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‘Big Dig’ May Be in Boston, but Its Roots Are on the Hill

Salvucci said he sees the 2000 vote as a way for McCain, then running for president, to grandstand. “Every state gets to spend its dollars any way it wants, but Massachusetts can’t spend the money on the Central Artery?” he asked. “It was a punitive thing that McCain got through.”

But Mead disagreed. “This was Congress at its best,” he said. “McCain was on it.”

After the cap was passed, Congress was relatively dormant on the Big Dig, especially given that the next couple of years saw a number of ribbon-cutting ceremonies and a general winding down of the construction.

But the issue flared up again in 2004, when the tunnels began to spring leaks.

In April 2005, Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), the chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, went to Boston to hold a Congressional hearing on the leaks. In written testimony, Mead called for a top-to-bottom review of quality issues.

“The authority and the Federal Highway Administration should be taking steps to ensure that there are no other construction quality lapses,” he said. “They should consider implementing a project-wide quality review.”

But the review, which Mead requested, never happened. “It was one of the most frustrating experiences of my career,” he said. A little over a year after Mead testified that a quality review was in order, Del Valle died in her car from the concrete collapse. After the July 10 accident, politicians sought to increase oversight of the project again.

“For all intents and purposes, there was no oversight of the project,” Harshbarger said. “Now everyone wants to oversee it.” Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) has now taken over control of the project, promising to turn it around, just like he did the once-troubled Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002.

The accident has created some political worries on Capitol Hill as well. Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Mass.) complained to the press that the Big Dig would “absolutely” impact the delegation’s ability to bring home money for Boston.

And in July, Kennedy said Congressional committees plan to hold hearings into the tunnel collapse and the overall project. “We want to make sure the issue of safety is front and center,” Kennedy told The Associated Press.

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