Big Mess

I take the Southeast Expressway when I drive home from work. Tonight there was a lot of traffic, so the drive was slow. Since I've been thinking about the Big Dig, I figured I'd try to take a picture of the highway with my camera phone.

I'm sure most of you have heard about this construction project that has been going on for years and years, which is supposed to improve the highway system in Boston. It is over budget, has cost billions of dollars and caused the needless death of a woman who was with her husband in their car driving to the airport through one of the tunnels.

A few days ago, I read that Panamanians voted to expand the Panama Canal. I started thinking about which construction company would do the work and my immediate gut reaction was I hope that Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff does not do it. Bechtel is the company that worked on and continues to work on the Big Dig.

Their work obviously could have been better. I also just read that this company, who has caused so much misery with this project, still has employees working as consultants and they are still being paid millions upon millions of dollars.

I don't have any experience with construction, but my understanding is that many companies have to bid to win these construction contracts. I think that the ones who bid the least amount are supposed to win the contracts. But it seems that companies like Becthel are so powerfully connected, that they are able to bid low, and beat out other companies who probably would have done a better job for less money.

I'm sure there is some company that put everything they could into a bid for the Big Dig, but who never had a chance. They are probably watching this nightmare continue to unfold and wonder why. I don't know how the bidding process works in Panama, but I hope this new canal expansion contract goes to a safe and worthy company.


wheresmymind said…
When all is said and done (and not falling apart) the big dig is pretty incredible :) I love walking to the North End and having it be so quiet
Anonymous said…
The continued involvement of Parsons Brinkerhoff has been a bit of a scandal, but I can see how a large project like this would need their continued help and presence. The project is probably (I hope) well documented, but it's easier and faster to ask the builder how and what was done than to search for the documentation.
It's sad, but when you make something as big and as complex as this, I think you'll need the help of the original builder, even though the builder was unethical and untrustworthy.
Anonymous said…
After rereading my previous comment, my only excuse is ... public school.
Lisa Johnson said…
wheresmymind - Finally! But we sure had to wait for it. And the open green space, that park that we've all been waiting for. I don't think it is going to happen.

anonymous - Thanks for stopping by, but I still think Bechtel needs to get out.

I just did a quick search, which I guess I should have done before I wrote this post. It's too late for the Panamanians. Bechtel recently signed a 10 year contract to work on the Panama Canal. Here is a link to a very interesting article.
Anonymous said…
I'm sorry, but I have to say I don't think you know at all what you are talking about.

Bechtel and Parsons Brinckerhoff are not contractors. They are "management consultants." They were hired for this job because the state did not want to hire people itself to supervise the design and construction. They were chosen based on experience and not on some "low bid." As it happens, there were no other countries in the world capable of the scope of work, the biggest public works project in US history. I'm not exaggerating about the project or the fact that there were no other qualified companies; look it up.

The B/PB employees and the state employees all worked together as an integrated team. This current press story is kind of stupid, because while the people still working may get their paychecks from B or PB, they report to state employees without any intermediary. At this time, Bechtel has no more relationship to the Big Dig than a staffing firm.

As far as your doubts that the parks will be built, you obviously haven't been in that area for a while. They're under construction right now. Go look. I think the MassPike website has some info on them, too.

I'm sorry if this message is a little curt, but you've said several things I know to be false, and I'm a little agitated by that. I don't mean to be a jerk.
Lisa Johnson said…
bob - Thanks for stopping by. If I've said things that are false, then thank you for the corrections. I certainly have no knowledge from the inside, just what I've read and my general impressions of the situation.

However, I still do not trust them being there and if I can avoid the tunnels, I do. I don't feel safe with the construction that has been done, but there really is not much choice when it comes to driving certain places.

I'll look for the park construction. I hope that it is completed one day.

I don't think you are being a jerk. And I think a little agitation is good. I'm glad to hear your point of view. I will never know all the facts about this, I only have my opinion.
Jeseem said…
hmm.. a thought.
there shld be sm way of rating construction companies based on there past work. n this rating shld be used also , when awarding tenders( apart from the other considerations).
maybe there is smthing like that already , that i dunno abt
Lisa Johnson said…
jeseem - I wouldn't doubt if there is something like that which exists on a local and/or state level, maybe even on a national level. I'm not sure it exists on an international level. I think it is needed.

The only thing is that the companies that are working at an international level are so big. These companies are probably pretty few and far between. Also, if people really want to find out information, a simple Google search will reveal quite a bit.

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