Contractor ordered to pay Washington state over tunnel-boring machine Bertha’s big stall

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A jury has awarded the Washington State Department of Transportation $57.2 million in damages as part of a long-running lawsuit over delays in the downtown Seattle Highway 99 tunnel project, WSDOT spokeswoman Laura Newborn said Friday.

“The contractor, not the taxpayers, is responsible for the costs of repairing the tunneling machine,” Newborn said.

The lawsuit stemmed from a dispute over delays caused when tunnel-boring machine Bertha stalled in 2013. The state sued Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP), alleging breach of contract and claiming it was mistakes by STP that stalled the machine and held up the project.

STP blamed the stall on a steel pipe struck by the boring machine that was left over by the state from a groundwater test well sunk in 2002 and used through 2012.

In opening statements, state attorney David Goodnight called the pipe “nothing more than a toothpick” to Bertha, at the time the world’s largest tunnel-boring machine.

This story will be updated.