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Damages Awarded to WSDOT for Tunnel Completion Delays

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SR 99 MapOn Oct. 12, the Supreme Court of Washington denied a request from Seattle Tunnel Partners for further review of a 2019 jury judgment that awarded $57.2 million to the Washington State Department of Transportation. The jury awarded WSDOT financial damages due to contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners’ late completion of the Alaskan Way Viaduct Tunnel project.

The decision by the Supreme Court is the final step in the appeal process for this case. WSDOT will receive the judgment amount, plus 12% interest while the appeal process played out, which will bring the entire recovery by the state to approximately $77 million.

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The project’s tunnel boring machine, widely known as Bertha, was launched on July 30, 2013, but stopped tunneling about four months later. This delayed completion of the project for approximately two years. During this time, Bertha’s cutterhead was brought back to the surface, rebuilt and then lowered back into place to continue digging. The re-built Bertha then went on to complete the nearly two-mile dig under Seattle. The tunnel, carrying two lanes of north/south traffic in each direction, has been operational since opening to traffic in February 2019. In the following years, WSDOT pursued the contractor for costs associated with the delay of building the tunnel. The final decision by the Supreme Court puts an end to that portion of the litigation.

“The $77 million to be collected in connection with the Alaskan Way Viaduct tunnel project represents an incredible effort to recoup funds on behalf of Washington taxpayers,” observed Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar.

“I’m pleased that the state will be compensated for the delay,” said Governor Jay Inslee. “I’d like to extend my thanks to all involved with all aspects of the AWV project and especially the legal components in recent years.”

WSDOT estimates the funds will be received in the coming weeks.

Pending Litigation

A separate case involving WSDOT claims for insurance coverage against its insurers for the costs associated with the repair and reinstatement of Bertha, during the two-year period that Bertha was not operational, is still in the appeals stage and will ultimately be sent back to the King County Superior Court for resolution. The claims at issue in the insurance coverage case involve separate and distinct damages claims that were not included in the $57.2 million awarded in 2019. It’s likely that the insurance coverage case is at least 12-24 months from resolution.

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