DOT: Tunnel builders in breach of contract for low minority-contractor hiring

The Seattle TimesJanuary 13, 2014 

Crew members adjust the State Route 99 tunneling machine’s segment feeder, which moves into place the curved concrete segments that form the tunnel walls, in September 2013.


The state Department of Transportation has declared the Highway 99 tunnel team to be in “material breach of contract” because of barriers to participation by small, minority-owned contracting firms.

The DOT threatens sanctions unless Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) makes rapid improvement and the team leaders participate in meetings with DOT. Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) led by minorities and women are supposed to receive 8 percent of the work, but as of last fall, by some measurements the rate was less than 2 percent, according to a scathing federal civil-rights review. The tunnel contractors are led by the U.S. arm of Spanish-based Dragados, and by California-based Tutor-Perini.

Lynn Peterson, the DOT secretary, released a letter Monday that recognizes efforts by STP to improve, but demands more.