January 28, 2015

Bertha Legislation Update

By Zak Tomlinson

The 2015 regular session of the Washington State Legislature is now well underway.  Of note, legislators have proposed several bills in response to the issues arising out of the ongoing viaduct replacement project. 

One — SB 5646 — would declare the project “failed” and terminate it in its entirety.  The bill appears to be dead on arrival, and will not get a hearing before the Senate transportation committee.

Another — SB 5054 — does not address the viaduct replacement project by name, but appears to indirectly respond to concerns that the project as structured does not adequately protect the state from risk of project failure.  SB 5054 would modify RCW 47.20.780 (which currently provides WSDOT with design build authority for highway construction projects over $10 million dollars), making design-procurement for such projects mandatory, for the ostensible purpose of ensuring “that all risk is properly is allocated to the contractor.”  The bill does not, however, define what this phrase means, and it is clear that the design build process generally (which WSDOT in fact utilized on the viaduct replacement project) does not necessarily immunize the state from contractor claims.  

We will continue to monitor the current session for legislation of importance to the construction and procurement community.