The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

06 April 2005

Vehicle Damage From Falling Debris

Big Dig Nightmare
After Billions Spent, Commuters Fear I-93 Tunnels

Public officials have been in overdrive recently trying to convince Boston-area motorists that the I-93 "Big Dig" tunnels are safe, but with extensive panel damage and lane flooding, commuters are especially nervous.

Add the fact that several engineers are distancing themselves from claims the route is safe for public passage and well-founded fear develops. Federal officials tell a different story, declaring it sound.

Now, the caketopper emerges for this multibillion dollar boondoggle, as debris has fallen from the southbound I-93 tunnel, damaging cars and an ambulance transporting a patient. The situation is so alarming that American Medical Response has now banned its drivers from using the southbound route until further notice.

Big Dig agency officials were quick to say the problem was isolated with no further debris in danger of hitting anybody. But with so many incidents in the last year, drivers just don't believe it's safe to cross underneath Boston anymore.

This should be a lesson to other cities, such as Seattle, who think that tunnels are the way to solve transportation crises, such as how to replace the decrepit Alaskan Way Viaduct. There often seems to be a great reluctance, however, to learn from the mistakes of others.

(Boston Herald- Casey Ross- April 6, 2005)

day after the federal government declared the Big Dig tunnels safe, three cars and an ambulance transporting a patient were badly damaged yesterday by falling debris in the southbound lanes of the Interstate 93 tunnel.
The incident delayed an American Medical Response ambulance taking a nonemergency patient to a South Shore hospital and caused the company to tell its drivers not to use the southbound tunnel until further notice.
``I want to make sure my employees and patients are safe,'' said Kevin Prendergast, a vice president with American Medical Response. ``We have 150 vehicles at peak times, any number of which could be traveling through that tunnel.''
The company's ambulance, which sustained several cracks in its windshield and damage to the roof and front end, was one of four vehicles struck by concrete and other debris that fell through the roof of the I-93 southbound tunnel about 11:30 a.m.
``It was startling,'' said Tim Mahoney of Arlington, one of the drivers hit by the debris. ``I was just glad there wasn't a ton of traffic, because if somebody swerves, then you've got problems.''
Drivers described the debris as a constant stream of rocky material that rained down from above, forcing several vehicles to swerve to avoid it.


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