Capuano's Legislation to Create a Nationwide Highway Tunnel Inspection Program Passes in Committee

August 2, 2007

Congressman Mike Capuano's legislation amending the Nationwide Bridge Inspection Program to include the mandatory inspection of all highway tunnels passed today in the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Since the tragic July 2006 death of Milena Del Valle as a result of a falling ceiling panel in one of the Big Dig tunnels, many questions have been rightfully raised about the short-term and long-term safety of this project. These questions include issues relating to inspection of the tunnel. When the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) met on July 10, 2007 to discuss their yearlong investigation into the accident, they issued a series of recommendations, including the establishment of a nationwide tunnel inspection program. Congressman Capuano's legislation (H.R. 409), which was filed in January of 2007, creates a program modeled after the nationwide bridge inspection program.

Currently there are no national standards or requirements for inspecting highway tunnels. 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.

"Clearly, this level of scrutiny was not enough in Massachusetts and more must be done to ensure the safety of the traveling public. There is no question that national standards should exist for the inspection of all highway tunnels," stated Congressman Mike Capuano, who is a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Under this proposal, the Secretary of Transportation will establish minimum inspection requirements for tunnels. This will 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 legislation also authorizes funds for the implementation of a tunnel inspection program.

H.R. 409 is now eligible for consideration on the floor of the House


Contact: Alison M. Mills (617) 621-6208