Massachusetts sues Big Dig contractors

A legal team representing the state of Massachusetts filed a lawsuit against Big Dig contracting firm Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff last week, seeking $146 million in refunds.

The contracting firm is in charge of the Big Dig project, which is burying two miles of Interstate 93 under downtown Boston. The project, scheduled for completion in spring 2005, was supposed to cost $2.6 billion, but has increased over the past 10 years to its current $14.6 billion price tag.

A 29-page complaint filed in Suffolk Superior Court seeks almost $146 million in damages, which is the amount of estimated profits and incentive fees that Bechtel/Parsons Brinkerhoff received. The suit states the contracting firm lied about true cost estimates from state officials in order to keep the project on schedule. Massachusetts’s legal team, headed by retired judge Edward M. Ginsburg, accuses the firm for making inaccurate cost estimates in public, while secretly knowing the actual cost of the project. The complaint also alleges breach of contract, breach of warranty and negligence and states that the firms’ work was defective.

Bechtel/Parsons Brinkerhoff, which won the contract for the project in 1985, negated the suit’s allegations in a recent written statement.

“This lawsuit is without merit,” the company said in the statement “It has no basis in fact, in our contract or in the law. We are confident that a fair and open legal process will decisively repudiate these baseless allegations.”
According to Ginsburg, however, if the state of Massachusetts had known the actual cost of the project in 1994, it might not have gone ahead with it. In 1994, the contracting firm told the state Department of Transportation the Big Dig could be completed at an increased total cost of $7.7 billion.

In addition to the suit against Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, a $2.9 million lawsuit was filed in February against three design firms that worked on the Big Dig project. The state’s legal team filed both suits. Ginsburg has already settled one suit with a Big Dig contractor out of court.

To visit the Big Dig website and check out its progress, click on the link to the right.