Settlement costs in project bid will shift to toll payers, Expressway Authority says

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —

A settlement in a major lawsuit that alleged favoritism and bidding violations by the Expressway Authority will be paid by toll payers.

The lawsuit is over a $66 million interchange project near Lake Nona. Toll payers will pick up the tens of thousands of dollars it will cost to keep the case from going to trial.

At State Road 417 and Boggy Creek Road, the Expressway Authority plans to install millions of dollars worth of fly-overs, additional lanes and new ramps just got $50,000 more expensive.

The area is expected to have a lot of new traffic with the Lake Nona Medical Facility and the new VA hospital.

In August, controversy erupted between the two top construction firms bidding for the project.

The runner-up, SEMA construction, protested, saying the plans of bid winner Astaldi were just the result of "copy and paste," a direct violation of engineering ethics and copyright laws.

Mired in controversy, the authority threw out all the bids.

A month later, Astaldi sued. It alleged the authority's actions demonstrate clear favoritism of SEMA and are in violation of public bidding laws.

All the while, drivers have been left waiting -- until the settlement and a payout materialized to avoid a potentially lengthy trial.

The authority board just agreed this week to reimburse Astaldi $50,000 worth of expenses and to better explain why all those bids were suddenly rejected.

Moving forward, authority leaders have divided the major project into two smaller pieces, each of which will be bid out separately.

The Expressway Authority insists it was confident in its legal position, but said the settlement plan is seen as being in its overall "best interests."

Bids on the first portion of the project are set to come in Dec. 6.