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Boston parking lot collapse highlights need for ongoing infrastructure initiatives

(Photo courtesy of Live Boston 617) The Boston Government Center parking lot collapse highlights the need for infrastructure initiatives to continue to prioritize human security over development.

Harrison Lee
Connector Editor

On March 26, a large portion of the Government Center parking lot in Boston collapsed, resulting in the death of Peter Monsini. Following Monsini’s death, the City of Boston continued to investigate the crash that resulted in the construction worker’s death. However, many still wonder how the accident happened and the dangerous likelihood of such an accident happening again based on Boston’s infrastructure construction and demolition practices.

According to Dr. TzuYang Yu of UMass Lowell, much of the supposed damage cannot be explained without understanding several components of infrastructure development. Yu, a professor of civil engineering, explained the differences between the design and construction phases of development and how “miscommunication between designers and construction contractors can arise due to overload.” Dr. Yu explained that with the extensive use of concrete in construction projects such as the parking lot, many temporary supports are used in the skeletal phase of the construction process. “Concrete is like a super baby,” Yu said. [and] construction could have removed [this] temporary support before it’s ready.

This overload is related to one of Dr Yu’s other theories regarding the cause of the collapse and how dynamic loading could also have played a role in the contractor’s efforts to meet the schedule at the expense of a quality solidification. The case of a vibrating jackhammer is a simple example of how quickly switching to another task before the concrete has completely sagged can disrupt long-term stability. “Winter time is generally not [permit the] concrete melting,” Yu said. So dynamic loading can definitely contribute to the factors leading to the crash.

Dr. Yu has also been a proponent and lead developer of solutions to prevent accidents, such as parking, using sensors known as early warning systems. Unfortunately, many contractors and construction companies don’t use these systems, and that’s not a financial concern, but rather an uncertainty of placing the sensors in the right places from the start.

One can wonder about the possibility of shifting the focus from the restoration and preservation of infrastructure to the construction of new structures. But it also comes with its own completeness. In a city like Boston, there is a lot of concern about balancing the preservation of historic sites with the construction of new structures. The city’s goal is to “find a way to protect [these] historical sites until all possibilities are exhausted. It also seems to be a reflection of Boston values, but given the city’s circumstances, it’s also not the easiest task to build from scratch. The same could be said of many other towns that have historic properties, including Lowell.

Unlike the Boston parking lot, the infrastructure initiatives underway in Lowell relate to the bridges that connect the city across the Merrimack River. Many of these bridges age rapidly and it is necessary to take measures to quickly prevent a dangerous accident. “The main thing is to protect human lives,” Dr Yu said.

“When we design structures, there is a design philosophy: the safety factor.” By multiplying the original design with some ability to anticipate ambient changes, designers in departments such as Dr. Yu’s can increase the longevity of a bridge’s lifespan, which Yu says should often last an average of 75 years. However, he continues, “in civil engineering, we know that structures age. What we don’t know is how fast they age. The question we have to ask ourselves is, how much should the city or the federal government step in, restoring the steel or building a new one? »

This comes down to determining whether initiatives should restore the infrastructure or remove the current structure and replace it entirely. This has proven to be a difficult two-way street, with restoration often resulting in bridge closures which slow down and slow down traffic. It also increases an environmental stress by lengthening the journey of commercial semi-trailer trucks that typically produce diesel exhaust.

Overall, every city is faced with building and updating to maintain the established infrastructure that makes places like the cities of Lowell and Boston. But through all the factors attributed to the design and construction phases of developing infrastructure, it seems important that cities continue to prioritize the safety of human life during ongoing development to avoid another accident like death. at the Government Center parking lot in the future.

Deena S. Hawkins

The author Deena S. Hawkins