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Everything's Eventual: WSDOT Suing Bertha Contractor

Image: Trevor Dykstra

Back when Seattle was deciding whether or not to go ahead with the Seattle Tunnel Project, detractors laid out a series of events that they expected would happen if it were approved. The project would be met with massive delays, would run wildly over-budget and would end with the contractors and city locked in a legal battle over who's going to pay for the whole thing (which we all know will end up being taxpayers). So far, they've gotten it just about 100 percent right.

The latest predicted turn of events came in the form of a classic Friday afternoon news dump from WSDOT that they were now suing Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP), the state's contractor for Bertha and her ever-increasing costs.

Today, WSDOT filed a lawsuit against STP in King County Superior Court. This filing was prompted by recent court filings by STP and their insurance companies. Filing this lawsuit ensures WSDOT will have a right to make legal claims in the future. This lawsuit does not prevent STP from pursuing claims under the terms of the design-build contract. Taking action to preserve WSDOT's rights in court was a necessary step. Our focus remains on completing the project, and removing the seismically vulnerable Alaskan Way Viaduct. We intend to ask for a stay of WSDOT's lawsuit until the project is completed and asked STP to join us in this request.

This delay in the lawsuit will allow for work on the SR 99 Tunnel Project to be completed before litigation takes place.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of a report by PSBJ that Berth'a breakdown would add almost $80M to the overall cost. A recent lawsuit by eight insurers against STP to make sure they don't pay $143M in repair costs means STP will almost certainly come after Seattle and Washington State to cover those costs. It's something they're very good at doing.

While it sounds like this won't affect Bertha's ongoing efforts to get digging again, it's probably only the beginning of a long financial battle that will still be going long after the tunnel is finished. If that happens...
· Greatest Friday News Dump Ever: WSDOT Is Suing Seattle Tunnel Partners [SLOG]
· Bertha breakdown could cost Washington state nearly $80M [PSBJ]
· Tunnel partner known to fight tough with public agencies [ST]