Monday, February 3, 2014

Brunswick’s very own “Big Dig??”

It’s been some years since “The Big Dig” and “Fat Matt Amarillo” were the main fodder for Howie Carr’s talk show on weekday afternoons.  This was the time frame that our Howie Carr addiction took root; Amarillo was the ‘hack’ managing the project for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. 

Now we have our own “WOMG” weather center hat, inspired by Biff Biffington, Howie’s intrepid severe weather warning reporter.

Don’t know how many folks up here paid much attention, but The Big Dig was afflicted by massive overruns and significant management issues, as most government projects of such a scale are.  Case in point: Obamacare, which might be seen as a health care system Big Dig.

Not to mention extremely significant engineering failures.

As a friend told us today, major litigation ensued, and the lead contractor team, Bechtel and Parsons Brinkerhoff, were the primary defendants.

You can read more on this subject by pursuing the items on this google search page:

You’ve likely heard of Bechtel, which has a global business profile.  But you may not have heard of Parsons Brinkerhoff (PB).  PB served as the ‘Quality Control’ agent on the project, which is a debatable concept under the circumstances.

The litigation was ‘settled’ for a sum of $407 million dollars, and we’re told PB was apportioned $40 million in liability.

So far, you’re probably thinking this is a big fat ‘so what.’  That’s why we’re here; to answer questions like this.

Well here’s ‘what.’  Parsons Brinkerhoff has been working for the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) since the 2011 time frame, performing the preliminary design for the Amtrak Maintenance and Layover Facility. 

They prepared the RFP for construction of the facility, and the Environmental Assessment (EA) that has now become the main bone of contention in the location of the MLF in the Bouchard Drive neighborhood. 

PB also did the assessment of the various site candidates, and selected the Brunswick West location.

Besides being the quality control lead on The Big Dig, they did the noise studies for that project, just as they did the noise studies for the MLF EA.  Even more interesting, key individuals on the Big Dig project have played lead roles on the NNEPRA work.

While this record on the Big Dig doesn’t prove anything tangible about their efforts on the NNEPRA work, it certainly doesn't do anything to inspire confidence in their abilities.  We have no idea how the bidding process worked to bring them on board, or whether there was even a competition for the work. 

That would be an interesting avenue of exploration in and of itself.  Perhaps one of our readers can help on this.

One way or another, past experience must not have played much of a role in their selection, or those who made the decision to hire them (NNEPRA) didn't invest much effort in due diligence.

That seems to be an epidemic in government circles, as you may well have noticed.  We’ve seen what it can lead to in town buildings.

The subject here is Amtrak and the Downeaster, and far greater public dollars are at stake.  It’s not much of a stretch to find some equivalency in the circumstances if you really think about it.  Especially if you throw MLF construction in Brunswick into the mix.

We’re just hoping we don’t see a local adaptation of this T-Shirt in Cool as a Moose and other local shops in a few years.


One that says “I survived the Amtrak MLF.”  Or even worse, “I didn’t; I had to sell at a loss and move.”

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