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The following is a statement from MassDOT Highway Administrator Thomas J. Tinlin regarding a vehicle being struck on Friday, February 12, by a metal cover on I-93 southbound near the exit of the O’Neill Tunnel in Boston:

“Employees of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation work daily to make the safety of the public the number one priority with responsibilities they handle professionally and on behalf of the workforce, I would like to offer condolences to the family, friends, and students of Caitlin Clavette, who are going through a difficult time in dealing with her loss.

The inspection of all travel lane highway infrastructure on the metropolitan highway system in Boston which began on February 12 at 1:30 pm and continued overnight was completed at 11:30am today. The inspections found nothing to indicate a threat to public safety, rose to the level of alarming or indicated that any of the structures inspected would be insecure.

The inspections involved four to seven crews at a time working on travel lanes of I-93 from Somerville to Boston and inside the tunnels which are part of the metropolitan highway system. Crews inspected 919 structures and took no action on 854 of those structures. Out of an abundance of caution, crews performed cautionary maintenance at 65 sites. The hardware examined included manhole covers, sewage drainage system grates, and covers for electrical panels.

Crews deployed for the inspections did visual inspections, drove their vehicles over and struck each metal cover with various tools to see if there would be any give or shift. At the smallest amount of movement, crews took action in welding covers. No covers at any of the 919 locations were deemed possible for immediate failure.

MassDOT will continue to collaborate with Massachusetts State Police, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, and MassDOT’s inspection contractor AECOM, to determine the root cause of yesterday’s tragic incident.

What caused the cover yesterday to become dislodged on I-93 southbound near the exit of the O’Neill tunnel is part of the ongoing investigation being conducted by Troop E of the Massachusetts State Police with the assistance of the State Police Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Section, the State Police Crime Scene Services Section, and the State Police Detective Unit for Suffolk County.

Covers, such as that involved in yesterday’s incident, weigh in excess of 200 pounds. The cover involved in the incident was set over a storm drainage system opening and was last inspected June 12, 2014. On the day of the 2014 inspection, that cover and others located in travel lanes were all deemed to be in very good condition.

Because no major issues were discovered during the inspection process yesterday and today, MassDOT does not plan to broaden or expand the investigation to roadway hardware outside the Boston area at this time. MassDOT District Office personnel have been asked to increase vigilance during the ordinary course of business in noting the status of pavement structures.

MassDOT conducts tunnel inspections of overhead hardware such as lighting fixtures and exhaust fans every six months in the tunnel system and inspections of hardware on the road surface in the tunnel system every two years which is in keeping with Federal Highway guidelines.

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