Congressman Capuano's Amendment Establishing a Nationwide Highway Tunnel Inspection Program Passes in the House

July 24, 2008

Congressman Mike Capuano's legislation requiring mandatory inspection of all highway tunnels was included as an amendment to H.R. 3999: The National Highway Bridge Reconstruction and Inspection Act, which passed in the House on Thursday. Rep. Capuano's bill, H.R. 409, first passed in the House on January 22, 2008. It is modeled after the Nationwide Bridge Inspection Program which requires that all highway bridges be inspected and establishes a series of minimum inspection standards. Congressman Capuano's measure 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 raised about the project, including 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 authority over how their tunnels should be inspected. At a minimum, tunnel owners must follow the requirements included in their bonding agreements relating to the structure.

"We know that 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.

Congressman Capuano's amendment directs the Secretary of Transportation to establish minimum inspection requirements for tunnels, including 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.

"Our highway tunnels deserve the same scrutiny as our nation's bridges, which will give us more information about our infrastructure and can help identify issues before they impact the safety of the traveling public," stated Congressman Mike Capuano.

H.R. 3999 directs the Secretary of Transportation to establish a priority list of all federal-aid highway bridges that are in need of replacement or rehabilitation. It also directs states to develop a five year plan for addressing all highway bridges in need of repair. The legislation updates national bridge inspection standards and expands the national bridge inspection training program. It authorizes $1 billion in Fiscal Year 2009 for the repair of structurally deficient bridges. H.R 3999 now moves to the Senate.


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