bay State governor in modern memory to become a registered lobbyist.

Not that there’s anything illicit about that, mind you. Why, it’s the oldest . . . well, one of the oldest . . . professions in the political world.

And yet, even paid-to-persuade professionals are known to joke: Please don’t tell my mother I’m a lobbyist. She thinks I play piano in a brothel.

Then there’s the timing. It happens just as Charles D. Baker Jr., Weld’s political progeny, is about to become governor. Weld’s move, Baker told me Thursday, surprised him “a little.”

Did he find it a little bit, um, grimy for a former governor? Baker sidestepped. What people decide to do professionally is their business, he said.

For his part, Weld told the Globe’s Frank Phillips that he doesn’t “have anything specific in mind” that he’ll be lobbying on, but that he felt it would be prudent to register just in case something develops.

And that wouldn’t be hard to imagine. Weld, after all, is now employed at the lobbying leviathan ML Strategies, where his clients include casino magnate Steve Wynn.

I asked Baker if he’d disclose to reporters when Weld comes calling in his lobbyist incarnation. (Maybe we could have a State House alarm that sounds like the duck call Weld has been known to demonstrate after taking a little medicine water.)

“We will comply with all the rules,” he replied. Translation: No.

Could Baker ever see himself becoming a lobbyist?

“No.” Because it’s, um, a little bit grimy for someone who’s been governor? Because, Baker said, “whatever my next life includes, it is going to involve wanting to run something.” Other than a lobbying practice, that is.

And yet, lobbying sometimes seems to be the way of all political flesh. Remember Douglas MacArthur’s observation that “old soldiers never die, they just fade away?” Old legislators don’t even fade away. They just buy more expensive suits, register as legislative agents, and start buttonholing their former colleagues on behalf of monied interests.

There is, for example, former speaker Tom Finneran. His operation goes by the name “Finneran Global Strategies,” but lobbying at the State House is apparently a significant part of that grand global sweep. And there’s Charles Flaherty, Finneran’s predecessor, who counts Mohegan Sun among his clients.

Poor Sal DiMasi, the speaker who followed Finneran, never got a chance to start his career as a legislative agent. He is currently a house guest of Uncle Sam because of the scheme he and a lobbyist pal hatched to fix a contract in exchange for bribes. Or confidential public-policy-pimping payments, as I believe they are called in the prison-inmate community.

On the Senate side, former president Robert Travaglini plies the corridors of power at both the State House and City Hall, where he was a city councilor, on behalf of a long roster of clients. Kevin Harrington, the propreantepenultimate president, spent decades lobbying after leaving the Legislature. I remember him once telling a story about charging a client $5,000 for a few minutes’ work persuading a governor to veto a piece of legislation.

And here’s a bet I’ll make: Once her cooling-off period expires, it won’t be long before Therese Murray, the departing Senate president, hangs out her own lobbying shingle.

It leaves me with three observations: When elected officials complain that they could be earning much more in the private sector, they must mean the money they could make lobbying their colleagues.

Second, some other states have a nifty idea: Make lobbyists wear easily visible badges while working. Or maybe even those fluorescent orange vests hunters favor. That would prove illuminating to public observers of the process.

Finally, perhaps reporters should start asking candidates for office whether they’ll pledge not to become lobbyists when their political careers are over.

Not that they’d keep those promises. Still, it would be fun to remind them of their once-lofty sentiments when the inevitable day comes that they cross over to the dark side.


Former Governor William F. Weld (left) campaigned for Governor-elect Charlie Baker in Lowell on Oct. 31. JONATHAN WIGGS/GLOBE STAFF/FILE

"Weld registers as a State House lobbyist"
By Frank PhillipsGLOBE STAFF DECEMBER 11, 2014

William F. Weld, a onetime federal prosecutor who rattled Beacon Hill with political corruption probes, has become the first former governor in modern times to register as a State House lobbyist, just a month before his protege Charlie Baker is sworn in as Massachusetts’ next governor.

Weld, whose legal clients include Steve Wynn’s Las Vegas gambling operations, signed up with the secretary of state’s lobbying division this week as an agent for ML Strategies, the government relations arm of the giant Boston law firm Mintz Levin.

Baker owes much to Weld. He helped create Baker’s public life by giving him major Cabinet posts in his administration and has been a close adviser and mentor to the governor-elect during his recent campaign and transition period.

In an e-mailed statement in response to a request for an interview, Weld said he felt it “prudent” to register “in case” his practice developed to a level that requires registration under the law.

“Don’t have anything specific in mind, but obviously would try my utmost to manage my professional activities in a way that does not burden my friendship with the governor and lieutenant governor,’’ he said.

The Baker administration will face a series of significant issues as Wynn, who was chosen this year to develop a casino in Everett, begins to construct the huge facility. The governor’s team will have to decide on environmental and transportation issues that are critical to the construction of the project.

Weld, who is also listed as an attorney at Mintz Levin, has served as Wynn’s local legal counsel, appearing at his elbow at the state Gaming Commission when the gambling mogul was vying for the casino license for the Boston area.

ML Strategies also has a list of well-established corporations and professional groups who will depend on Baker administration decisions on regulations and policies. They include the Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council, which is navigating the state’s health care reforms; alternative energy companies, such as Nalcor Energy, a hydroelectric firm looking to bring energy from Canada into Massachusetts, and the Solar Energy Business Association of New England; and the giant pharmaceutical firm, Johnson & Johnson, which has a series of regulatory and tax issues before the state.

Baker’s spokesman Tim Buckley, noting the close relationship, said Baker’s administration “will set a high standard for transparency as they enact his agenda to make Massa