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EASY PASS | PAST BIG DIG COVERAGE
State to reopen Big Dig deal with Bechtel/Parsons
By Raphael Lewis, Globe Staff, 02/13/2002
top executive of the much-criticized management consultant of the Big Dig, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, agreed yesterday to renegotiate the company's deal with the state, after the project's new CEO said he was not "a happy client."
"I told them . . . that we have to straighten some things out," said Matthew Amorello, appointed last week by Acting Governor Jane Swift to oversee the $14.5 billion Central Artery project and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. "They decided it was in their best interests to come back to the table."
Bechtel's promise to return to the table on Feb. 26 is significant because political turmoil at the Turnpike Authority had thrown into question negotiating gains made last fall by board members Jordan Levy and Christy Mihos, before Swift suspended the two, ostensibly for delaying a toll increase.
Levy and Mihos last sat down with Bechtel/Parsons on Oct. 9, but the pair were simultaneously battling Swift, who insisted that their plan to delay a toll increase would be disastrous to the Turnpike Authority.
They voted to delay the toll hike on Oct. 30, and were suspended Nov. 16. Mihos and Levy have said that they were suspended because they got "too close" to uncovering alleged problems with Bechtel/Parsons's oversight role, a charge the acting governor has denied.
At that time, Bechtel/Parsons said it would give $50 million of its estimated $120 million in profit back to the state if the project's cost increases again, but only if the joint venture could take more control of the project. Joint venture officials have said that offer still stands.
Peter Pendergast, the authority's general counsel, said Levy and Mihos had been demanding a return of $250 million, as well as the waiving by Bechtel/Parsons of its $100 million cap on liability. An offer of $50 million, he said yesterday, "would not be acceptable."
"Whatever they owe us, it's far more than that," Pendergast said, citing the state's concerns regarding alleged flaws in management, quality control, and design.
Amorello declined to cite specific reasons why he is unhappy with Bechtel/Parsons's performance, saying instead, "There are a number of issues we need to resolve to get back on track, nothing I'm going to talk about until the end of the negotiations."
Amorello refused to classify his success at getting the joint venture back to the bargaining table as a victory, however. "The victory will be at the end of the negotiating sessions," he said.This story ran on page B2 in the Metro/Region section of the Boston Globe on 02/13/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.