updated 9/26/2006 4:10:23 PM ET 2006-09-26T20:10:23

A city transportation review prompted by a deadly collapse in a Big Dig tunnel has found cracks that will require major repairs to an older tunnel under Boston Harbor, Gov. Mitt Romney said Tuesday.

The Sumner Tunnel does not need to be closed immediately, and repair work probably will not begin until next summer at the earliest, the governor said. But he said there eventually could have been “a real safety failure” had the problems gone unchecked.

The tunnel opened in 1934 but had a major overhaul in the 1990s. Needed repairs will require lane closures at the very least.

During a news conference, Romney held up a 5- or 6-pound chunk of concrete he said had started to come loose and was removed from the ceiling by inspection crews this week. About 30 percent of the tunnel’s concrete lining has problems, he said, adding that there will be regular inspections to remove any loose concrete until repairs are completed.

Romney said the work won’t begin until after officials are able to reopen portions of the Big Dig that were closed in July after four concrete ceiling panels fell in the Interstate 90 connector tunnel and crushed a car, killing a woman.

The death sparked a public furor over the $14.6 billion Big Dig project, which buried the old elevated Central Artery with a series of tunnels, ramps and bridges.

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