SEATTLE, WA. (NEWS1130) – Some alleged major problems with massive construction projects have been exposed in the US, involving a contractor also hired to build and maintain BC highways. The accusations centre around work done by Kiewit.

One of the apparent problems is near Seattle where Kiewit is rebuilding the SR 520 Floating Bridge over Lake Washington.

Tracy Vedder is an investigative reporter with KOMO News. She says pontoons built to float the bridge may be failing.

“They’re basically marine structures,” she explains. “They need to be able to float and they need to be watertight. The first cycle of six pontoons that came out of Aberdeen that were constructed primarily by the prime contractors, Kiewit, has developed quite extensive leaks.”
She says Kiewit is being investigated in California after allegations of construction flaws on the $6.5-billion rebuild of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

“There were some significant construction issues,” she tells us. “It’s being built specifically to withstand a major earthquake in the future.”

Vedder had difficulty getting a response from Kiewit, but they eventually got in touch. “They did say that they stand firmly behind the safety and quality of the work they’ve done in all of the bridges they’ve built in North America.”

However, the company deferred her questions about the SR520 project to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).
Vedder says this all comes as the Seattle Mariners sue Kiewit for problems with steel structures at Safeco Field.  She emphasizes her work isn’t done yet. “There’s a lot more to find out.”

The BC Ministry of Transportation says it has complete confidence in Kiewit-Flatiron, and that the contractor was selected after an extensive and multifaceted process. The ministry insists work on projects like the Sea to Sky Highway and Port Mann/Highway 1 Improvement Project has been frequently audited to ensure the highest standards are met.

Kiewit has had its problems in BC, most recently with a retaining wall rebuild at the Cape Horn Interchange. WorkSafe BC also investigated a worker’s death from a falling boulder at a dam project in 2008 in which safety provisions were brought into question.

NDP Transportation Critic Harry Bains says it’s clear something needs to be done to reassure taxpayers.  “Once the [Port Mann] bridge is handed over to the province, and if there is a major problem developed later on.  Are they [the taxpayer] liable for the cost of it later on?”

The province does say any problems are the responsibility of Kiewit to repair.  Bains says there is also another issue that now needs to be addressed.  “Is the bridge going to be safe?”

Statement from Kiewit

The traveling public in the British Columbia should be assured that projects we have built and are building in the region are safe and the highest-quality.  The project in Seattle is very different than the work we are constructing in Vancouver, and it would be inappropriate to compare the two.

We strongly dispute the claims being made about the SR-520 bridge in Seattle, and are 100 per cent committed to delivering the safest, highest-quality pontoon bridge.  Third parties and the Washington State Department of Transportation have substantiated the quality and durability of the pontoons, and further intensive review and testing as part of this project’s quality program will help ensure the construction meets or exceeds expectations before the bridge is ready for use.

Any other projects referenced by the journalist have been significantly misreported.  We stand by our track record for building the highest-quality bridges in North America.  Our employees and families live and work in the Seattle and Vancouver areas – and travel across the bridges and roads we build.  The safety of our projects for the traveling public is personal to us.

Bob Kula
Vice President, Corp. Communication
Kiewit Corporation