Washington state wins $57 million in Seattle tunnel lawsuit

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — A jury on Friday awarded the Washington State Department of Transportation $57.2 million in damages over delays in the construction of a highway tunnel that runs beneath downtown Seattle.

View all (3)

The Seattle Times reports the verdict against the tunnel contractors in Thurston County Superior Court in Olympia represents the entire amount the state requested.

“The contractor, not the taxpayers, is responsible for the costs of repairing the tunneling machine,” WSDOT spokeswoman Laura Newborn said.

The Dec. 6, 2013, stall of tunnel-boring machine known as Bertha — then the world’s largest drill at 57 1/3 feet diameter — delayed the project more than two years and required contractors to lift the 4 million-pound front end and replace damaged parts, including cracked main gears and broken bearing seals.

The state sued contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners, alleging breach of contract and claiming mistakes by STP stalled the machine and held up the project. The contractor blamed the stall on a steel pipe struck by Bertha that was left over by the state from a groundwater test well sunk in 2002 by the state.

Contractors argued the state gave inadequate notice of the steel pipe’s location.

STP consists of tunneling specialist Dragados USA and heavy-construction firm Tutor-Perini of California.

In a statement Tutor-Pierini said it was “disappointed with the jury's decision” and would appeal. The company said Friday's decision conflicted with the findings of an independent review board.

The four-lane tunnel opened Feb. 4, 2019, beneath downtown to replace the earthquake-damaged Alaskan Way Viaduct, a double-decker bridge that had run along Seattle's waterfront.