Congressman Mike Capuano's Legislation to Create a Nationwide Highway Tunnel Inspection Program Passes Today in the House

January 22, 2008

Congressman Mike Capuano's legislation to require mandatory inspection of all highway tunnels passed today in the U.S. House of Representatives. It was first filed in January of 2007. The legislation is modeled after the Nationwide Bridge Inspection Program which requires that all highway bridges be inspected and establishes a series of minimum inspection standards. H.R. 409 requires that highway tunnels also be subject to standardized inspection.

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. 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. My legislation simply creates a National Tunnel Inspection Program modeled after the Nationwide Bridge Inspection Program. It is a simple yet effective method of ensuring the safety of highway tunnels nationwide," stated Congressman Mike Capuano, who is a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

H.R. 409 directs the Secretary of Transportation to 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 ensure they are properly trained.

As with the Nationwide Bridge Inspection Program, 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.

"We currently subject our nation's bridges to all of these requirements, it is critical that our highway tunnels also receive the same careful scrutiny," stated Congressman Mike Capuano.

H.R. 409 now moves to the Senate.


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