More than 100 property owners, businesses and residents have filed complaints or insurance claims for damage they say was caused by Big Dig construction, according to a published report.
The $14.6 billion project’s neighbors blame the Big Dig for millions of dollars in damage, including cracked walls, shifting foundations and flooded basements.
But the Big Dig’s managers and insurer have paid out only $365,532 for fewer than 20 of the more than 100 claims filed since 2000, The Boston Sunday Globe reported.
The compensation includes construction accidents and expenses incurred by the project’s insurance company’s adjusters, said Tom Welgoss, the project’s director of risk management. Big Dig officials wouldn’t say how much money went to property owners.
Homeowners said the project’s managers have balked at helping them.
In the late 1990s, cracks began to appear in the walls and ceilings of Josephine Spagnuolo’s North End home shortly after Big Dig crews began excavating beneath the Central Artery. When she complained to Big Dig officials, they installed meters to measure the cracks.
“They’d come up and look and say, ‘No, it wasn’t us,”’ Spagnuolo recalled.
With the project slated for completion in September, some property owners are trying to negotiate settlements with Big Dig managers while others are intent on taking them to court.
Artists who own 249 A St. in South Boston filed a lawsuit after the Big Dig’s insurance adjusters and engineers denied causing more than $1 million damage to the century-old building.
“If we don’t make the repairs, the building would eventually collapse,” said Michael Roitman, a lawyer for the artists.
Big Dig officials vowed to pay legitimate claims, but said the project and its insurers, AIG, have an obligation to protect taxpayers from frivolous lawsuits.
“If we cannot make a causal link, we’ll have to say we see no causal link and therefore can’t pay for damage to the building, which we think is the result of either lack of maintenance or other causes,” said project director Michael Lewis.
Big Dig officials knew before the project broke ground that the construction could damage nearby buildings, the report said. In 1988, Big Dig consultants examined 284 historic buildings near the construction site and rated them according to their potential for damage.
The Big Dig tunnels are the centerpiece of the massive highway project, which buried Interstate 93 under downtown Boston and connected the Massachusetts Turnpike to Logan International Airport.
The project has been plagued for years by cost overruns and management problems. In September, water broke though a faulty wall panel and flooded the I-93 northbound tunnel, backing up rush-hour traffic for miles. A subsequent investigation found hundreds of smaller leaks.
The news reports have prompted calls for an indepdndent panel to review damage claims our of concern that the Big Dig’s own adjusters and engineers might not be objective.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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