Capuano Introduces Legislation to Create a Nationwide Highway Tunnel Inspection Program

April 30, 2009

Congressman Mike Capuano has re-introduced legislation requiring the mandatory inspection of all highway tunnels. This measure was first filed in 2007 and passed the House last year but was not acted on by the Senate. The legislation is modeled after the Nationwide Bridge Inspection Program which requires that all highway bridges be inspected and establishes minimum inspection standards. Congressman Capuano's legislation requires that highway tunnels also be subject to standardized inspection.

After the tragic July 2006 death of Milena Del Valle due to a falling ceiling panel in a Big Dig tunnel many questions were raised, including those relating to tunnel inspections. 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.

"There is no question that national standards should exist for the inspection of all highway tunnels. In simplest terms, my legislation applies the Nationwide Bridge Inspection Program to tunnels. By implementing this program, we will have a much better understanding of the condition of highway tunnels nationwide. Any potential problems can be identified and addressed in a more timely fashion," stated Congressman Mike Capuano, who is a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Congressman Capuano's measure 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 inspectors, create 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. "Our nation's bridges are subject to all of these requirements, and our highway tunnels should receive the same careful scrutiny," stated Congressman Mike Capuano.

Congressman Capuano has also written to House Transportation Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar, asking that his legislation be included in an upcoming transportation reauthorization bill, scheduled for debate this year.


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