MA Accepts First Ever Refund for Big Dig Mistake

Tue November 25, 2003 - National Edition

BOSTON (AP) State officials have agreed to accept the first multi-million dollar refund for mistakes by a contractor in the 18-year history of the Big Dig, according to a published report.

Jacobs Civil Inc., which designed part of the Ted Williams Tunnel and a section of the Interstate 93 tunnel, agreed to pay the state and federal government $3.5 million for its mistakes, Matthew Amorello, chairman of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, told the Boston Globe.

Jacobs also agreed to drop its claim for $1.6 million it said it was owed for extra work on the Big Dig. As part of the deal, the state agreed not to pursue claims against Jacobs in a lawsuit.

The only other Big Dig refund to date was by Lin Associates in 1996 for $35,707.

Amorello said the settlement is just a fraction of what is owed to the state for billions in cost overruns on the $14.6 billion project, by he hailed it as a start.

"For once, there’s a check coming in to the people of Massachusetts, rather than one going out, on this project," he said. "But there needs to be more of them."

Sen. Mark Montigny, a New Bedford Democrat who is chairman of the Long-Term Debt Committee, said the amount was a pittance in comparison to what taxpayers should get from overruns. He called for an independent agency to take control of negotiations with the Big Dig engineers and design firms.

"I won’t be excited until we see hundreds of millions of dollars received," he said.

Jacobs officials did not return calls from the Globe seeking comment on the settlement.

Big Dig project designs contained step-by-step instructions that construction contractors were expected to follow in building the project. Mistakes in design often led to costly repairs and delays, according to a series of Globe reports earlier in the year.

Edward M. Ginsburg, a retired judge appointed by Amorello in January to look into the project for possible refunds, said he’s targeting the 25 firms that designed the project, plus Bechtel/Parsons Brinkerhoff, the private-sector project manager whose responsibilities include design management.