Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Tunnel Stories

Monday night's tunnel collapse that killed Milena Del Valle was one of those "there but for the grace of God go I" moments for most of us in the Boston area. It could have been any of us -- thousands of people use that tunnel every day. I drove my wife to the airport through it on Saturday and was set to drive through again last night to pick her up. If the epoxy held for another 24 hours, it might have been me under that rubble.

But it wasn't me. It was Milena Del Valle, and the Globe has the heart-wrenching story told by her husband, who was driving the car that was crushed and escaped with only minor injuries. My sincere condolences go out to their family. My wife and I have been married for just about four years -- I can't even imagine what I'd do if this had happened to us.

The Herald describes the scene that faced the rescue workers on the pike that night:

"There was a hunk of concrete hanging by a piece of rebar directly above the whole thing," Price said. "It looked like it may have come down on us. It was swinging like a pendulum, probably a 2,000 pound slab just swinging, hanging on by like a bolt."
There are also stories coming out this one (via Universal Hub).
This particular project [a column on the Zakim bridge] made three samples for early breaks. The first test, performed the morning after the column was poured, broke at too low a strength, failing the test. Later that afternoon, the second test was done. It failed. The
following morning, our favorite contractor's rep (the same guy who gave the go-ahead to pour at the airport), showed up with the final sample for testing. This cylinder also failed with a low break-strength. The concrete tech (my husband) wrote the break-strength numbers on his report and gave a copy to the contractor.

Immediately, the contractor's rep called the job site, informed his men that the test had passed and that it was safe to strip off the forms. Erasing the failed break-strengths on the report, he wrote in the numbers he wanted to see, and faxed the report to the site.
This is not a new story. We've been hearing whispers and accusations now practically since the project began. Not just the cost overruns and the skimming off the top, but actual questions about the workmanship. That it may have taken someone's death for us to get some action on these known problems is an outrage.