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Big Dig Settlement Imminent

The state and federal governments could soon receive an unprecedented sum from Big Dig contractors for defects in the construction of the project.

Neither Attorney-General Martha Coakley's office nor US Attorney Michael Sullivan's office are commenting, but sources familiar with the negotiations tell WBUR that Coakley and Sullivan are close to announcing a settlement of their cases against two Big Dig contractors. WBUR's Fred Thys reports.

TEXT OF STORY:

FRED THYS: Under the agreement, a source familiar with the negotiations says Bechtel and Parsons Brinckerhoff, the two companies the state paid two billion dollars to make sure the project was built properly, would now pay back about 400 million dollars to the state and federal governments.

Jim Aloisi, a member of the State Finance Commission, says that money would go directly into repair and maintenance of the Big Dig.

JIM ALOISI: You know, I don't think anybody will ever have a precise handle on what the repair and maintenance need to be, but 400 million dollars is a large amount of money, and I understand that in addition to that, there's a provision in the agreement that would be able to re-open this in the event of a, God forbid, a catastrophic event that would cost in excess of 50 million dollars.

THYS: The two companies would not admit guilt in the death of Milena Del Valle when tunnel ceiling panels collapsed on her car nearly two years ago. Bechtel and Parsons Brinckerhoff would be able to continue to bid for state and federal government contracts.

The settlement of the cases against Bechtel and Parsons Brinckerhoff would not directly affect the civil lawsuit of the family of Milena Del Valle. Brad Henry is an attorney for the Del Valle family.

BRAD HENRY: If this is the settlement, the family can only say that if Bechtel is willing to pay 400 million dollars for the broken concrete and the broken promises of its contract, for the physical damages to the tunnel, it's unfortunate and dismaying that it wouldn't step forward to try to repair the damage and address to this family of the woman who died as a result of that conduct.

THYS: A spokesman for Bechtel declined to comment. Lawyers are continuing to take testimony in the Del Valles' lawsuit, which is expected to go to trial late this year, or next year.

Last summer, Attorney-General Martha Coakley indicted Powers Fasteners, the makers of the epoxy that failed and caused the tunnel ceiling panels to collapse. That criminal prosecution would not be affected by the agreement with Bechtel and Parsons Brinckerhoff.

For WBUR, I'm Fred Thys.

This program aired on January 23, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.

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