Big Dig Settlement Reached

1201119178This morning the papers reported that a Big Dig settlement would come as soon as today. Lo and behold, this afternoon it was announced that the companies involved in the construction and design of our leaky, fatal tunnel will pay the commonwealth a combined $458 million.

Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff will pay the largest sum, $407 million, with smaller contractors ponying up about $51 million collectively. The settlement also allows the state to sue Bechtel for up to $100 million in the event of a “catastrophic event.” For those of you who want to play along at home, that’s something that does more than $50 million in damages.

Now that it’s all done, nobody’s very happy with the results. Attorney General Martha Coakley’s hands were tied. She could get the moral victory of convicting Bechtel for killing a woman and only $1,000 in damages, or she could allow the company to walk away without a conviction and get some money to help fix the troubled project. She chose the money.

“We believe that today’s global agreement is the best possible resolution. I do not say perfect, but the best possible resolution at this time,” Attorney General Martha Coakley said.

Powers Fasteners, the only company that’s faced criminal charges, is angry Bechtel won’t be charged.

“The sheer size of this settlement underlines what we think is the undeniable fact that Bechtel bears the real responsibility for this accident. After all, Bechtel was responsible for the design, it was responsible for the construction and it was responsible for the inspection of the tunnel, and yet, it escapes all criminal charges.”

And we’ve still got a tunnel that leaks. Everybody loses!