OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington State’s highest court denied the request from a contractor for further review of a $57.2 million judgement against them for late completion of the Alaskan Way Viaduct Tunnel project.
The Oct. 12 decision by the Supreme Court of Washington is the last step in the appeals process for Seattle Tunnel Partners after a jury awarded the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) $57.2 million in 2019, according to a news release.
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.
“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,” Washington Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar said.
The project’s tunnel boring machine, also 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. Yesterday’s final decision by the Supreme Court puts an end to that portion of the litigation.
“I’m pleased that the state will be compensated for the delay,” Governor Jay Inslee said. “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.
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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