BOSTON -- A much anticipated report has reinforced fears among Massachusetts officials that the Central Arteryr/Third Harbor Tunnel won't be completed until 2002.
The report, written by the project's management firm, Bechtel Corp., said that poor soil quality at the Fort Point Channel could add $200 million to the project's cost and tack two more years onto its construction. Such a delay would push back completion until 2002.
The Third Harbor Tunnel is scheduled to be opened to taxis and buses in November 1995 and to all other vehicles in 2000.
The Fort Point Channel, near Boston's South Station, is an important link between the Central Artery and the Massachusetts Turnpike.
The construction of the tunnel underneath the channel is particularly tricky. It will be built below the bed of the channel but above a tunnel used by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's Red Line subway,
Because of this double-decking, the stability of:the soil that makes up the channel bed is considered to be vitally important.
Bechtel/Parsons Brinkerhoff, the group hiredto supervise the project's construction, took soil samples by boring holes into the ground every 300 feet along the bottom of the channel to test the soil's strength.
Several critics of the project said cost overruns may well reach $500 million, not $200 million.
The samples were taken before it was decided to add lanes to the project for commuter car pools. State Secretary of Transportation James J. Kerasiotes said yesterday that the commuter lanes may have to be sacrificed for the crossing to be completed without undue expense.
But state officials, including Kerasiotes, are not expected to go along with either the additional costs or the delay.
Since the Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel project began, costs and deadlines have been constantly revised. In 1985, the project was estimated to cost about $2.5 billion. Recent estimates, made before to the Bechtel's report, place the cost at $7.7 billion.
Although the federal government has pledged to provide about 85% of the funds for the project, earlier this summer the Federal Highway Administration released a report that was highly critical of the project's progress to date.
The report, prepared by the FHA's Office of the Inspector General, said the federal government should Consider placing a cap on it spending at $7.7 billion.
After the $7.7 billion has been spent, the report calls on the federal government to lower its share to 50% from 85%