A summary of change orders on the SR 99 Tunnel Project
In the week since Seattle Tunnel Partners, the SR 99 tunnel contractor, announced their new constructions schedule, we’ve been asked about who will be responsible for paying for the costs associated with the delay.
WSDOT’s answer: Seattle Tunnel Partners has requested $125 million in compensation. WSDOT has denied their request.
Understanding change orders
The formal mechanism we use to make changes to our construction contracts is known as a change order. Requests for change orders can be submitted to us by a contractor or we can initiate them ourselves.
There are many reasons for issuing change orders. Some examples include:
- A change in the design
- A change in the schedule
- Circumstances encountered that require more work than first anticipated
- Circumstances encountered that require less work than first anticipated
- A change in work initiated by a third party (for example, utility work initiated by the city)
As of April 1, there are outstanding change order requests from STP to WSDOT on the SR 99 tunnel contract totaling $188 million. Of that $188 million, we have denied $157 million, over 80 percent. The remaining $31 million in requests is under review.
STP’s largest request to date is for $125 million in additional compensation and time because they believe the tunneling machine was damaged by a steel well casing originally installed by WSDOT.
Our position on this issue is clear: WSDOT informed STP and other prospective bidders of the well casing in documents contained within the request for proposals that was issued for the project in 2010. It is the contractor’s responsibility to ensure that their design and construction activities take into account all of the information provided to them. Therefore, we denied their request.
The path forward
The process for resolving disputes within the tunnel contract is prescriptive. It requires multiple steps by both parties. Should STP continue to pursue entitlement related to the well casing, it will take time to resolve. Nonetheless, we believe WSDOT and the state will prevail.
The outcome of this process is important to everyone involved, and we recognize that there will be great public interest in this matter moving forward. We will continue to provide updates while respecting the contractor’s rights and the process specified in the contract. We will also continue to focus on the job at hand -- resuming tunneling and opening the tunnel to traffic as safely and quickly as possible.