BOSTON – A safety inspector challenged the durability of the anchor system used to hold up ceiling panels in Boston's extensive underground freeway system in 1999, but project overseers tried to allay his concerns seven years before panels fell and crushed a motorist, according to a memorandum that became public Wednesday.
John Keaveney wrote in a two-page memo to Robert Coutts, senior project manager for contractor Modern Continental Construction Co., that he could not "comprehend how this structure can withhold the test of time."
"Should any innocent State Worker or member of the Public be seriously injured or even worse killed as a result, I feel that this would be something that would reflect Mentally and Emotionally upon me, and all who are trying to construct a quality Project," he wrote, according to The Boston Globe, whose reporter was mailed a copy of the memo.
Governor Mitt Romney told reporters Wednesday that the revelation "really made me feel a little ill," and questioned why it had not triggered aggressive inspections after the installation was complete.
"If there's a real safety disagreement," said Romney, who is now overseeing an inspection of the tunnel system, "you would anticipate that you'd say, `Let's install it, then let's test it, and then let's come back on a regular basis and test it again and again and watch it."
More broadly, he said inspections since the July 10 accident in which panels fell and killed 39-year-old Milena Del Valle of Boston in the tunnel to Logan Airport have revealed systemic problems throughout the $14.6 billion project, the most expensive highway project in America's history.
Meanwhile, the state's highest court ruled that Romney can proceed with a scheduled hearing Thursday in his effort to oust Massachusetts Turnpike Authority Chairman Matthew Amorello from his post overseeing Boston's troubled freeway tunnel system.
Romney intensified his efforts to remove Amorello after the fatal tunnel ceiling collapse July 10. He has long been critical of Amorello, a fellow Republican and has repeatedly called on Amorello to resign accusing him of secretiveness and citing mismanagement of the highway project.