The Associated Press is reporting the U.S. House of Representatives is set to pass a national highway tunnel inspection program to try to prevent tragedies like Boston’s Big Dig Tunnel Collapse. There are no national standards for tunnel inspections currently on the books.
The legislation was filed in the wake of a July 2006 accident in which a 38-year-old woman was killed when a portion of Boston's Big Dig Interstate-90 connector tunnel ceiling collapsed and crushed the car she was riding in with her husband. Several companies faced indictment in this accident. Last July, National Transportation Safety Board officials agreed the woman’s death could have been avoided if routine inspections had taken place in this portion of Boston's Big Dig Project.
Congressman Michael Capuano, D-MA, 8th, tells the AP he expects the measure to be approved tonight. Capuano filed legislation (H.R. 409) late last year amending the Nationwide Bridge Inspection Program to include the mandatory inspection of all highway tunnels. The bill was passed on Aug. 2 by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. His legislation creates a program modeled after the nation-wide bridge inspection program, according to Capuano’s website.
“Currently there are no national standards or requirements for inspecting highway tunnels,” Capuano states on his website. “Instead, this responsibility lies with the tunnel owners, who have complete authority to determine how their tunnels should be inspected. At a minimum, tunnel owners must follow the requirements included in their bonding agreements relating to the structure.”
According to Capuano’s website, “H.R. 409 requires the Secretary of Transportation to establish minimum inspection requirements for tunnels, include the maximum amount of time permitted between inspections and the manner in which inspections will be carried out. The Secretary will also establish the qualifications necessary for those conducting inspections, establish a national certification program for highway tunnel inspectors and implement a program to train inspectors. States will be required to maintain an inventory of all highway tunnel inspection reports, including information detailing any follow up actions relating to inspections.”
The Senate is expected to take up the bill later this year.