Image: Big Dig in Boston
Michael Dwyer  /  AP file
Vehicles enter a portion of the "Big Dig" Central Artery Project tunnel, which connects the Massachusetts Turnpike with Boston's Logan International Airport, in January 2003.
updated 1/22/2008 7:31:07 PM ET 2008-01-23T00:31:07

The state of Massachusetts and Big Dig contractors are close to announcing a settlement worth about $400 million that would cover leaks, design problems and a fatal tunnel collapse, a person close the negotiations said Tuesday.

The person, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been made public, confirmed a WBZ-TV report that said the agreement would be announced in coming days.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley had hired a special prosecutor to lead the investigation into the fatal collapse and negotiate a settlement. Coakley's office refused to comment.

Under the settlement, project managers Bechtel Parsons Brinkerhoff would not face criminal charges in the July 2006 death in the tunnel ceiling collapse but would be liable for any future catastrophic accidents related to the Big Dig.

In August, a separate company that provided the epoxy blamed in the tunnel collapse was indicted in the death of Milena Del Valle, who was crushed by falling ceiling panels.

Powers Fasteners Inc. of Brewster, N.Y., is the only business facing criminal charges after authorities charged it with one count of involuntary manslaughter.

If convicted, the company faces a fine of $1,000, the maximum penalty for a company charged with manslaughter in Massachusetts. No individuals were indicted, but prosecutors did not rule out future indictments against individuals.

In December, Powers Fasteners agreed to a $6 million settlement with Del Valle's family.

The $14.79 billion Big Dig, which had an initial price tag of $2.6 billion, has been plagued by problems and cost overruns throughout the two decades it took to design and build. The construction buried the old elevated Central Artery that ran through the heart of Boston with a series of tunnels, ramps and bridges.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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