BOSTON Two scorching reports released yesterday on the Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel project in Massachusetts said the costs of the project could go from current estimates of $7.7 billion to more than $11 billion.
The reports, one from the state auditor's office and one prepared by the Post Audit and Oversight Bureau of the state's House of Representatives, said that contractors have wasted millions of dollars on the project and that the state may have to pick up hundreds of millions of dollars in additional costs.
In the House report. Post Audit Bureau chairman Rep. William P. Nagle, D-Florence, called for the state to name a special inspector general to look into the cost overruns.
The bureau's report said that project costs "have risen by an average of $330 million to $500 million" every year for the last eight years. If costs continue to rise at that rate, the finished project would cost more than $11 billion, the bureau's report said.
Initial estimates for the project were in the $2.2 billion range. That figure rose to $7.7 billion in 1989. Last month, a report from the Artery Commission said costs could rise to $8 billion.
The Third Harbor Tunnel, which is expected to be named after Hall of Fame Boston Red Sox player Ted Williams, is scheduled to be opened for taxis and buses in 1995 and to all other traffic in 2000. But a recent report from the Federal Highway Administration said that general traffic access may be delayed by two years.
As just one example of uncontrolled costs, Nagle's report pointed to officials involved in the project from the Bechtel/Parsons Brickerhoff consulting firm, who were given up to $45,000 apiece in moving costs, for a total of $1.5 million, which Nagle claimed was excessive.
The report was presented to House members at a public post audit hearing yesterday afternoon.
Auditor A. Joseph DeNucci said in his report that management officials in the state did not do a good enough job in watching the cost of the project and could have avoided many of the cost revisions.
DeNucci's report said mismanagement is the root of many of the central artery project's problems.
"There has been mismanagement in the sense that this project has been harmed by a poor coordination of contractors," said Glenn Briere, spokesman for DeNucci. "If this project was scheduled better, a lot of these costs would not be involved."
Briere said that DeNucci's report was not meant to blast the project, but rather to help make sure the same mistakes do not happen again.
"Simple things like better coordination will help this project get completed," he said. "But it is the responsibility of [the state] highway department and the contractors to better identify potential problems before they occur in a project."
Another report from the auditor's office is currently being prepared that will identify other problems that have added to overall costs, Briere said.
In the report released yesterday, he said that more than $11 million in unnecessary costs were passed on to the project because of two contracts dealing with construction near Logan Airport.
Earlier this year, both the auditor and the state's inspector general requested additional funding in their fiscal 1995 budgets in order to oversee the central artery project. Both requests were denied.
Jordan St. John, a spokesman for Gov. William F. Weld, said it was still too soon to tell whether more money will need to be appropriated to investigate the allegations in these reports.
"We haven't really seen the reports yet," St. John said. "I don't think the question could even be raised until we have a better look at the reports."
But with these reports, several sources said there will be no choice but for the state to appoint more overseers to the project.
Although the federal government is slated to pick up about 85% of the project's costs, there has been grumbling from Washington, D.C., that the government may cap how much the it is willing to spend.
Many Bay State political sources said it is unlikely that President Clinton would withhold funding to a state with two powerful Democratic voices in the U.S. Senate: Edward Kennedy and John Kerry. But as costs continue to rise, more concerns are being raised that he might be forced to pull in the purse strings.
Weld has said he would be willing to approve a plan that would authorize state-backed bonds to help offset the state's share of the project.