By Dakota Smith, July 1, 2014
The under construction Wilshire to the northbound 405 onramp in West Los Angeles on Aug. 22, 2013.
The lengthy delays and cost overruns surrounding the massive 405
Freeway widening project in the Sepulveda Pass are at the heart of a new
lawsuit targeting the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Kiewit is suing Metro, alleging the county transportation agency caused
“massive amounts of extra work” on the $1 billion project. Omaha,
Neb.,-based Kiewit is the sole contractor on the new carpool lane, which
connects the 10 and 101 freeways along the 405, and opened in May.
is seeking in excess of $400 million for out-of-pocket costs, according
to court documents. The contractor wants an independent, three-member
dispute review board to evaluate its claims against Metro.
The lawsuit, filed in mid-May, cites numerous problems, including
Metro’s failure to relocate utility lines from the area and to manage
the Mulholland Bridge redesign. It also blames the agency for the 2011
collapse of a large retaining wall.
“Kiewit is asserting that
those issues are the contractual responsibility of MTA,” said attorney
Jim Moye, who represents Kiewit.
Opened in May, the 405 project
added a new carpool lane to the northbound side of the freeway, part of
an effort to ease traffic through the notoriously congested area.
Kiewit was hired in 2009 to oversee the project, which quickly
encountered numerous hurdles. Workers had to remove at least 9 miles of
unexpected utility lines, the lawsuit states. A legal claim filed last
year by a Bel Air landowner forced the redesign of a freeway on-ramp
near the Getty Museum, while the retaining wall collapse also delayed
The project finished at least a year behind schedule. Amid
the setbacks, U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman in 2013 called for a review by the
Federal Highway Administration. The agency named the retaining wall
collapse as the biggest contributing factor to its delayed completion in
a report released last summer.
While disputes over cost overruns aren’t uncommon in such large
projects, in this case, an independent three-member dispute review board
was supposed to be one of the mechanisms to resolve claims by Kiewit
and Metro, said Kiewit spoksman Bob Kula.
Kiewit’s push for a hearing in front of the board prompted the
lawsuit, Kula said. Metro staff has “made it clear that they aren’t
pursuing that option,” Kula said.
In a statement, Metro spokesman
Dave Sotero said that “Metro does not believe this claim complies with
those contract requirements. However, Metro continues to negotiate in
good faith with Kiewit to resolve specific outstanding claims under
terms of its contract.”
Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who represents
this portion of Los Angeles and has publicly blamed Kiewit for the
project’s delays, declined to comment Tuesday.
Kiewit is still working on the final aspects of the carpool lane, Kula said, and should be finished in the next few months.