BOSTON (AP) – A connector tunnel shut down after a fatal ceiling collapse in July reopened Friday night, restoring an important link from Interstate 90 eastbound to Logan Airport in time for the busy Labor Day weekend.

Nearly 120 shoring towers were installed to support the tunnel’s ceiling panels.

“It is a belt and suspenders and rope system. We got them all covered,” Gov. Mitt Romney said. “Everything imaginable is being used to hold these ceiling panels up.”

Installation of the towers finished Friday afternoon, and federal inspectors approved the work later in the day. State officials had initially said the inspection could take about a week.

The lane reopened at 9 p.m as scheduled, according to Jon Carlisle, spokesman for the state Executive office of Transportation.

“It was great news,” Carlisle said, “It’s good from a traffic point and a logistical standpoint as far as repairs go.”

Romney said officials expected up to 1,400 vehicles per hour to take the route at speeds up to 30 mph. A small portion of the tunnel will remain closed, with commuters going through one aboveground intersection before connecting to the Ted Williams Tunnel.

Romney stressed the solution was only temporary – and may not work in any other closed section of the Big Dig. Long-term fixes could take months or longer to complete.

Inspectors recently found a need for additional seismic bracing against earthquakes, in addition to already known problems with epoxy bolt ceiling fasteners and steel brackets that were not as strong as design standards called for.

Portions of the Big Dig were closed after four three-ton concrete ceiling panels fell in the I-90 connector tunnel and crushed a car on July 10, killing 39-year-old Milena Del Valle. Del Valle’s husband and her elder daughter filed a wrongful death lawsuit this week against the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and nine companies associated with design and construction of the project.

The Big Dig buried the old elevated Central Artery with a series of tunnels, ramps and bridges. The most expensive highway project in U.S. history also has also been plagued by leaks, falling debris, delays and other problems linked to faulty construction.

The initial price tag was $2.6 billion and it was supposed to be completed in seven years. Instead, it took nearly 15 years and repeated cost overruns drove up the price to $14.6 billion.

Earlier this week, Big Dig officials approved $15 million for additional repair work, but warned the final price tag could be higher.


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