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Feb. 13, 2007

The Big Dig: What Went Wrong?

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – Academics will examine ethical and policy dimensions of Boston’s infamous highway and tunnel plan, the Big Dig, and other large engineering projects during a forum at Smith College on Saturday, March 3.

The discussion, called  “Big Dig, Big Questions,” will take place from 1 to 4:30 p.m. in the Campus Center, Carroll Room, and is free and open to the public.

Now in its final stages of construction, the Big Dig is the largest and most complex highway and tunnel project in the nation's history. The Big Dig project spans 7.8 miles of highway – about half in tunnels – and cost about $14.6 billion to build.

Last year, the project also became a crime scene after concrete panels fell from the tunnel ceiling, killing the passenger of a car. The July 10 death of Milena Del Valle has resulted in the state’s civil lawsuit against 15 companies involved in the design and construction of the ceiling, charging that negligence led to its collapse.

As the first women's college with an engineering program, Smith is particularly interested in exploring the extent to which the education of engineers prepares them to identify and respond to the kinds of difficulties that have plagued the Big Dig.

At the forum, University of Virginia Professor Deborah G. Johnson and Harvard University’s Rappaport Institute Executive Director David Luberoff will discuss what went wrong with the Big Dig.

Deborah G. Johnson
Johnson is the Anne Shirley Carter Olsson Professor of Applied Ethics in the Department of Science, Technology, and Society in the School of Engineering and Applied Science of the University of Virginia. Books she has written include “Ethical Issues in Engineering,” published by Prentice Hall in 1991. Johnson also co-edits a book series on Women, Gender, and Technology. She has taught courses on ethical theory; information technology, ethics, and policy; engineering ethics; and values and policy. Her awards include the John Barwise Prize from the American Philosophical Association in 2004 and the Sterling Olmsted Award from the Liberal Education Division of the American Society for Engineering Education in 2001.

David Luberoff
Luberoff became executive director of the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, a Harvard University-wide entity housed at the Kennedy School of Government, in June 2004. He was previously associate director of the Kennedy School’s Taubman Center for State and Local Government and an adjunct lecturer at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Luberoff is the co-author of Mega Projects: The Changing Politics of Urban Public Investment, which was named the year’s best book on urban politics by the American Political Science Association. He also wrote “Civic Leadership and the Big Dig” in 2004, and “Mega-Project: A Political History of Boston’s Multibillion Dollar Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel Project” for the Taubman Center in 1996.

The event is sponsored by the Picker Engineering Program, the Philosophy Department and the Program in Ethics.


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Kristen Cole
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