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Construction Firm Suing WA Transit for $12.5M

Thursday, February 15, 2018

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Puget Sound’s regional transit authority, Sound Transit, could now find itself in hot water. Earlier this month, New York-based Turner Construction filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against Sound Transit seeking $12.5 million.

What Happened?

The entities worked together on the completion of a light-rail system (in a unique contract in which Turner was both the general contractor and construction manager) between the University of Washington and Capitol Hill. The project opened six months early and $200 million under budget.

While Sound Transit bragged about the savings, Turner says it achieved those savings by underpaying for design changes the office made after construction was already heavily underway.

The lawsuit alleges that:

  • Sound Transit ordered a change in partition walls that were already partly built. With this change, Turner had to disconnect them from load-bearing walls and even cut through steel rebar, requiring a four-month review and more material.
  • Sound Transit ordered the builder to let concrete cure for five days on vertical walls of the station. Turner says that only two days were necessary, costing them time and money.
  • Turner also alleges that when rainwater seeped into the finished station, the team was ordered to inject grout into the openings at its expense, a workload the company says should have been dealt with by the maintenance crew of Sound Transit.

Chris Killian, Seattle vice president for Turner Construction, told the Seattle Times that he had been working with the authority for years to settle out of court. A lawyer eventually cut those talks off last spring.

Sound Transit reportedly paid $8 million for contract design changes, bringing the total contract to $113 million. Turner argues, however, that it performed $125 million in work and had to tap into its own funds to pay subcontractors.

South Transit spokesperson Kimberly Reason says the agency disagrees with the suit’s claims.

“These are taxpayer dollars, and taxpayers entrust us to serve as stewards of these tax dollars, and we don’t simply use tax dollars to pay out claims that we believe are without merit, and we do believe these claims are without merit,” Reason said. “The changes that we made, we compensated the contractor for, so we do not agree with the characterizations in the complaint.”

Reason went on to tell The Times that the agency believes the ballooning costs stemmed from contractor error and not the design changes.

“What we thought was really going to be a partnership was never a partnership,” said Killian. “The project was continually changed from start to finish and the changes never stopped.”


Tagged categories: Construction; Good Technical Practice; Laws and litigation; Lawsuits; North America; Terminals

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