WBUR

Highway Administrator: Current Lights Are Safe

BOSTON — The state highway administrator says it will cost $54 million to replace all the light fixtures in the Big Dig tunnels because of design or manufacturing defects that have led to corrosion.

Problems with the tunnel light fixtures gained attention after a fixture fell from the O’Neill Tunnel ceiling onto the roadway in February 2011.

MassDOT Highway Administrator Frank DePaola joined WBUR’s Morning Edition to discuss the decision to replace all of the lights in the tunnel.

DePaola said that after installing restraints on the lights, the state commissioned a study to determine the best long-term solution for securing the fixtures.

“There are 25,000 individual light fixtures, and we plan on replacing all of them,” DePaola said.

DePaola also stressed that the current lights are safe.

“After the first fixture, and the only fixture fell, what we did is we went in and we put in a redundant restraint system,” DePaola explained. “There are two restraints on every light and, as people drive by, it is very obvious to see them around the light fixture. Each restraint is capable of holding the entire weight of the light. So there are two supplementary restraints on every single light fixture, so there is no danger at all of them falling unexpectedly.”

The work is expected to begin next year and will require regular overnight lane closures for up to two years.

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