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Appeals judge overturns deep tunnel ruling

A Wisconsin appeals court Tuesday overturned a Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge’s order requiring the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District place concrete lining in a section of Milwaukee’s deep tunnel.

The ruling means MMSD will not be required to do the work on a 1-mile stretch beneath the Boston Store at The Shops of Grand Avenue mall in downtown Milwaukee.

A judge in a lawsuit brought by Bostco LLC, the owner of the Boston Store building at North Fourth Street and West Wisconsin Avenue in Milwaukee, ruled in 2007 that a 1-mile section of the deep tunnel beneath downtown Milwaukee should be lined. Bostco had asked for the order to prevent future damage to the building’s foundation.

Bostco’s lawsuit against MMSD alleged that groundwater leaked into the tunnel, a storage facility for waste and rain during major storms. That, according to Bostco, caused the wood pilings of the building to rot and caused structural damage.

A jury found the tunnel construction and operation were 70 percent responsible for the structural damage to the building. The jury assessed past damage at $3 million and future damage at $6 million. The finding that the owners were 30 percent responsible meant Bostco would get $6.3 million.

However, Judge Jeffrey Kremers reduced the award to $100,000. Later, another judge, Jean DiMotto, ruled the tunnel was responsible for the damage and that it must be lined with a foot of concrete.
The appeals court decision Tuesday caps damages to be paid by MMSD at $100,000.

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