State looking into reports of drinking on 520 bridge project

A KOMO 4 investigation has uncovered what appears to be instances of drinking at the headquarters for the 520 Bridge replacement project in Bellevue, complete with photos and videos of numerous workers holding beer bottles and drinking at their desks.

The headquarters is used by both the state Department of Transportation as well as the joint venture of Kieiwit-General-Manson, which holds the $586 million contract to put the bridge together and oversee transportation of the pontoons from Aberdeen to Lake Washington.

A similar company known as Kiewit-General holds the $367 million contract in Aberdeen to actually build the pontoons. No allegations of drinking on the job at the Aberdeen site have been made.

KOMO 4 says a former employee tipped the broadcaster off about the allegations and says that the drinking problem is so commonplace that when a reporter was at the headquarters to confront employees about the report, with camera rolling, two men walked in carrying 12 packs. The reporter also walked farther into the office, opened the employee refrigerator and found it stocked with beer.

Jeff Switzer, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, says that the agency had reviewed the video provided by KOMO 4 and spoken with employees and there is no indication that any of the employees involved work for the state Department of Transportation.

Renee Guillierie, the public affairs manager for the state department of Labor & Industries, told The Daily World that officials with her agency planned to review KOMO’s report today to see if it warrants investigation by the state. She said KOMO had not provided a copy of the tape for review before the report aired Tuesday night.

“Anything that clouds your judgment is going to be a problem,” Hector Castro, spokesman with the state Department of Labor & Industries, told KOMO 4. “State rules are very clear: Alcohol and drugs are prohibited from the workplace.”

WSDOT Project Director Mike Cotten told KOMO 4, “I’ve been with WSDOT 28 years now, I have never seen alcohol on the job site before,” he said. When we asked if he was then surprised to see the drinking on our video he answered, “Yeah, I was a little surprised to see that there was alcohol.”

A Kiewit-General-Mason spokesman emailed a statement, “We take these matters extremely seriously. We have initiated a full investigation and will take appropriate corrective action.”