Contractors' Big Dig Settlement Tops $450 Million

Contractors that worked on Boston's $15 billion Big Dig interstate construction project have agreed to pay more than $450 million to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to settle its lawsuit over design flaws and a July 2006 tunnel ceiling collapse, which killed Milena Del Valle, 39, as she and her husband were driving to Logan International Airport, according to Jan. 23 reports by several news sources, including The New York Times. In another development on Jan. 22, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 409, offered by U.S. Rep. Mike Capuano, D-Mass., which will mandate inspections of all highway tunnels. Now before the U.S. Senate for consideration, the bill is modeled on the Nationwide Bridge Inspection Program, which requires inspections of highway bridges and sets minimum inspection standards.

Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, a consortium that oversaw design and construction of the project, has agreed to pay $407 million, and several otherr companies will pay about $51 million collectively, U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan announced.

"Massachusetts Highway and the citizens of Massachusetts entrusted Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff to act as their eyes and ears on the Central Artery Project," Sullivan said. "They grossly failed to meet their obligations and responsibilities to the citizens of Massachusetts and the United States." The agreement specifies that Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff will not face criminal charges in connection with the collapse. The consortium received more than $2 billion to manage the project.

A company that provided the epoxy to secure the ceiling panels that fell, Powers Fasteners Inc., has been criminally charged with involuntary manslaughter in the tunnel collapse and has settled with the Del Valle family for $6 million, state news outlets reported. The National Transportation Safety Board concluded the wrong type of epoxy was used to hold up the panels that fell.

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