Walsh Construction Co. has filed a $50-million breach-of-contract lawsuit against the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) in southern California, claiming the contractor is owed money and that the design it was provided for the county’s 4.15-mile streetcar project connecting downtown Santa Ana with Garden Grove is unbuildable.

In its lawsuit filed in state court in Santa Ana, Walsh claims that OCTA's breach includes incomplete design, differing conditions and failure to acquire all properties and coordinate the project plans with all involved government jurisdictions. The "contract value of the design and project management teams has increased 100%," Walsh states, yet OCTA has failed to grant time extensions and has withheld pay.

Last September, after a mediation had failed, OCTA issued a final rejection of Walsh's claim for more pay and a time extension associated with a requirement to incorporate all Federal Transportation Authority quality guidelines into the project's quality control plans.

Chicago-based Walsh had beat competitors for the main contract in 2018, at a price of $220.5 million.

The Orange County Streetcar project, whose current overall price has grown from $407 million to $510 million, is partly funded with $305 million in state and local grants.

The project is one aspect of an ambitious county transportation agenda.

As envisioned, Santa Ana will get a 10-stop system with a 10- to 15-minute wait time, more foot traffic, fewer cars downtown and a boost to the local economy. The work involves tracks that will be flush with the local roads and a catenary electrical system.

Eric Carpenter, a spokesman for OCTA, says it is committed to finishing the 60% complete streetcar project "on our current timeline of March 2024."

The construction work, which is intended to revitalize and lift the economy of the Santa Ana area, has taken a toll on some local merchants adjacent to the work. They recently staged a protest at part of the construction site. 

Carpenter said in an email that OCTA recently agreed to invest $400,000 through two local business associations to support community and public events to bring visitors to downtown Santa Ana, educate businesses about the project benefits and share information about construction.