The lawsuit surrounding the problem-plagued Lincoln Avenue underpass project appears to be ending in the city of Yakima’s favor to the tune of $1.35 million.
However, the settlement reflects just a fraction of the $4 million in cost overruns the city faced as a result of the project. Factoring in the city’s legal fees and other internal costs, City Attorney Jeff Cutter said he expects about $500,000 to be left over from the settlement when all the checks have been cut.
“It could be better than that, I don’t think it’ll be worse,” Cutter said.
That remaining balance will go toward highway projects in the city, Cutter said.
The city sued Federal Way contractor BergerABAM in December 2012 after the underpass project suffered months of delays and $4 million in cost overruns. Begun in 2010, the project wasn’t finished until 2012 due largely to the failure of the original bottom seal to keep groundwater from seeping in.
City officials accused the contractor of incompetence and negligence and sued for $2.5 million after it had to develop and implement a new engineering design to deal with the seeping groundwater.
Cutter said certain cost overruns, however, couldn’t be claimed in the lawsuit against BergerAMAM. Those overruns would have occurred regardless because a more expensive construction was needed to deal with the groundwater seepage issue.
“A bottom seal had to be built,” Cutter said. “We would have had to pay that if they’d gotten the design right the first time.”
The company claimed city staff was involved in the decision-making that led to the failure and that a subcontractor didn’t take proper steps before implementing the project.
The case was set to go to trial in June in Yakima County Superior Court, but is expected to effectively be resolved today when the Yakima City Council is scheduled to approve the settlement as part of its consent agenda. By reaching the settlement, Cutter said BergerABAM isn’t acknowledging any wrongdoing.
The city had spent $638,636 in attorney fees alone in the case as of April, according to information released under a Public Records Act request filed by the Yakima Herald-Republic.
The Lincoln underpass’ sister project on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard hasn’t suffered the same controversy.
Begun in February 2013 with a budget of $10.6 million, it remains on track to open in late summer or early fall.