Magazine article PM Network

Polluted Progress

Magazine article PM Network

Polluted Progress

Article excerpt


A road construction project must tunnel its way out of technical glitches and perceived health risks.

ON 22 DECEMBER 2004, commuters who wanted to use Sydney, Australia's M5 East Tunnel were met with a sizeable traffic jam that lasted more than six hours.

The tunnel was closed because its security cameras were blinded by a computer error that limited the security staff's ability to react to an accident or a fire. In diverting traffic to local roads, a 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) radius of the surrounding suburbs was congested.

The M5 East, the first tunnel of the Action for Transport 2010 construction project, was finished in December 2001. Previous operational problems have resulted in other temporary closures, according to Don Page, spokesman of the Australian parliament's Opposition party. "There are pollution problems," Mr. Page told the Sydney Morning Herald. "The road was underdesigned-it was designed to carry 70,000 vehicles a day and it now carries 100,000. On hot days, pollution goes high so they have to shut it down, because it doesn't meet pollution levels. We have accidents, computer glitches and flooding."

With regard to the M5 East's technological glitches, Oliver Lehmann, PMP, vice president of professional development for PMI's Troubled Projects Specific Interest Group, believes the operators should have switched to a backup system sooner. "This would explain why the availability of the monitoring system, which is critical for the tunnel's functionality, had not been secured by providing sufficient backup and also is a possible explanation for the lacking exhaust filters." Effective life cycle costing-balancing the cost of the project with its running costs-may have ensured there were sufficient reserves and thereby, prevented some of the computer failures. "Calculating the costs of the closings and subsequent traffic jams and comparing them to the additional costs for a computer system with a much higher [meantime between failure] value might give interesting insight," he says. …

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