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Jurors deciding who pays for SR 99 tunnel delays, boring machine repairs

A nine-week trial pitted the state transportation department against the SR 99 tunnel contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A Thurston County jury is now deciding who should pay for some of the State Route 99 tunnel construction delays and repairs.

Lawyers for the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) presented closing arguments Thursday.

Thurston County Judge Carol Murphy encouraged jurors to be patient when making their decision. The 12 jurors have been listening to testimony since the trial started October 10.

WSDOT sued STP accusing them of violating the state’s contract for failing to meet project deadlines.

RELATED: Unexpected costs added nearly $58 million to SR 99 tunnel project price

The tunnel boring machine (TBM) broke down in December 2013. It took more than two years to repair the machine and resume digging.

“STP provided a TMB that failed within the first 1,000 feet of mining. It failed as a result of its design and poor operation,” said Department of Transportation attorney David Goodnight.

He blamed the breakdown on a staff that had not been properly trained on how to operate the machine.

RELATED: Contractor hit with sanctions over Seattle tunnel boring machine lawsuit

The state told jurors STP should pay $57 million for breach of contract.

However, STP asked jurors for more than $330 million, blaming a steel metal pipe for causing the damage and delays.

The December 2013 shutdown happened after the machine ran into the pipe.

“The facts, the law are on the side of STP,” STP attorney John Dingess told jurors, reminding them of the witnesses who testified Bertha was damaged by the steel.

He also argued the state never informed STP the pipe in the tunnel path was made of steel.

The Department of Transportation maintains the metal pipe did not cause the damage.

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