The similarities are uncanny between Massachusetts "Big Dig" and Riverside County's 60/91/215 Interchange project. Both were intended to solve a major traffic problem. Both ran grossly over budget. Both were delayed so long that drivers questioned whether either project would ever be finished.
Most noticeably, both projects were deemed so large and complex that the so-called transportation experts of each state broke the jobs up into smaller jobs to be designed then built. While this may sound reasonable it also raises questions of the competency and the ethics of those designing and building the projects.
Shoddy workmanship resulted in thousands of leaks at the "Big Dig." The Massachusetts State Police investigated one of the builders and found that sub-standard concrete had been used in construction of the tunnel. Then on July 6, 2006 a three-ton ceiling panel fell on a car traveling in the tunnel killing its driver.
Now Riverside County's 60/91/215 Interchange project is having problems some could easily see as similar to those in New England. Parts of the Interchange are literally falling apart. In August the Press Enquirer reported that a 3' x 2' piece of concrete fell out of the freeway down to the city street below. Fortunately no one was hurt.
Unfortunately, Cal-Trans and the Riverside County Transportation Commission did not make the repair of the crumbling overpass from the 215 to the 60 a high enough priority. The hole was patched, but permanent repairs were not scheduled until 2012, despite the continuing risk to motorists.
Those risks reared their heads last week when the torrential rains fell upon Riverside County and the troubled Interchange. Concrete again dropped out of the overpass down to the surface street below.
The Press Enquirer reported today that "Transportation officials blamed the unique design of the overpass" as the reason for the freeway falling apart. Reminds you of the "Big Dig" don't it?
While Cal-Trans is assuring the public that the Interchange is safe, how can we be sure? Cal-Trans allowed the overpass to open up to cars with the flawed pieces in place. Cal-Trans re-opened it with a patch that could not withstand a heavy thunderstorm. What other problems exist at the 60/91/215 Interchange that have not yet been made public?
This is still earthquake country and we have not had a strong quake in southern California for many years. One could argue that we are due. Will there be anything left standing of the 60/91/215 Interchange should a magnitude 7 quake or stronger hit the area?
Local representatives on the Riverside County Transportation Commission have a duty to find out how safe the Interchange is. They must then report to the public any dangers they discover and to fix those problems before there is a fatality like there was in the tunnel of the "Big Dig" in 2006.