Reinstallation won’t delay reopening of City Hall site, official says
David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
Not long after MBTA officials showed off the flashy 40-foot glass walls of the new Government Center station, workers have had to take down and reinstall the panels because of a manufacturer’s defect, according to officials.
The 358 glass panels in the station must be replaced because they were fogging up, a problem caused by faulty sealant. But MBTA officials have promised the setback will not delay the $82 million station’s reopening, slated for next spring.
“The work is proceeding without negatively affecting safety, quality, costs, or the schedule,” Joe Pesaturo, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, said in an e-mail.
Pesaturo also said the defect will not cost taxpayers more money: The contractor, Barletta Heavy Division, must pay for the extra work. Pesaturo did not have estimates for how much the glass walls cost, saying the issue is between “the general contractor and one of its subcontractors.”
In order to rebuild the station into a more accessible stop for riders with disabilities, officials closed the stop to passengers in March 2014 for two years. Frank DePaola, who took over as the general manager of the MBTA in March, said shutting down the station has expedited the reconstruction.
The project’s setback comes amid skepticism about the agency’s ability to complete large-scale construction projects with few problems. Earlier this year, MBTA officials revealed its recent estimates for the Green Line extension into Somerville and Medford could be off by nearly $1 billion.
The Government Center station opened as Scollay Station more than a century ago, and workers had not done major upgrades to it since the 1960s.
Once the redesigned station is completed, passengers will be able to use two new elevators and rebuilt escalators.
The station will also look dramatically different. Workers are remaking the “head house” of the station, a once-cavernous entrance that matched City Hall plaza’s brick-laden floors. The glass panels for the new station are meant to add natural light to the busy station, which serves the Green and Blue lines.
Engineers say the inside of the station will also be extensively remodeled. Workers will refinish the platforms with colored terrazzo tiles, a far cry from the concrete-and-steel style to which longtime riders had become accustomed.
In late July, DePaola gave The Boston Globe a tour of the construction site and said the station was on track to open on schedule . At the time, engineers for the project touted the new glass walls that had been installed during the summer, saying the glass would give customers a completely different experience.
But earlier that month, the MBTA project office and the general contractor had begun investigating how the sealant between the two panes of the glass panels was failing, according to Pesaturo.
The following month, DePaola told the state transportation board they believed a defect from the glass manufacturer had led to fogging in the panels. He made the disclosure on the same day that MBTA officials revealed the Green Line extension could cost $1 billion more than expected.
Workers began removing the panels in early September and sent them back to the manufacturer, the California-based Innovative Structural Glass, according to Pesaturo. The company had to strip the panels of their sealant materials and reassemble the windows before workers could reinstall them.
More than half of the glass panels have been re-installed, according to Pesaturo. The entire re-installation should be done by the second week of December.
To ensure the station will open on time, Pesaturo said, workers are fixing the panels while going forward with other construction.
Some close watchers of the MBTA aren’t particularly worried by the setback. Paul Regan, executive director of the MBTA Advisory Board, said the window problems appear to stem from a case of bad luck.
Regan said this construction problem differed from other MBTA projects that have run into very public and extensive delays. He mentioned problems with the long-awaited Green Line extension, the Hyundai Rotem commuter rail coaches that were delivered late and riddled with problems, and the commuter rail locomotives that were sidelined as soon as they arrived.
“Unlike the train cars that were late by a year, unlike the locomotives that had to go through extensive testing, this is almost like an ‘off-the-shelf’ thing,” Regan said. “They just got a bad batch of windows.”
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