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Highway Engineer Placed On Leave After Lights Comments

BOSTON — One of the state’s top highway engineers has been placed on unpaid administrative leave following comments he made about being “trained” not to put safety concerns in writing.

Helmut Ernst has been under fire for comments reportedly made to the Boston Globe about corrosion affecting lights in Big Dig tunnels. He said engineers regularly don’t document problems because they fear retribution from lawsuits.

A 110-pound light fixture fell on a tunnel roadway in early February.

State Transportation Secretary Jeffrey Mullen says employees shouldn’t be afraid to report problems and says there’s a zero tolerance policy for failing to report safety concerns.

Mullen has hired an independent team to review Ernst’s conduct. He hopes to get that report back in 10 days.

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