Saturday, January 13, 2007

Boston's Big Dig tunnel where Costa Rican motorist was killed to reopen

BOSTON (AP) - The tunnel where a woman from Costa Rica was crushed to death in a ceiling collapse last summer will reopen Sunday, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said.

Patrick said Saturday he has "full confidence in the repairs" after touring the Big Dig tunnel where 39-year-old Costa Rican native Milena Del Valle was killed July 10.

Workers have installed and tested a new bracket-and-hanger system to support the concrete ceiling panels along a half-mile (800-meter) stretch of the tunnel, Patrick said.

The decision to reopen the tunnel came after inspections of the system by state and federal officials, he said.

"Every single one of those bolts has an inspection paper trail, ... has its own record of who inspected it in what conditions, what tests were used, what the outcomes were, even what the torque was in terms of how they were tightened," Patrick said.

Concrete ceiling panels crushed the car in which Del Valle was a passenger. Her husband, who was driving, survived and the family has filed a lawsuit.

Inspectors believe that bolts that held ceiling panels in place came loose because of failures in the epoxy resin designed to glue them in place.

The $14.6 billion (€11.32 billion) Big Dig project buried Interstate 93 and opened new connections to Logan International airport. It is the most expensive highway project in U.S. history and had been plagued by cost overruns and leaks before the fatal tunnel collapse.

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