BOSTON - The problems surrounding the Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel project continued this week as fresh allegations about fees for consultants were discussed by the state legislature.
In Tuesday's session of the House post audit and oversight committee, it was revealed that the state had paid as much as $45,000 to consultants for the Bechtel/Parsons Brinkerhoff management consortium. The state hired the firms to oversee construction of the tunnel project.
State investigator Thomas Hammond testified earlier this week that state taxpayers will have to pick up the costs of consultants' closing fees on homes, cable hookups, and driver's licenses.
Mmebers of the post audit committee, which reviews the efficiency of state programs and departments, criticized the state's handling of the project and said the state needs more than the 52 engineers it currently has in place to watch over the progress of the project. There are approximately 1,000 workers involved in the project's construction.
The $7.7 billion project in downtown Boston has run into a string of bad news.
The first estimate of the project's cost was about $2.5 billion. But the figure has kept growing since the mid-1980s, and a recent report said it may go up some more.
Although the Federal Highway Administration has pledged to pay 85% of the costs of the project, grumblings out of Washington, D.C., have been heard. Earlier this year, an FHA official said the federal government may place a cap on the amount it is willing to spend on the project.
Most sources said, however, that it is unlikely that the federal government would cap its spending because of the influence of Massachusetts' congressional delegation. Gov. William F. Weld has said the state still needs to come up with a plan to handle its share of the costs.
The Bechtel Co. has also been under fire recently because Peter Berlandi, a consultant working for the company, may have used his influence as a friend and political ally of Weld to delay bad news about the project.
The Boston Grobe reported earlier this month that Berlandi did not inform the state of poor soil quality near the proposed Fort Point Crossing of the Artery. The poor soil could cost the state an additional $200 million to $500 million and two extra years of construction.
Berlandi has repeatedly denied that he ever used his relationship with the governor for business purposes.