Risk Assignment: Boston Big Dig Project Harvard Case Solution & Analysis


The MTA should direct both the contractors to develop a joint task team that could supervise the proceedings of the whole project and identify the potential risk associated with these proceedings. The team should contain highly technical personnel from all the three parties i.e. MTA, BP and BINFRA. The team would directly report the personnel of MTA and conduct a SWOT analysis of each risk. It should also develop a timetable for the ongoing review of the proceedings of the project and the overall risk management plan.

Scope of risks faced by the project or Risk Assessment

The main objective and purpose of the Big Dig project was to minimize the traffic tension and decrease the accident rate in the Downtown Boston. In order to meet the objectives of this project, the elevated central artery was designed to carry up to 75,000 vehicles per day, when it was opened in the year 1959. However, with the passage of time the volume of traffic was increased to 200,000 vehicles per day; where about 190,000 vehicles of the volume of traffic were crossing over the Charles River crossing in 1990s. It was also observed that other highways and tunnels were also facing the same problems and needed to be improved on certain emergency basis (Hatch, 1999). However, it was a very significant and complex project because the contractors had to carry out the whole project while keeping the old elevated highway running. From the very first day, the budget that was allocated to the project i.e. $2.5 billion was considered insufficient; because the new project would construct an eight to ten lane elevated highway, whereas the old six lane highway was constructed at a budget of more than the one that was estimated for the project (Tom, C., 2009). Although the time that was scheduled for the project was sufficient to complete the project, but there were a number of risks that the project management team would have to face, these risks are given below.

  • First of all, the project would be exposed to a number of unexpected events that could disturb their overall schedule and it could exceed the estimated deadline of its completion i.e. it could be exposed to uncertain environmental changes such as floods, rainfall, hurricanes, etc.… It could also be exposed to uncertain governmental regulatory changes and political conditions; which could face economic constraints such as an increase in inflation, etc.…
  • There were a number of weaknesses in the design of the project and it was unable to meet the requirements of the country’s elevated highway construction standards. Therefore, it could expose the project to a number of legal claims and objections.
  • As the project had a direct impact over the general public, therefore it was highly exposed to the changing expectations of the public.

Policies and Procedures

In order to cope with the above mentioned risks, government should follow the following policies.

  • Terms of Engagement: - It should revise the terms of engagement with its partners and direct them to conduct a comprehensive risk analysis of the situation and the proceedings of the project in order to minimize the impact of its weaknesses and failure upon the general public. (Coleman, T., 2011).  The contractors should also negotiate certain favorable and effective terms and conditions with the MTA and other government regulatory bodies on the basis of the past experiences; so that government could modify their engagement conditions accordingly, i.e. matters related to design flaws, impact of inflation over the budgeted cost of the project, uncertain government regulations, etc.…
  • Work Procedures: - MTA should specify certain standard suppliers from whom the contractors had to buy raw materials and acquire support services because it was very necessary to ensure that the construction was executed through standardized material. This would reduce any sort of future legislation or proceedings against the contractors and would also enhance their good will. With the help of standardized working procedures, the contractors would be able to forecast the future events and estimate the expected date of completion as well. It would also provide them a systematic approach towards the execution of the project and would harmonize all the available factor of productions.
  • Revise the Business Plan of the Joint Venture: - In 1986, the initial one year transition contract of the Big Dig was awarded to Bechtel and Brinckerhoff and a number of other small contractors. They were performing their services under the direct supervision of the Joint Venture, whereas the representatives of the Joint Venture were required to report MTA. In order to mitigate the risk of communication gap and ineffective performance of the contractors, it should be necessary to revise the terms and conditions of their individual contracts and MTA should establish a supervisory board, which would directly supervise the activities of all the contractors in the future. The board should also settle down all sorts of disputes among them and try to make their relations productive towards the betterment and successful execution of the project................................

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