Audit Reports

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The Commonwealth of Massachusetts' Safety Review of the Central Artery/Tunnel Project was Comprehensive, But FHWA's Oversight Approach has Shortcomings

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On April 20th, we issued our report on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ safety review of the Central Artery/Tunnel (CA/T) Project and the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) oversight approach. 

We initiated our audit work following a July 2006 incident in which concrete ceiling panels fell and killed a motorist in one of the CA/T Project's tunnels.  Our broad objective was to assure Congress, the Secretary of Transportation, and the public that the safety review was comprehensive and performed in a rigorous and complete manner.  We assessed: (1) the Commonwealth’s Phase II review, including actions taken to address identified safety risks, and (2) FHWA’s oversight of the Commonwealth’s actions to address unresolved safety issues.  This report concludes our audit work related to FHWA's oversight of the CA/T Project.

We found that the Commonwealth's Phase II safety review was comprehensive and rigorous, including that the Ted Williams Tunnel adhesive anchors do not pose an immediate risk to the traveling public.  At this time, actions to address many of the safety risks identified in the review have been taken, although several risks have not been fully evaluated or remain unresolved.  While FHWA has taken action to oversee the Commonwealth's efforts to resolve safety risks, its approach has shortcomings. 

We made the following recommendations to the Federal Highway Administrator:

  1. Verify that the Commonwealth implements a statistical sampling plan for testing the safety of the adhesive anchors in the Ted Williams Tunnel that produces adequate support for decisions on remediation activities, and oversee the testing and evaluation of the results.
  2. Verify that the Commonwealth implements the necessary modifications to safeguard motorists in case of a tunnel fire, taking into account the findings of WJE’s safety review and the results of FHWA’s fire modeling study.
  3. Verify that a quality assurance review of calculations assessing the structural integrity of CA/T Project concrete viaducts is completed.
  4. Conduct independent field verification of actions taken since June 2008, when Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates (WJE) completed its field verifications, to evaluate and resolve higher priority safety risks, including those classified by WJE in the two highest categories.
  5. Maintain a complete and accurate working list of all unresolved higher priority safety risks that includes those classified by WJE in the two highest categories as well as milestone dates for monitoring the Commonwealth’s progress in addressing unresolved safety risks.

The FHWA Administrator concurred or concurred in part with our recommendations.