The NTSB pictures of gross negligence in Boston’s Big Dig tunnel are horrific. My first reaction was that someone should hang for the ceiling collapse that killed a 39-year-old woman in July 2006.
The shot that struck me the most is the hanger plates and bolts pulling away from the fixed tunnel ceiling (below). One after the other is ajar when they should be tight and flush against the tunnel’s fixed ceiling. They gave me the sense of a listing ship filling up with water and, of course, pending disaster. The shots of the crushed car in which Milena Del Valle died when the suspended ceiling came crashing down on her are awful, as well.
What bothers me as much as the faulty construction — the NTSB concluded the wrong epoxy had been used to secure the bolts and hanger plates holding up a suspended ceiling — was the failure of inspectional services. Inspectors missed a strikingly visible flaw in the hanger system and failed to monitor it even though it was alleged they knew of the problems well before the collapse. The Boston Globe reported in January that the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority hadn’t inspected the ceiling in six years prior to Del Valle’s death. Now the tunnel gets inspected every six months, prompting Massachusetts Congressman Michael E. Capuano to lament, “Better late than never.” As the number of lawsuits mount, Massachusetts AG Martha Coakley is still weighing the possibility of criminal charges in the case. With rampant cost overruns, gushing tunnel leaks and the ceiling collapse last July, the project leaves me with a sick feeling.
On a lighter note, our feature on Consumer Reports’ auto test track filled the e-mailbag (don’t misread that as the e-airbag :-)). Anyhow, most of you agreed Consumer Reports is the gold standard in auto testing, but like me, some of you are tired of CR’s infatuation with Toyota and Honda. The letters are posted at my blog, Design Engineering at Large.
The most interesting response came from none other than Irv Gordon, who claims to hold the Guinness World Record for most mileage ever on a car, a 1966 Volvo P1800 or as he says, the same model “Volvo that Roger Moore drove in old “The Saint” TV series.”
Irv just updated me on the car’s odometer (or Irv-O-Meter) which reads 2.6 million miles following a 5,000 mile jaunt through Canada and the Upper Midwest. At this late July writing, the 65-year-old retired science teacher from East Patchogue, Long Island, was planning an August trip to Palo Alto, CA. Irv bought the car new in 1966 and still has it serviced by the dealer who sold it to him. If you want to read his e-mail on how Irv services the car and what parts are original and which have been replaced, go to my blog Design Engineering at Large. If you’re planning to keep your car for a long, long time, I’ll share one of Irv’s morsels of advice: only buy original OEM parts, although, at this point, the car is such great PR for Volvo, I have to believe his P1800 gets serviced for free.
It’s too bad the Big Dig wasn’t built as well as Irv’s 1966 P1800. How mortified are you about the Big Dig mistakes? Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.