Jul. 24, 2011 (UPI NewsTrack) --
BOSTON, July 24 (UPI) -- The top engineer for Boston's Big Dig says water leaks are becoming a relentless threat to the massive transportation project.
An internal report from engineer Helmut Ernst obtained by The Boston Globe (NYSE:NYT) said water has caused millions of dollars in damages and has corroded electrical systems and girders.
"Tunnel leaks are a more vexing problem as they are widespread throughout the tunnel and are the cause of safety concerns and (have) a damaging effect on the tunnel structure and equipment,'' Ernst said in the report, which the Globe said was intended as a briefing for a new state transportation official.
Ernst did not say the 7 1/2-mile tunnel was currently unsafe; however he warned officials that water leaks were a serious concern. He said the concerns were illustrated by last month's collapse of a 110-pound light fixture in the O'Neill Tunnel that was caused by corrosion.
The Globe said Ernst's report was condensed by the new Massachusetts highway administrator, Frank DePaola, prior to a briefing of the transportation board's directors earlier this month. DePaola told the newspaper the report was shortened for clarity and not because he wanted to soft-pedal the problem.
"I stick by my words that the tunnels are safe. It's not an urgent problem,'' said DePaola. "We are dealing with it. It's costing a lot of money.''