Big Dig Managers Face $100M Mass. Lawsuit

December 9, 2004

The independent agency charged with overseeing the $14.6 billion Massachusetts highway project known as the Big Dig intends to sue the consortium that managed the venture, seeking to recover as much as $100 million in costs for design errors and construction mistakes.

In a letter to federal transportation investigators, the Massachusetts Turnpike’s cost recovery chief, Judge Edward M. Ginsburg, said his team uncovered project-wide errors by Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff that are grounds for an expanded legal assault.

The lawsuit, which has not been filed, would not include damage stemming from leaks recently found in the Big Dig’s highway tunnels. But the letter said that the cost recovery team was reviewing all Big Dig construction contracts for evidence of mismanagement.

The letter was sent to U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General Kenneth M. Mead, whose office last week described the state’s cost recovery efforts as “anemic.” To date, the cost recovery team has recouped $3.5 million from Big Dig contractors.

The lawsuit would be the second brought by the state against Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff. The first, filed in March of 2003, accused the firm of concealing the Big Dig’s spiraling pricetag from lawmakers.

Bechtel spokesman Andrew Paven said he could not comment on the lawsuit, as it had not been filed. But he did say, “We believe the first lawsuit against (Bechtel) is without merit, and we are defending it vigorously. We see no basis for another lawsuit.”

In September, an eight-inch breach in the tunnel wall sent water gushing onto the roadway, backing up traffic for 10 miles. At a Statehouse hearing, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff apologized for not fixing the problem when it had the chance.

The Big Dig — the most expensive highway project in U.S. history — buried Interstate 93 in tunnels underneath downtown Boston, and connected the Massachusetts Turnpike to Logan Airport.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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