• NAACP wants tunnel project contract terminated

    By: Linzi Sheldon

    Updated:

    SEATTLE - Regional and national NAACP leaders are demanding that WSDOT terminate its contract with the company behind the Viaduct Tunnel.

    On Thursday night, they said state officials had failed in choosing Seattle Tunnel Partners and pointed to a scathing federal report released a month ago that found the company has given minority businesses less than 1 percent of the work so far, even though they're supposed to receive 8 percent.

    The Federal Highway Administration said it could withhold funding if the state does not take action.

    "Terminate the contract, (we) can no longer trust them," said Gerald Hankerson, NAACP President for the Alaska Washington Oregon State Area Conference. He wants a new company in charge of the Highway 99 tunnel now.

    "The state must put this back out there for bidders," Hankerson said.

    Elton Mason was the first to complain to the federal government. "I've suffered a lot, my family has suffered, and a lot of other small businesses have suffered," he said.

    STP is made up of two companies, Tutor Perini and Dragados USA.

    Hankerson wants to know whether WSDOT checked out both companies before handing over the reins to the $1.3 billion project.

    In 2009, Tutor Perini paid out $9.7 million dollars to settle allegations it cheated minority businesses out of work.

    In 2012, Dragados USA paid out $7.5 million to settle similar allegations.

    "Did the state know about STPs background?" KIRO 7 asked Secretary of Transportation Lynn Peterson.

    "We're going to have to look into that," she said. "Being brand new to this job, I'm going to have look into exactly what we knew and when."

    WSDOT has now hired a law firm to review the report and figure out what kind of sanctions on STP might be appropriate.

    "Do you think cancellation of a contract that big is even feasible?" KIRO 7 asked.      

    "I don't know until we've had the review," Peterson aid.

    In the next couple of weeks, that law firm will come up with recommendations for WSDOT on the project, as well as how to make sure issues like this don't pop up again.

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