Case Study of the Big Dig in Boston

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The Central Artery/Tunnel Project, known unofficially as the Big Dig, in Boston was the most expensive highway project in the U.S. and consisted of countless errors. The project had errors throughout the plan and design that lead to escalating costs, scheduling overruns, leaks, design flaws, poor execution, substandard materials and even four deaths.

The Central Artery/Tunnel Project (also known as the ‘Big Dig’) was a scheme to rebuild Boston’s elevated Central Artery expressway, which cut through the city center, in order to eliminate this disturbing element and relieve the persistent traffic problems in the center of the city. The expressway has been replaced with an underground road. The project was too extensive to describe all the details here. It was basically composed of many subprojects: a downtown tunnel, a connecting cable-stayed bridge, and two consecutive tunnels under the harbor to the airport and many additional subsidiary sections. The tunnels had to weave between many existing structures, both above and below ground. It took about fifteen years to build all the sections, demolish the old structure and restore the surface, predominantly with parks. The project initially began planning in 1970 and didn’t conclude until December 31, 2007.

Prior to the start of construction, the project client – Massachusetts’ Department of Public Works on behalf of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (owner) – had been downsized and was not equipped to manage the whole project by itself. The Department therefore hired a large project management joint venture as a consultant to draw up preliminary designs and oversee implementation. This structure meant that the management consultant was to supervise the contractors and designers, while the Department of Public Works was to oversee the project management consultant.

During the work, subcontractors filed a large number of claims and changes with the project management. In many contract areas, deviate site...
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