City of Portland sues TriMet for $10 million over claims of faulty construction work

By Rebecca Ellis (OPB)
April 4, 2022 11:43 p.m.

The city says the transit agency should have done a better job overseeing a construction firm hired to improve a streetcar platform.

Attorneys for the city of Portland are suing the region’s public transit agency for alleged shoddy work on a Southeast Portland streetcar platform that they say could set the city back $10 million in repairs.

The city is trying to recover the costs from TriMet and the construction company the transit agency hired to make improvements to the streetcar platform near the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. City attorneys filed a $10 million lawsuit last week in Multnomah County Circuit Court against TriMet and Stacy and Witbeck, a California-based construction firm that specializes in large transit projects.

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For over two decades, the city has maintained a streetcar system that runs through downtown. In 2013, the city and TriMet embarked on the “Eastside Close the Loop Project,” an effort to create a full streetcar loop around the central city with a connection over the Tilikum Crossing Bridge.

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The two governments entered into an agreement for the project: TriMet would hire a firm to make fixes to the city-owned platform near the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, according to the lawsuit. The agency ultimately hired Stacy and Witbeck as the main contractor.

In the lawsuit, the city argues the construction was deeply flawed and would cost millions to fix. The suit alleges the company failed to “perform the work in a professional and workmanlike manner” and supervise subcontractors, leading to cracks in part of the platform and other foundational flaws.

The city council unanimously gave the city the greenlight to sue TriMet back in March. According to that resolution, a city-hired engineer found multiple problems that cropped up after the construction firm finished the job in 2015.

City attorneys allege the buck should have stopped with TriMet; they contend leaders at the transportation agency failed to oversee the construction firm and ensure the work was up to their standards. They are suing both TriMet and Stacy and Witbeck for negligence and breach of contract.

Stacy and Witbeck did not respond to a request for comment. A TriMet spokesperson declined to comment citing pending litigation.

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