BOSTON (FOX 25 / MyFoxBoston.com) - Highway officials say the Callahan Tunnel is safe for travel after an overnight inspection Sunday in which the Department of Transportation removed 117 panels over concerns that their fasteners had become corroded.
The Department of Transportation says they inspected all of the 100 pound decorative metal panels after one of the 10-foot-by-4-foot panels fell into a lane of traffic during the evening commute Friday.
The tunnel reopened at about 5 a.m. Monday after workers conducted "pull tests" on 2,800 panels.
The panels in the adjacent Sumner Tunnel will be checked next weekend.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation removed four panels inside the Callahan Tunnel on Friday night after a panel fell at about 6 p.m.
Officials say the three additional panels were removed from the tunnel as a precaution.
The left lane of traffic was closed until about 11 p.m. Friday night, which caused some delays. There were no reports of injuries or vehicle damage.
The Callahan tunnel is about 60 years old and the panels were put up in the 1990s. The Department of Transportation says this is the first time any of them have fallen.
Officials said there were no structural issues in the tunnel. They say the panel's supports had rotted and caused the panel to come loose. They said sometimes one panel can bring down another when it falls.
"They're held by a galvanized clip fastening system and the clips are just rusting out with age. As they come loose the panel comes loose off the wall," says highway administrator Frank DePaola.
DePaola says crews will step up inspections to ensure that they stay ahead of any deterioration.
The Department of Transportation had already planned a $10 million to $12 million project that involved stripping off and replacing the panels among other renovations to the tunnel. The project was not expected to begin for another year.
While the Callahan Tunnel was not a part of the Big Dig, it brings back awful memories and concern for the DelValle family and Boston residents who travel in the city. Angel DelValle settled for $28 million after his wife Milena was killed in July 2006 when a concrete section of the Ted Williams Tunnel fell onto her car .
The Department of Transportation plans to appeal to the state Legislature to get more money to keep up with what it case a backlog of work on the city's bridges and tunnels.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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