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Big Dig firms to pay $458 million

BOSTON—The U.S. Department of Justice announced in late January that a joint venture between Bechtel Infrastructure Corporation and Parsons Brinckerhoff (B/PB) and certain design consultants agreed to pay the United States and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts a total of $458 million to settle allegations that B/PB violated federal and state criminal and civil laws by failing to provide adequate construction management and quality assurance services to Boston’s Central Artery/Tunnel project—known as the Big Dig—and that the design consultants caused excess costs to be incurred on the project.

According to the terms of the agreement, Bechtel and Parsons Brinckerhoff will pay more than $63 million to settle federal False Claims Act allegations and more than $335 million to a state warranty fund for future repairs and non-routine maintenance to the Central Artery/Tunnel. According to a Boston Globe report, about $100 million of the settlement could be used during the next year for repairing cracked sidewalks, failing fireproofing, faulty wiring, and deteriorated roadway joints, as well as for monitoring and inspection work.

Bechtel and Parsons Brinckerhoff will also enter into corporate integrity agreements with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Transportation. In addition, if there is a catastrophic event in the future that requires more than $50 million in repairs to the Big Dig involving B/PB’s conduct, the United States and Massachusetts retained the right to pursue such claims against the firms.

Bechtel will contribute $352 million toward the settlement; Parsons Brinckerhoff will pay more than $47 million.

In a related settlement, Massachusetts agreed with a group of design consultants to an additional $51 million settlement arising from their "acts, errors, and omissions in performing design contracts that resulted in excess costs to the project."

According to the U.S. Justice Department, B/PB failed to provide adequate services on four aspects of the Big Dig:

  1. construction of slurry wall panels in the I-93 tunnel;
  2. installation and monitoring of epoxy ceiling bolts in the suspended ceiling of the I-90 Connector tunnel;
  3. claims for payment by contractors on time and material contract modifications; and
  4. oversight of the concrete delivered to the slurry wall construction by a large concrete supplier.

"Protracted legal proceedings would have served no one well, and we believe that this resolution is in the interests of all concerned," said John MacDonald, chairman of the B/PB joint venture. "We have always said that we take responsibility for our work. We understand and acknowledge with this resolution that our performance did not meet our commitment to the public or our own expectations. Above all, we deeply regret the tragic death of Milena Del Valle in the I-90 tunnel.

"Our companies have a long history of delivering safe, high-quality engineering and construction services," MacDonald said. "Our willingness to scrutinize our own performance and learn from experience has been a major factor in our success. Going forward, we will implement a number of specific measures to apply lessons learned to our future work, such as improving quality management systems, more-extensive and mandatory training for field engineers, and additional standardized specifications for design and construction."