Video: 'Big Dig' hearings

By Rehema Ellis Correspondent
NBC News
updated 3/11/2005 7:30:13 PM ET 2005-03-12T00:30:13

The latest problems with the Big Dig are hard to see, but officials say they started with massive leaks in highway tunnels. Now ice from the leaks has caused some fireproofing material to crumble and fall.

"We're in a waterproofing protocol program now, holding our contractors responsible for the repair of the leaks, and we're down to about 400 leaks now," says Matthew Amorello, chairman of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.

It's just the latest bad news about the $14.6 billion project that critics call a "fleecing of America."

Billions over budget, riddled with construction delays and poor planning, the Big Dig is frustrating for those who've lived with it year after year, for more than a decade.

"They're telling us that there's more and more problems going on, and we're going to have to spend more and more money for this," says Boston resident Laura Maruca. "So, yeah, it's aggravating."

What's also troubling to some officials now about the Big Dig is in an effort to recover some funds, so far Massachusetts has spent $8 million and recovered less than half that amount from contractors.

In a rare move, Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly is taking charge of lawsuits to recoup money from the contractors.

"I don't think that it's too much to expect and too much to ask for taxpayers — both federal and state — [they] give us a tunnel that we paid for, and that's one that doesn't leak," says Reilly.

Friday night, in a written statement, the companies handling the project responded: "The central artery project is still an active construction zone and we always expected water intrusion during this phase. When it is completed this tunnel system will meet industry standards for water tightness. We stand by our work and are committed to working with the Massachusetts attorney general on a cost recovery based on actual facts."

Construction is now scheduled to be completed by September. But Bostonians like Tim Cleland have doubts.

"I'm kind of conditioned to looking to see what's next," he says.

Cleland and the rest of the city are still waiting to get to the light at the end of the tunnel.

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