The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro) has reached an agreement with Kiewit Corp. and will pay the contractor $297.8 million for project change orders on the Interstate 405-Sepulveda Pass Widening Project, in Los Angeles.

The settlement, which raises the final cost of the project to $1.6 billion, ends a years-long dispute over responsibility for cost increases caused by redesigns and numerous unknown utilities encountered along the 10-mile-long project, which completed in 2015. 

“One thing we didn’t know about at the beginning was a 12-ft by 12-ft county culvert box that was not shown on preliminary engineering plans, which required extensive mitigation efforts and significant time and money,” says Dave Sotero, a Metro spokesman. He says this box, located under the freeway in the city of Westwood, added about $60 million to project costs.

Sotero says there were about a half- dozen unknown utilities that had to be relocated along the freeway and Sepulveda Boulevard, the main street and utility corridor that parallels the project. These relocations were complicated because the contractor was not allowed to do the work themselves, he notes. They had to wait for local utility companies to come in and remove their own lines, which caused significant delays.

Kiewit did not comment on the causes of project delays, but company spokesman Bob Kula says the firm is pleased with the settlement and that it helps all parties avoid “extensive legal and administrative costs” of the binding arbitration process. “This result was in the best interest of both parties, so we can move forward and get closure on this significant project,” he adds.

The design-build project, awarded to Kiewit in 2009, involved constructing one 10-mile-long, northbound HOV lane on Interstate 405, from Interstate 10 to U.S. 101. The project realigned existing on- and off-ramps, reconstructed or modified 23 bridge and ramp structures, and built approximately 18 miles of retaining walls, along with performing road improvements on adjacent city streets.

Kiewit also oversaw in 2011 demolition of the Mulholland Bridge, which required a two-day shutdown of the freeway, called “Carmageddon” due to fears of its impact to traffic. Kiewit earned a $300,000 bonus on the quick completion.