Report Documents Construction Defects on PLA Projects

0 April 12, 2011  Uncategorized

As part of our ongoing series publishing the truth about government-mandated projects labor agreements (PLAs), here is a chapter documenting Construction Defects on PLA Projects from Maury Baskin’s Government-Mandated Project Labor Agreements: The Public Record of Poor Performance (2011 Edition).

V. Construction Defects on PLA Projects

Many PLA projects have suffered from serious construction defects, despite claims from PLA supporters that government-mandated improve the quality of construction.

The union-only Boston Central Artery / Tunnel project encountered several defects in construction that both delayed and increased the overall cost of the project.[1] An auditor reported that “inadequate controls resulted in a serious leak in the sunken tube tunnel, . . . and that inadequate welding and inaccurate measurements generated unnecessary costs.”[2] When the tunnel opened, the toll takers were forced to wear respirators because of headaches, nausea, sore throats and itchy eyes. The same auditor previously found $170 million in waste and other questionable costs. In 2004, after the project was substantially completed, The Boston Globe reported that the tunnel had developed more than 400 leaks, as well as “thousands of ceiling fissures, water damaged supports and fireproofing systems, and overloaded drainage equipment.”[3] In 2006, concrete slabs inside the tunnel collapsed, killing a driver.[4] Additionally, the state is conducting an investigation into the safety of tunnel lighting after a 110-pound light fixture crashed from the ceiling onto the road, narrowly missing a vehicle.[5]

Meanwhile, even before the opening of the new Convention Center in Washington, D.C., built under a government-mandated PLA, a large section of the roof collapsed during construction of the project.  Construction workers and building managers said “fasteners that held the large steel pieces of the roof together were improperly fastened [by union workers].”[6]

A section of concrete flooring in the second-floor loading dock of Pittsburgh’s David L. Lawrence Convention Center gave way under the weight of a tractor trailer in 2007. The collapse left a 20-foot by 60-foot hole across the floor of the PLA project, “sending concrete steel, debris and equipment crashing 30 feet down into a walkway and a water feature below.”[7]

In 2003, hairline cracks were discovered throughout the PLA-constructed Iowa Events Center’s main concourse floor. An estimated 30 to 40 cracks were found throughout the slab, which an out-of state contractor poured. Local concrete contractors had refused to bid on the work due to the presence of the union-only PLA, according to the county’s construction manager.[8]

Construction under a PLA on the Indianapolis Public Library had to be halted for more than a year in 2004 after cracks and gaps were discovered in the concrete in its new parking garage. As noted above, the project cost suffered nearly $50 million in overruns due to required repairs.[9]

Finally, the New York Post reported in 2009 that the Mets’ new Citi Field, built under a PLA at a cost of $850 million, is “riddled with construction defects.” The defects included large chunks of concrete and granite and a neon sign falling from the stadium, as well as numerous problems with elevators, electricity and flooding of various stadium sections.[10]

NOTE: Click the appropriate chapter from the report:

  1. Introduction
  2. Increased Costs on PLA Projects
  3. Reduced Competition on PLA Projects
  4. Construction Delays on PLA Projects

On Wednesday we will post the chapter, Safety Problems on PLA Projects.

Citations after the jump.

[1] Project under renewed fire, ENR, Sept. 25, 1995, at 1, 28, see also, Smell seeps into toll booths, Feb. 5, 1996, at 1, 22.

[2] Id.

[3] Boston Globe, Nov. 11, 2004; See also Powell, Boston’s Big Dig Awash in Troubles: Leaks, Cost Overruns Plague Project, Washington Post, Nov. 19, 2004, available at

[4] See WBZTV: $21 Million Settlement In Big Dig Tunnel Collapse, available at

[5] State: Corrosion discovery prompts review of Big Dig lights. Boston Herald (March 16, 2011

[6] Roof Section Collapses at D.C. Convention Center Site, Washington Construction News (May 2001).

[7] Convention Center’s Builders Assess Collapse. Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Feb. 6, 2007.

[8] Des Moines Register, Oct. 3, 2003.

[9] Concrete Cracks Halt Construction On Indianapolis Library, Indianapolis Star, April 22, 2004.

[10] Mets in Foul Territory, New York Post, September 6, 2009.

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