(2015 tunnel-machine-repair site photo by Long Bach Nguyen)
Six years ago, right about this time of year, the Highway 99 tunnel machine broke down, and tunneling was on hold for more than two years. The state sued the contractor, Seattle Tunnel Partners, seeking $57 million. Today, a jury in Thurston County ruled in favor of the state, saying STP indeed should pay that sum. As noted in this Seattle Times report, the state claimed the stall was STP’s fault, while STP claimed it was the state’s fault. WSDOT sent this statement from state Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar:
“WSDOT is committed to protecting taxpayer money. Knowing the risks associated with tunneling beneath downtown Seattle, we structured our contract with Seattle Tunnel Partners in a way that placed the risks of tunneling on the contractor. We have remained steadfast in our belief that Seattle Tunnel Partners was responsible for the costs of fixing the broken tunneling machine and paying damages for completing the tunnel three years late. We believe the jury got it right and we are grateful for their patience and dedication to ensuring a fair outcome to this case. Since an appeal is possible, we cannot yet say what will become of the damages awarded by the jury.”
If you’re interested in more backstory, here’s a WSDOT infosheet (PDF) also sent today.