SEPTA takes architectural and engineering firm to court

Dec. 22

By Anthony Campisi
For PlanPhilly

SEPTA has filed suit against AECOM, the architectural and engineering firm for the Market Street Elevated Reconstruction Project, blaming it for design flaws that caused substantial delays on the decade-long project.

The suit, filed in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Dec. 16, alleges that those delays caused SEPTA to pay out more than $43 million to settle contractor lawsuits. SEPTA is asking for that money back, as well as for money to cover increased construction costs that it claims AECOM’s design errors and delays caused.

SEPTA is accusing AECOM of breach of contract and professional negligence, saying that the firm failed to respond in a timely fashion to requests for more information from SEPTA and its contractors and to requests to revise parts of the project, which replaced the track and stations of the El west of 45th Street. A total of 22,000 feet of track and six stations were rebuilt.

The suit also alleges that the firm’s design flaws “would have endangered the safety and welfare of SEPTA’s ridership, the surrounding community and members of the public.”

AECOM did not respond to a request for comment.

In one instance, an AECOM design would have caused El trains to collide with the side concrete wall in a curved section of track west of 63rd Street, the suit alleges.

The authority also alleges that it took AECOM more than a year to forward its revised plans for moving the third rail to the center of the track of the 63rd Street station.

SEPTA says that it had to change the design for the track between 63rd and Millbourne stations because the original AECOM design was 5.5 inches below the existing track alignment.

The authority blames construction delays at 46th Street, 52nd Street and 60th Street stations on the firm’s alleged design flaws for the foundation of the 60th Street station and its failure to discover unstable soil under the western segment of the project.

The suit also alleges that poor design caused support plinths for the reconstructed stations to start cracking, forcing a SEPTA contractor to demolish already-installed plinths and to design new ones.

As a result of these and other design flaws, SEPTA says that several contractors sued SEPTA for project delays and cost overruns. The authority settled one such suit, by PFK-Mark III Inc., for $10 million.

It also alleges that the delays and design problems caused it to spend money on extending contracts and retrofitting design elements, such as reinforcing steel to hold up the elevated track.

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