NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Major Cost Overruns On Nation's Biggest Public Works Project

February 16, 2000

The Central Artery-Harbor Tunnel Project -- commonly known as the "Big Dig" -- in downtown Boston is the nation's most expensive public works project. And it is getting more expensive all the time. Cost overruns have federal officials hurling charges at Massachusetts officials as the costs emerge and mount.

  • The revelation that the project would exceed its $10.8 billion budget by $1.4 billion led to a temporary freeze on state spending and to calls for a criminal investigation.
  • More than a decade ago, the project's cost was estimated at $5 billion.
  • State officials didn't reveal the additional costs until February 1 -- coincidentally the same day the Federal Highway Administration approved spending on the project for another year.
  • The outraged Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), chairman of a House Transportation subcommittee, accused Massachusetts officials of "deliberate deceit" yesterday and asked whether there could be a "civil or criminal penalty for not telling the truth."

An inspector general's audit of the project warns of possible additional costs.

Massachusetts officials have come up with a plan to cover the overruns by raising tolls on tunnels and the Massachusetts Turnpike a year earlier than planned, eliminate plans to cut driver's license fees and to borrow more money.

Source: Fred Bayles, "Boston's 'Big Dig' Deeper in Hole," USA Today, February 16, 2000.


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