Callahan Tunnel To Be Inspected After Panel Falls

An empty space marks the location of a 4-by-9-foot panel that fell from the wall of Boston's Callahan Tunnel Friday night. (Courtesy MassDOT)
An empty space marks the location of a 4-by-9 foot panel that fell from the wall of Boston's Callahan Tunnel Friday night. (Courtesy MassDOT)

The Callahan Tunnel will be closed overnight Sunday night so that state highway crews can inspect the panels along the tunnel walls, after one of them fell into the road.

The 4-by-9 foot, 100-pound decorative panel of sheet metal didn't hit any cars when it fell Friday evening. Inspectors removed two other panels next to it and found the metal fasteners on each were rusted and loose.

State Highway Administrator Frank DePaola said his workers inspected the tunnel within the last four months.

“In particular, because we’ve seen these panels come loose, approximately once a quarter we look at the walls of this tunnel,” DePaola said. “It’s a somewhat random event to find the one loose one.”

The 2,800 panels, put up to cover the tunnel walls and help diffuse light, were installed in 1990. DePaola said more than 20 highway workers will "physically tug on every panel" during the inspection between 9:00 p.m. Sunday and 5:00 a.m. Monday.

Noting the vast number of "aging assets" in the state transportation system, DePaola said MassDOT is working to shore up deteriorating infrastructure.

“Within the limits of the resources we have available, we are trying to address state of good repair of our assets, and we try to prioritize that based upon the age and level of deterioration,” DePaola said. “We do have capitol plans to renovate this tunnel, but we have to make sure that we’re not working on all roadways at all times.”

That major renovation for the Callahan Tunnel is slated for January to April of 2014, and is expected to cost $10 million to $12 million.

This program aired on December 22, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

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Lynn Jolicoeur Producer/Reporter
Lynn Jolicoeur is the field producer for WBUR's All Things Considered. She also reports for the station's various local news broadcasts.



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