Contractor to Pay WSDOT $57 M for Boring Delays


Directional Boring Equipment

Dark wide shot of an underground tunnel.

The Seattle Times reports that a jury has awarded the Washington State Department of Transportation $57.2 million in damages after a two-month trial over delays in the downtown Seattle Highway 99 tunnel project. According to the report, the state used contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP), alleging breach of contract and claiming mistakes by STP stalled the machine. 

According to the article the Dec. 6, 2013 stall of tunnel-boring machine Bertha, then the world’s largest drill at 57 1/3 feet in diameter, delayed the project more than two years. The breakdown triggered a rescue to build a deep access vault, lift the front to the surface, and replace damaged parts.

Contractors 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. However, according to records uncovered in the case, the top of the pipe was examined and noted at least twice by STP’s own staff before the project began.

The companies have not yet disclosed next steps.